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Jakarta Post

Anies aims to make local language 'great again'

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, December 14, 2018   /   11:07 am
Anies aims to make local language 'great again' Fast times: President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (right) and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan enter an MRT train at Bundaran HI Station on Tuesday for a test ride to Lebak Bulus Station. The first phase of MRT construction is reportedly 97 percent complete and the service is expected to begin operating in March 2019. (Courtesy of Presidential Press Bureau/Laily Rachev)

South Jakartans have lately been regarded as trend-setters in the use of mixed Indonesian-English lingo in daily conversation. 

However, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, who is also a South Jakartan, is trying to go against the current by asking that people use words originating from indigenous languages of Indonesia. 

The latest case in point was the recent naming of Jakarta’s MRT system as Ratangga, one of the words found in Arjuna Wiwaha and Sutasoma — the two books authored by ancient writer Mpu Tantular of the Majapahit Empire era.Ratangga in the ancient Javanese language means “war chariot”.

“Given the name, hopefully the MRT trains will always be able to accommodate commuters who fight for a better life when it begins operation in March next year,” Anies said during the launch of the name Ratangga on Monday.

Before that, he also ordered in late October to change the name Mass Rapid Transit to Moda Raya Terpadu, corresponding with the acronym “MRT”.

Read also: Mix lingo 'literally' a thing for South Jakartans

In early October, the governor renamed his flagship one-fare public transportation program from One Card One Trip (OK OTrip) to Jak Lingko. The word lingko comes from the farm irrigation system used in Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara province, which makes use of interconnected water flow that resembles a spider web.

Aside from those, the city administration has also changed many English terms for public transportation into Indonesian, such as lintas atas in reference to an overpass and lintas bawah for underpass.

The three local Indonesian terms, along with Ratangga and many other words, had emerged upon intensive discussion between the Jakarta administration; the Language Board, an Indonesian language development agency under the Education and Culture Ministry; PT MRT Jakarta; and Bina Marga Road Agency.

Anies said the use of indigenous Indonesian words in public spaces was part of the effort to unify the multiracial Indonesia. Calling the initiative by Jakarta a “breakthrough”, the governor expected that other regions across the archipelago would follow suit in incorporating indigenous Indonesian words into official and daily use.

“One of Indonesia’s strengths is the many regional languages it has, which many other countries lack [...] So we can make use of terms that already exist in these languages instead,” Anies said at an event held by the Language Board on Monday, in which the body presented the Jakarta administration with the Reksa Bahasa award for maintaining the use of the national language in public spaces.

“Especially in relation to the MRT, the terms will be standardized permanently. So they have to be thought over carefully. [...] Because these terms will later become standard,” he said.

Linguist Ivan Lanin concurred, while suggesting that policymakers had tended to adopt names used in other languages, particularly English, despite Law No. 24/2009 on the Indonesian flag, language, state symbols and national anthem requiring the use of the Indonesian language in public spaces. 

He therefore appreciated the Jakarta administration’s effort to disseminate the use of local Indonesian words in public spaces.

Read also: 'Language is my ultimate weapon': Ivan Lanin

“It may take some time before the public become familiar with the terms. The mass media should play a role in disseminating the information,” he said.

Ivan said that as a “considerably young language”, Indonesian was still developing with about 131,000 words currently listed in the Indonesian Language Dictionary (KBBI) as of this year. 

To accommodate new terms, Ivan was of the opinion that such regional languages should come into use.

In helping preserve regional languages, the Jakarta Education Agency had included the subject of Jakarta’s environmental and cultural characteristics in the city’s elementary school curriculum, said the acting head of the Jakarta Education Agency, Bowo Irianto, on Tuesday. 

He added that the administration had also been promoting a literary movement among students to preserve the Indonesian language following the implementation of Gubernatorial Decree No. 76/2018 on the cultivation of reading habits.

“We have declared the literary movement to encourage students to read books and produce their own writing,” he told The Jakarta Post(ars)

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Dec. 14, 2018, with the title "Anies aims to make local language ‘great again’".