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Jakarta Post

Bahasa Indonesia: For unity or identity?

  • Zulfa Sakhiyya

Jakarta   /   Sat, November 5 2011   /  02:28 pm

When observing the Youth Pledge every Oct. 28, the nation celebrates its founding fathers’ commitment to Bahasa Indonesia as the language of unity.

History has told us that before the Youth Pledge some 83 years ago , the archipelago had no common language. Each of more than 300 ethnic groups spoke its own language. Thus, Bahasa Indonesia served as a lingua franca. Equally important, it was believed then that the language would intensify nationalist sentiment.

Since then, Bahasa Indonesia has developed remarkably. This is true even today when the world has become more globalized and national borders are eclipsed by global interests and many have highlighted the importance of mastering English as a global skill.

Borrowing the view of Norman Fairclough, language is an influential tool to exert power in the global scale culturally, politically and economically.