Will Indonesian Language Go Extinct?

New York Times ran an article a couple of days ago about how Indonesians’ younger generations nowadays are more fluent in English, some can’t even master the national language. It’s a pretty good article and pretty much portraying the current ‘trend’ in upper – middle class parenting accurately.

I have noticed this since we moved back here, these little children running around talking in fluent English with their Nannies barely-there-English tendering after them.

Me, I think it is fantastic to introduce another language to a child since their tender age because we all know that it’s easier to teach them early but honestly it is sad to thinks that most of these children can’t even speak in their own native language when they were born, live and growing up in Indonesia.

Just as our boy holds dual citizenship, we hope and we try to grow him into someone who master both languages. I have to admit that sometimes I still let him get by with mixing both languages, I’m a firm believer that he will eventually pick it up. He can carry a full sentence in English and in Indonesian now although there are times where if he doesn’t know the word in Indonesian, he’ll use English.

He is half Indonesian and my lack of nationalism feelings will be offended if he doesn’t know his other half of the two major languages in his life. Of course I understand if these ‘mixed kids’ live outside of Indonesia where the only interactions they will be exposed to the native language would be at home with their mother but from a blogger/writer name Santi Dharmaputra who co-wrote a book called “Anak-Anak Multibahasa” (Multilingual Children), I had learn so much more about raising multilingual child. I highly recommend this book to parents of Indonesian mix marriages. Her children are fluent in Indonesian, French and English!

The key is One Parent One Language – and consistency, which is something I’m still trying to balance out because I still speaks some words in English too but meeting Santi has opened up a lot of discussions about this and you bet I will stay in touch with her.

Funny is how if he’s asked in English, he would often reply in Indonesian especially if the person who ask him is a local. Even one of my Aunt noticed this and she said “If you put him in an international school with local teachers that speaks English, imagine him answering questions in Indonesian?

Honestly, I have no idea how he would handle school but I want him to go to school that teaches both languages. International schools are like mushrooms here in Jakarta, they’re pretty much all over but there are schools who doesn’t offer Indonesian language lesson at all.

Children have amazing abilities to learn languages so I really think that if the parents only limited their children to one language – in this case English and totally ditched out their own native language – they pretty much underestimate their children!

If  Lil’ A who is a ‘mixed product’ like so many other mix children can masters two languages fluently, what is stopping you from teaching two languages? If we would’ve stayed longer in China, you bet we would be introducing a third language in the mix.

Sometimes people do make comments about Lil’ A when they hear him speaking in Indonesian. “Bule kok bahasa Indonesia yah?” (He’s ‘bule’ but why is he speaking in Indonesian?) this is just one example of the comments I usually heard and of course I would reply with “Why not?

What do you think about this ‘phenomenon’? Will it make our language extinct? What do you think about teaching your children other language?



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31 Comments on Will Indonesian Language Go Extinct?

  1. Katie
    July 31, 2010 at 8:36 pm (7 years ago)

    while i understand people’s desires for children to know English since it’s so widely spoken around the world, I get sad when kids don’t know their “native” language. My SIL is Mexican and she doesn’t know a lick of Spanish even though her grandma doesn’t speak much English and her parents are fluent in Spanish. She was born here in America and they wanted her to be as American as possible. She has called ME to help her with Spanish before (I minored in Spanish in college and teach it now even though I am as white as they come! 🙂 )

    I am trying to teach Eddie some Spanish since I just think knowing more than one language is SOO important. Not only does it make you more marketable, but it makes you more culturally aware of so many things–especially in the culture of the spoken/written word.
    Katie recently posted..Reaching Outside the NationMy Profile

    • Maureen
      August 2, 2010 at 11:14 am (7 years ago)

      That is so cool that you teach Spanish, girl! WOW! I think it is great for children to speaks more than one language and I agree with you about ‘cultural awareness’ thing because they will get to experience different things.

  2. Alexandra
    July 31, 2010 at 8:39 pm (7 years ago)

    To me, being bilingual has opened so many doors not available to others. I was raised in a home that spoke no english. I then learned english when I began school here. It is a tremendous gift to your child.

    • Maureen
      August 2, 2010 at 11:15 am (7 years ago)

      WOW Alexandra, I would have never guess that English isn’t your native language. You write so well it’s fantastic to learn this new little fact about you. So agree on you about it being ‘tremendous gift to our child’.

  3. handwashcold
    July 31, 2010 at 8:50 pm (7 years ago)

    Our son was born in Jakarta, and our daughter here in Canada. My husband speaks to them mostly in Indonesian, and they answer usually in English, unless we press them to use Indonesian. My Indonesian is not very good, but I do try to keep it up and use it with the kids as much as possible.

    Java has been in French immersion for two years now, and can translate things on tv for me. Chloë will be starting French immersion this September…for us, languages are where it’s at, and we hope for them to at least be able to carry on basic conversations in multiple languages…although neither of us speaks French!

    As far as Bahasa Indonesia being lost? I don’t think so. With over 280 million people (yes, I know, many speaking different dialects), it could be only the youngest ones who leave the country who lose their language. I don’t see how a child could grow up in a country and not learn the language when they’ll need it for everything from shopping at the pasar to ordering nasi uduk for breakfast, to telling an ojek driver where to take them!

    Just like my kids will not have any problem w/English although Indonesian is spoken at home and it’s all French at school…it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    • Maureen
      August 2, 2010 at 11:19 am (7 years ago)

      That is so wonderful to hear how culturally rich your family is and being in Canada I assume French is widely use there too right (well depends on which parts of CAN).
      Yes, you’re right even the non-formal Indonesian language have so many forms influenced by the traditional languages. Oh love how you use ‘ojek driver’ and ‘nasi uduk’ in one sentence! 😀

      That’s the sad part to see these middle – upper class children speaking only in English (some knows Chinese) but not Indonesian considering they do lives here.

  4. Kerry
    July 31, 2010 at 9:50 pm (7 years ago)

    I hope that is not true. native languages are an important part of any culture. it sounds to me (and I am no expert) but Lil A sounds like he is mastering both languages as he thinks both in English and Indonesian. Very cool!

    Our daughter’s friend is Russian. She was born there but has basically grew up here. Her parents speak mostly Russian. Her friend’s english almost has no detectable ‘accent” and to hear her go in Russian is really fun. Her dad is going back to Russia and her sister is going with him. Language barrier will not be an issue for her in her native country.

    • Maureen
      August 2, 2010 at 11:21 am (7 years ago)

      I hope not too, Kerry. There are so many forms of native languages here depending on the tribes and I’m sure the numbers of middle-upper class Indonesian children who only speaks English are a lot smaller in small towns but here in Jakarta it’s like a ‘trend’.

      WOW Russian is one of the hardest language to master. 😀

      Thanks, Kerry!

  5. azalea
    July 31, 2010 at 10:12 pm (7 years ago)

    Mudah2an fenomena englez spreiken cuman di ibukota yah..gue salah satu org yg khawatir anak2 jaman skrg ga bs ngomong bhs indonesia krn tekanan dr mana2 diharuskan berbahasa inggris..pdhl bahasa ibu menurut gue pentinggggg banget, apalagii ++prokem dikit 😉 ngga terbukti kok negara yg ga bs bhs inggris tertinggal..buktinya: jepang, perancis, korea, thailand dan cina bs jd negara yg maju juga.. Tp bukan anti bgt juga.. bhs inggris toh kan bs bljr kapan aja.. Buktinya angkatan umur produktif skrg jg pd jago2 cas cis cus, termasuk dirimu 😉
    Btw gue stuju tuh, penduduk kita kan 280juta, mgkn yg bener2 1 language (english) ga nyampe 10%nya, krn sekola2 itu fokus di jakarta aja..

    • Maureen
      August 2, 2010 at 11:22 am (7 years ago)

      Kayanya emang fenomena ibu kota yah bo? Tapi bener deh gw suka bengong kalo ngeliat anak-anak nggak bisa bahasa Indonesia padahal asli orang Indo. Bener banget setuju malah di China yang bisa Inggris gak banyak loh masih jagoan orang kita hehehe. Thanks Fin!

  6. liz
    August 1, 2010 at 12:00 am (7 years ago)

    Keep plowing ahead with both! I have a handful of friends who are raising their kids in dual languages. And I’m quite sure that my brother’s future kids will speak 2 since my SIL is from Romania and didn’t come to the US until her teens.
    liz recently posted..Proof of a LifeMy Profile

    • Maureen
      August 2, 2010 at 11:23 am (7 years ago)

      WOW that must be so cool to hear your future niece/nephews speaking in Romanian, Liz! 😀

  7. Gemma
    August 1, 2010 at 1:03 am (7 years ago)

    I think it’s great to have your kids grow up with two or more languages, If your kids have two cultural influences then it’s important that they are immersed in both cultures equally.

    Languages are always changing, if you take a look at English for example back in the old days the language was completely different from what it is now. So no in my opinion, Indonesian language probably won’t go extinct for ages, it will change to include more words from other influences though 🙂

    I’m so envious of your kids, I’d love to have another language under my belt. My mum was brought up speaking French even though she’s lived in London her whole life (she went to French school here) the French never carried on with me though 🙁

    I’m going to learn Dutch soon so hopefully I’ll get another language soon 😛
    Gemma recently posted..The Friday Review- Long Way RoundMy Profile

    • Maureen
      August 3, 2010 at 12:53 pm (7 years ago)

      You’re right English language has changed a lot since it first started and so does Indonesian languages, it evolves but never really go away. My worried wart self just feels bad to see how the trend here in the capital of Indonesia – I’m sure in rural parts kids doesn’t speak as much English as these upper-middle class ones here.

      I always thinks French sounds so sexy! 😀 Too bad I didn’t pick up Dutch because both my Dad and Grandma are fluent with them so I know how you feels!

      Keep plowing forward with the Dutch, girl! It will be so much fun…I only knows a few words in Dutch other than that…must.consult.mr.google.translate LOL 😀

  8. Pumpkin and Piglet
    August 1, 2010 at 3:17 am (7 years ago)

    Interesting post hun. I think it’s great to be able to speak more than one language and really wish I had paid more attention in French and German lessons at school. To have another language is useful in so many ways. My Mum used to be fluent in Spanish (she lived there for a year or so) and though she’s not now, she still has a good understanding and uses it to figure out similar languages too.

    I can understand parents wanting their children to learn English given how widely spoken it is but to not know their native language is very sad.
    Pumpkin and Piglet recently posted..Chocolate and Beetroot CakeMy Profile

    • Maureen
      August 3, 2010 at 12:55 pm (7 years ago)

      Thanks, Sian!
      That’s so much fun to know your Mum used to live in Spain…such a beautiful place!
      It is sad and I really hope this is just a temporary ‘trend’…but not only these kids are being taught English since baby but also Mandarin which is one of the selling language in Indonesia lately.

  9. Sarah
    August 1, 2010 at 3:39 am (7 years ago)

    Aw, that is sad. Why can’t they just teach both languages?

    I just wanted to let you know I have an award waiting for you at my blog. Enjoy! ^_^
    Sarah recently posted..Walking on Beautiful SunshineAwardMy Profile

    • Maureen
      August 3, 2010 at 12:56 pm (7 years ago)

      I’m not sure as to why they only introduce one language when in fact studies had shown children are capable of learning more than two languages at the same time.

      By the way, thank you so much for the award, Sarah! I am so honored! 😀

  10. Maryline
    August 1, 2010 at 8:01 am (7 years ago)

    That’s a very relevant topic for my family! My son is much younger, barely a year and a half but I raise him in French exclusively, while his environment — his dad, our friend and child care — is 100% English.
    I tell myself if I’m the only one able to speak French, then I must do so exclusively. My family is in France and I want him to be bilingual for that reason.
    Of course later in life, being bilingual can come in handy… Just like it is for me!

    That being said, I’d say new Indonesian generations should be working harder to keep their native language alive! Many countries are proof that it can be done. No need to erase one language for the other.
    Maryline recently posted..No domestic divaMy Profile

    • Maureen
      August 3, 2010 at 12:59 pm (7 years ago)

      Great job with one parent, one language, Maryline! That’s one of the reasons I want our boy to learn Indonesian too so he can communicate with my whole families because some of them doesn’t speaks English.

      That’s what a previous commenter “Azalea” actually said in Indonesian that some countries like China and Japan are actually excel in so many things even when they stick with their languages.

      Je vous remercie de votre visite!

  11. Asta
    August 1, 2010 at 11:41 am (7 years ago)

    Wow .. a very interesting and intriguing topic you have today 🙂

    Alright .. this is my point of view.

    I believe that something deeply rooted in our culture will not be vanished .. or at least gone to soon. As long as we keep it alive. It’s just how well can we use the language in our everyday lives.

    It’s true what you’ve already mentioned, “consistency is the key”. And this doesn’t only apply in teaching language, it’s the key to ever parenting aspect, from teaching language to discipline. I haven’t got my kids yet, but I was once a teacher in a primary school. The key is consistency. If I said, “yes” .. it means yes. If I said, “no” it means no. Never leave a gray area, since the child’s brain is not yet developed into digesting gray logic yet. They (the kiddies), can only understand yes and no. So, whatever is being developed in your home, needs to be supported by the school, and whatever the school applies needs to be applied at home too! If one is not strongly applied .. then it’s a waste of time teaching the kid anything! In the end, both the teacher and the parents .. and therefore the kids will have a headache!

    I think one parent one language is a good policy. I’m not really sure as I have no experience. But if both parents master both language .. there should be no boundary in to whom the child speaks what language.

    As for me .. I really want to continue my French. It’s deteriorating into thin air 🙁 And if we have our child someday .. perhaps we’ll introduce him/her to other language than indonesian & english at early age too! 🙂

    So .. to warp up .. no, it’s not going anywhere .. and remember .. consistency is the key! 😉

    Happy Sunday and hugs ‘n kisses to Lil’ A! 🙂
    Asta recently posted..Chelsea Clinton’s WeddingMy Profile

    • Maureen
      August 3, 2010 at 1:04 pm (7 years ago)

      Couldn’t agree more with you about the consistency is key in just about everything when it comes to raising a child. I just wish more parents won’t be too embarrassed to teach Bahasa Indonesia to their children. I always get a little peeved when people made comments when they heard how fluent Lil’ A can speaks in Bahasa – it’s like “What the heck is wrong with that? He’s half Indonesian!”

      One of the reasons for one parent, one language is to put into considerations… if both parents are fully fluent on a native scale then I think it’s ok to switch to either languages but you have to remember sometimes our accents plays a role. I want Lil’ A to speak with a decent English accent – although I’ve been told that I have American accent, I still struggle with some words so I think his father would be best in taking that role 😉

      Kisses back from Lil’ A! Thanks Tante Asta…always enjoys your visit here.

  12. Kate
    August 2, 2010 at 4:12 am (7 years ago)

    I think that in today’s day in age it is absolutely imperative that kids speak more than one language! I think this attitude needs to spread to the US as well! I hate the whole “This is America. We speak English” BS that is always going on here.

    That’s cool that your kiddo is doing both! Way to go! And it is interesting about the NY times article too about how Indonesian might be fading culturally.

    • Maureen
      August 3, 2010 at 1:08 pm (7 years ago)

      Valid point, Kate! Personally, I understand why some people thinks that way “This is America. We speak English” but I think many people in the States forgot how diverse the culture has been since the country had literally became a melting pot of so many people from many different cultural backgrounds. Yes, one would at least have the will to learn their adoptive country’s language to survive but it doesn’t mean to lose their own native language completely.

      Thanks Kate! 😀

  13. Joey @ Big Teeth & Clouds
    August 2, 2010 at 8:46 am (7 years ago)

    I’ve always had the feeling that here in American, we’re just lazily waiting for the rest of the world to learn English. Perhaps we’re getting our wish.
    Joey @ Big Teeth & Clouds recently posted..Trying my patienceMy Profile

    • Maureen
      August 3, 2010 at 1:09 pm (7 years ago)

      Hahahaha Joey, you’re always spot on! I think so too, too bad sometimes it’s not the other way around. I’ve heard stories of American husbands who hates it when their wives speaks Indonesians for the fear of them gossiping around but well, that’s another topic 😉

  14. Maria
    August 4, 2010 at 5:15 am (7 years ago)

    What a thought-provoking post! I have heard of this concern from my friends in Solo as well. Their kids speak Indonesian that are from English translation like: hatiku pecah -> my heart is broken; ulang tahunku akan datang -> my b-day is coming. As you recognize, this is not natural Indonesian expression.

    No, I don’t think our language is going to extinct, but I’m concerned of the cultural divide and the Indonesian translate English. I’m also concerned about dialects, because less people speak it and even when two Indonesian from two different region get married, they ended up speaking Indonesian rather than say Javanese and Sundanese.

    About teaching children their maternal language, I think it’s a good idea but it requires effort, especially if one lives in environment that does not support the maintenance of the language. Language is a perishable skill so unless they practice speaking/reading/writing it, they will forget it, though it is possible to recover it.

    I write speaking/reading/writing coz they are different skills. Some Indonesian kids can speak because they learn from their parents but their spelling is very weird, shows that they hear in English (according to English phonemes). Anyway, enough musing… language learning is one of my favorite subject, as you can tell… 🙂
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  15. vahnee / crunchy parenting
    August 11, 2010 at 4:31 am (7 years ago)

    We’re doing the same with English & Danish, since the spouse-unit is Danish. It’s kinda fun here in Los Angeles, because Danish is NOT a language you might casually overhear. 🙂 And our daughter has picked up the knack of understanding a whole lot of Danish that the grandparents speak to her over Skype! It never ceases to amaze us…

    Also, thanks a gazillion for your One Parent, One Language link – I sent it to the spouse-unit for reference!

  16. John
    February 26, 2011 at 5:03 am (7 years ago)

    So many Asian see white people and English as the epitome of sucess and culture – that is why they shit on their own people and treat whites as better.

    With a mentality like that it is no wonder there will be more culture/book/literature left in the country to sustain a library. All the indonesian will contribute to the glory of the white man’s culture.

    These sell out have no idea how ridiculous they look with their overprice western luxury bags and speaking English in their own native country. A country without any self-respect is bound to be a failure.

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