Learning Indonesian

Nov 26th, 2007, in IM Posts, Opinion, by

Ausdag explains why learning Indonesian is not popular in Australia.

Why Aren't Australians Learning Indonesian - A Response to "Bahasa Indonesia - Australians Don't Want to Learn Indonesian" (Indonesia Matters November 19th, 2007).

Having studied Indonesian at university level, then in-country and then teaching the language for five and a half years in an Australian primary school I've been exposed to much of the attitudes of many Australians towards Indonesia and Indonesian (mistakenly called 'Bahasa Indonesia' by English speakers; 'Indonesian' is the English term for the language). The particular school I taught Indonesian in had a high representation of Air Force and Army children; the parents of some had served in East Timor. Surprisingly at first, but then encouragingly, it was these parents who most supported the teaching of Indonesian in Australian schools.

However, it is true that since the late 1970s, numbers of tertiary students enrolled in Indonesian language studies has dramatically dropped. Several close friends of mine have taught Indonesian at the tertiary level for the past 20 or so years. We often talk about the perceptions of Australians towards Indonesia.

Contrary to what is claimed in the 'Bahasa Indonesia' article, many of us in the language 'business' firmly believe that perceptions of the general Australian public towards Indonesia are a prime factor in the decline of interest in Indonesian. Almost everything that is reported on Indonesia in the Australian media is 'bad press'; negative publicity on everything from terrorism, corruption, seeming inconsitiencies in the treatent of Australians in the Indonesian courts compared to Indonesian citizens, and that ever-present but more or less simmering below the surface belief, particularly among older generations, that Indonesia will one day attempt to invade Australia (well, we defeated the Japanese, defeated Communism - supposedly, so now we need something else to fear - how about an Indonesian invasion?).

Indonesia doesn't figure very prominently in people's perceptions of economic opportunities. Think foreign investment in Asia and people immediately think of China, Korea and perhaps India. The slow but steady struggle of Indonesia out of the monetary crisis that other countries seemed to recover from far more quickly doesn't help.

For school students - primary and secondary - they just don't have the same level of exposure to Indonesia as they do for Japan, China or Europe. Every Australian student has been a fan of of least one Japanese cartoon on saturday morning TV, they all know about Judo and Karate, they are probably driven around in Japanese cars, and those shops that are popping up here and there that sell Japanese and Korean kitsch items from erasers to Evangelion figurines are very popular. As a primary school teacher of Indonesian, I am constantly asked by my students why they can't learn Japanese instead.

Migration may have something, but not a lot, to do with the language learning situation in Australia. Migrants such as Vietnamese, Lebanese, Greeks, Taiwanese and others feature prominently in Australian society. They tend to form fairly visible communities that colour our cities and add a unique cosmopolitian feel to life.

Indonesian migrants tend to blend more with the wider community. That is also a good thing. They at least avoid Hansonist accusations of forming 'ghettoes' and not wanting to integrate with Australian society. They are less prominent, do not live in certain areas of the city, but when events occur such as Halal-bi-halal and food markets, they all come out of the wood work.

Nevertheless, the teaching of languages of prominent migrant groups such as Vietnamese, Arabic and Greek is also still very limited. Chinese on the other hand is taking off, particularly in schools located in and around the Taiwanese and Hong-Kong 'pockets'.

From the perspective of teachers and language programs, the implementation of travel bans by the Federal Government in the wake of the Bali and Jakarta bombings did not help. Suddenly universities and schools were no longer allowed to send students or teachers to Indonesia for in-country training or professional development. Exchange programs were halted or reduced in terms of time and quality. Indonesian teachers watched as their Japanese and Chinese teaching colleagues were sent overseas for language training, while we had to make do with the odd in-service session here in Australia.

This is not to say that all Australians have negative perceptions of Indonesia. In fact, most Australians, like most Indonesians, have more important issues of putting food on the table and paying the bills to worry about, than worrying about what the news has to say about our nearest neighbour. Most Australians still rate Bali as high-on-the-list holiday destination and most Australians, if given the opportunity, will gladly attend an Indonesian event to enjoy the food and entertainment.

Perhaps it is also up to the Indonesian communities living in Australia to try and increase public awareness of who they are and what they represent. Cultural events are good. Restaurants are also a good thing. Unfortunatly, in my city at least, Indonesian restaurants tend to have a dismal track record. They open up, change management, are expensive, and close down again. In the meantime, the Vietnamese continue to serve up high-quality food, cheaply, under the same management, resulting in long-lasting small-scale restaurants that see their customers coming back again and again. In a city of two million, I can think of only one Indonesian restaurant and two smaller 'snack-bar' operations, compared to 30 or so Vietnamese restaurants. In fact, as a student of Indonesian in the late 1980s, our class usually had to resort to going to a Malaysian restaurant for a bit of cultural exposure as there were no Indonesian restaurants available.

Having said all that it should also be noted that Australians in general have a very low interest in a serious study of any foreign language. As an island nation, we tend to be somewhat insular, detached from the wider world. We have no bordering neighbours. We do not have a history of foreign occupation, nor do we have a history that demands fluency in a second or third language as is the case in countries such as Switzerland. If we do not have a deeply ingrained perception of the need for a second language, we will not make it a high priority to learn one.


52 Comments on “Learning Indonesian”

  1. avatar falcon says:

    The low mark of Australians toward Indonesia is provoked by those Timur-Timur who wanted independent from Indonesia which they managed to have attention from recently ousted conservative Howard. Consequently, Australian perception toward Indonesian which was somewhat positive turn into negative, worst added by the bombing in Bali. Ex president Habibie an amateur in politic took the wrong approached in defining the Timorese final destiny. Today this country is facing cohesiveness which Australia is taking advantage because of economic interest. But sadly this little country is till dependent on Indonesia for its food and other daily supplies, but yet Australia gets the Glory for being the Angel with a Devil head. Timor-Leste leaders come to Indonesia and we always welcome them because they are our neighbor. The problem with Australians majority leaders, they are white and some are simply racist but want to be a part of Asia only because of economic Interest but Australia provides very little in return. There are many reasons not to learn Indonesian but this this is one of the reasons that Australian do not want to learn Indonesian.

  2. avatar nenek sihir says:

    Ausdag,

    Interesting and very astute comments, but I think languages in general are not effectively taught nor encouraged in the Australian education system at any level. Unfortunately, Indonesian now seems to be at the bottom of the pile. In the last ten years, IMO, this decline in its interest has been due, in varying degrees, to the 1998 riots, East Timor, the 2 Bali bombs, and the Schapelle Corby and Bali 9 cases. And we now have the NSW coroner’s findings on the Balibo 5 to add potential fuel to the fire…

    While you do seem to know your stuff, in my experience (I’m NOT a qualified Indonesian teacher like you [my major field is TESOL], but I have post-grad quals. in Indonesian and am also a NAATI accredited Indonesian>English translator and interpreter, with significant in-country study) another big problem lies with the linguistic ability of quite a few people teaching Indonesian in Australia. In short, it leaves a LOT to be desired! No offence, but some teachers are at best only at a pre-intermediate level themselves, and have little if any in-country experience. They are also, in general, woefully unaware of the highly diglossic nature of Indonesian and tend to perpetuate the myth that ‘Bahasa Indonesia’ or even worse ‘Bahasa Indonesian’ or, my absolute pet hate ‘Bahasa’ is an extremely easy language to learn. As you correctly state, when we are using English, the term is simply ‘Indonesian.’ If language teachers can’t get this simple thing right, then who can?

    Also, and more importantly, Anglo-Saxon Australians tend not to see a need to speak anything but English-just look at the recent reactions to Kevin Rudd speaking Mandarin…the reactions from the public and fellow politicians ranged from bemused to downright hostile! Hopefully the new govt. will actively promote, develop and fund LOTE programs up to tertiary level. La Trobe Uni. where I studied Indonesian, is sometimes only just hanging on to its Indo. Studies program, and several other universities have shut down their programs altogether, but foreign languages are the last thing that our profit driven, underfunded tertiary institutions care about…

    ps- don’t know what city you’re in, but Melb. has a decent number of Indonesian restaurants (4 cafes and 2 Indo. supermarkets in one small area of Hawthorn alone) and as for Sydney-just go to the Randwick/Kensington areas-they’re everywhere!

    pps- as a language teacher, please forgive any typos in this hastily conceived piece!

    NS

  3. avatar ausdag says:

    Thank you for your comments Nenek Sihir, you effectively spell out in greater detail the points I try to make.

    another big problem lies with the linguistic ability of quite a few people teaching Indonesian in Australia. In short, it leaves a LOT to be desired! No offence, but some teachers are at best only at a pre-intermediate level themselves, and have little if any in-country experience.

    True, many (most) Indonesian teachers possess woeful language skills, exacerbated by lack of funding, resources and in-country opportunities as a result of travel bans.

    and tend to perpetuate the myth that ‘Bahasa Indonesia’ or even worse ‘Bahasa Indonesian’ or, my absolute pet hate ‘Bahasa’ is an extremely easy language to learn.

    See my blog post from a few months back –

    http://ausdag.blogspot.com/2007/05/who-said-indonesian-is-easy-language.html

    or even worse ‘Bahasa Indonesian’ or, my absolute pet hate ‘Bahasa’

    See another blog post –

    http://ausdag.blogspot.com/2007/05/there-is-no-such-thing-as-bahasa.html

    ps- don’t know what city you’re in, but Melb. has a decent number of Indonesian restaurants (4 cafes and 2 Indo. supermarkets in one small area of Hawthorn alone) and as for Sydney-just go to the Randwick/Kensington areas-they’re everywhere!

    Brisbane (currently residing in Jakarta) – one long-established restaurant that is expensive (in relation to the quality and quantity of the food), mediocre menu, and changes management every now and then; 2 smaller cafe-type operations. Others have come and gone all too quickly.

    pps- as a language teacher, please forgive any typos in this hastily conceived piece!

    There were a number of types and grammatical errors in my hastily-prepared submission.

    Cheers,

    DavidG

  4. avatar naga says:

    “The low mark of Australians toward Indonesia is provoked by those Timur-Timur who wanted independent from Indonesia which they managed to have attention from recently ousted conservative Howard. Consequently, Australian perception toward Indonesian which was somewhat positive turn into negative, worst added by the bombing in Bali. Ex president Habibie an amateur in politic took the wrong approached in defining the Timorese final destiny. Today this country is facing cohesiveness which Australia is taking advantage because of economic interest. “

    The ‘low mark’ towards Indonesia has more to do with corruption and dis-interest than anything else, Indonesia is simply becoming irrelevant to Australia; why would an Australian student, who has the world at their feet want to study Indonesian if there are no tangible benefits?

    ET is far from cohesive, it is wracked by ethnic division and a power struggle at its political apex, which is exacerbating the current sucurity problems; Australia was invited by the RI government to intervene and by the UN, they did not invade and they had to clean up the mess left by the Indonesian government.

    The operation is, and has, cost the Australian government a fortune and the price of ‘stability’ has cost the government far more than it would receive in tax credits, generated by so-called economic interest, Indonesians are still ignorant of their own history and this is another blatant example.

    “But sadly this little country is till dependent on Indonesia for its food and other daily supplies, but yet Australia gets the Glory for being the Angel with a Devil head. “

    Thats because it was the Australian goverment who saved the Timorese from Indonesian genocide; did you forget the carnage conducted by the ABRI (TNI) and the Kopassus-sponsored militias?

    “… The problem with Australians majority leaders, they are white and some are simply racist but want to be a part of Asia only because of economic Interest but Australia provides very little in return. “

    racist?

    As opposed to Asia’s leaders?

    Asia is the textbook example of how to mis-manage race relations and given Indonesia’s history if anti-Chinese racism, this comment is simply redundant; again learn your own history.

    All neigbouring countries are only interested in each other for economic benefit; business and trade is what keeps countries actually running, a lesson the RI government continues to ignore, considering its poor relations with nearly all of its neighbours; the RI govt could actually learn a lot from the Australians if only they could swallow their pride…

    Again, Indonesia is becoming irrelevant to Australia, that is Indonesia’s fault and nobody elses….

  5. avatar Rusdy says:

    Indonesian migrants tend to blend more with the wider community… They are less prominent, do not live in certain areas of the city

    An interisting observation, though to some extent I believe. When I visit Sydney, there were distinct ‘ethnic’ places such as the middle-eastern, vietnamese, chinese, etc, but I can’t recall any specific Indonesian community. However, is that because Indonesian tend to blend, or is it just because Indonesians don’t really get involved in businesses?

    Same case in Perth, though I know there is a suburb here that lots of Indonesian tend to live.

    …Restaurants are also a good thing…

    I really like your point on this one. If you want to blend in to a community, hit them in the stomach (well, in a good way)!! Chinese done it, Italians done it, Vietnamese done it, why Indonesians simply can’t get it right? It’s certainly not about the food, as all my Australian friends do like the food, but like you said, it’s simply hard to find a good Indonesian restaurant here! (Good thing Melbourne is not the case, as ‘nenek sihir’ said)

    Having said all that it should also be noted that Australians in general have a very low interest in a serious study of any foreign language…If we do not have a deeply ingrained perception of the need for a second language, we will not make it a high priority to learn one

    I guess that’s not an Australian thing though, same with US (different case, I think it’s a pride thing :P). If English is my first language living in Oz or US, I don’t think I’m going to learn any second language. ;)

  6. avatar falcon says:

    If Indonesia is not irrelevant, may be one should be reading Sydney Morning Herald in English. By participating, is it relevant.

  7. avatar Janma says:

    Indonesian community in Sydney is in Randwick. Big community.

  8. avatar Achmad Sudarsono says:

    People,

    This is a tough one. In many ways, Indonesia isn’t relevant – directly – to the lives of Australians.

    Sure, it’s a strategic bulwark to the North. It’s bordours are porous. A 1990s security white paper in Australia that predicted that, “a threat to Australia would come through or from Indonesia,” was prophetic, in terms of Jemaah Islamiah (JI) and smugglers of drugs and people.

    Sure, Indonesia’s a major exporter of coal, LNG, palm oil, commodities etc.

    And sure, it’s rightly a focus of agencies like DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and AUSAID, the aid agency.

    Alot of Aussie battlers get a taste of the outside world (sort of), on their cheap trips to Bali, and have done since before the 1983 Redgum song “I’ve been to Bali too.”

    But this just isn’t a reason for Australians to study Bahasa Indonesia. There’s a class of Indonesianists and academics who push the line that it’s somehow important.

    They offer easy courses at high school and get bored teenagers to whack a few gamelan instruments, maybe stitch together a trip to Bali and think they’re helping make Australia more tolerant.

    I doubt, however, how much understanding comes from a few stumbling phrases which is the most even many high-level graduates can muster. Better to read a few history books.

    It’s a tough one. But Asian languages where once Rudd’s pet back in the Keating years, so soon we might have even more Australians stepping off the Qantas plane in Denpasar and saying “Selamat Siang,” instead of “G’day, Gede.”

  9. avatar Arema says:

    Thanks Ausdag, that’s a very good article written by an “insider”.

    …mistakenly called ‘Bahasa Indonesia’ by English speakers; ‘Indonesian’ is the English term for the language

    I think most Indonesians know it very well. I take myself for example, I’m aware of this and yet still deliberately use Bahasa Indonesia in italic just to avoid ambiguity, because Indonesian people is also referred as ‘Indonesian’ too.

    But in fact, it is foreigners who often make the mistake. We’d gladly accept it if they use Bahasa Indonesia, but just ‘bahasa’ like pointed out by nenek sihir is a proof of ignorance. “I can speak bahasa.” >>> They thought they said “I can speak Indonesian” but to us the first thing that come to mind is “I can speak a language”.

    But like you and naga has pointed out, if I were an Australian, why should I learn Indonesian?
    1) I can survive in Bali with just English and a few easy Indonesian phrases.
    2) I don’t want to study in Indonesia
    3) I don’t want to work / do business in Indonesia
    4) I have no interest in Indonesia’s ancient culture. Japanese culture is way better.
    5) Indonesia show little potential to be great in the near future.
    There is no motivation and no driving force, unless the Australian is married to an Indonesian, or going to get married with one.

    But I’m happy when I see foreigners who are interested in / care about Indonesia like you.

  10. avatar Achmad Sudarsono says:

    P.S. — wasn’t meant as a dig at Ausdag…I have the highest respect for teachers. In Australia, at least, it’s an undervalued profession. Teaching children, especially, is surely one of the highest callings.

    I’m just questioning the value of teaching foreign languages. Does it actually work ? Does teaching languages at school in English-speaking societies make them more open to the outside world ? Or would it be better to teach subjects that stimulate an inquiring mind ?

    The problem with learning languages is that there’s no way around a lot of straight-out rote learning. And rote learning doesn’t teach critical thinking. Maybe the hours spent memorising me-kan, ber, and ber forms would be better spent on other things.

    Just throwing it out there. It’s different of course, in countries like Indonesia, where English is a gateway and opportunity to all sorts of opportunities.

    Otherwise, thanks for the lovely post, Ausdag. :-)

  11. avatar ausdag says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments.

    Achmad, no worries mate; I never took your comments to be a dig at me. In fact, even though I am a teacher of a foreign language in the school system (currently on leave and living in Jkt and dreading going back to my old job), I concur with your thoughts.

    I’m just questioning the value of teaching foreign languages. Does it actually work ? Does teaching languages at school in English-speaking societies make them more open to the outside world ? Or would it be better to teach subjects that stimulate an inquiring mind ?

    Does it actually work? Well, that depends of what we mean by ‘work’. There is a body of opinion amongst most language teachers and curriculum designers and syllabus writers that students can be taught to be ‘communicative’ users of the 2nd language as a result of their school language training.

    I disagree. As a result, I am still a language teacher, whilst others who strive to have their students achieve this lofty ideal are resigning after a few years due to ‘burnout’. I pace myself, do what I need to do to keep my students at least interested in the lessons and ‘on task’ and at the same time try to instil some sense of awareness of the world outside their immediate backyard.

    On the other hand, I do believe that learning a 2nd language does stimulate an inquiring mind, but not necessarily in every student, just as teaching other subjects may or may not have the same result.

    The other thing too is that in the face of a general lack of appreciation of the importance of learning a 2nd language in order to be functional communicators in the 2nd language, education departments, language program developers and teachers have no other choice but to ‘sell’ the subject on the grounds of the psychological benefits in relation to analytical and logical skills – the ‘students tend do do better in mathematics and English as a result of the skills acquired in learning a foreign language‘ angle. If students never become functioning communicators in the 2nd language, or broad-minded ‘diplomats’ well, at least their analytical skills are being enhanced; and that sales pitch is what helps keep the funding flowing, albeit minimally.

    The problem with learning languages is that there’s no way around a lot of straight-out rote learning. And rote learning doesn’t teach critical thinking. Maybe the hours spent memorising me-kan, ber, and ber forms would be better spent on other things.

    This issue was addressed in the design of the current ‘task-based’ approach to language learning in the Queensland curriculum combined with the new fad in education, viz, outcomes-based education. Grand in theory, in practice a dismal failure in my opinion. This is not because it doesn’t have the potential to be a success, but because of poor funding of the language programs, lack of teachers sufficiently fluent themselves, and, in the Queensland case, a shoddy, slap-dash syllabus. Add to that, the measly one and a half hours a week each student receives in language lessons.

    On the other hand, one school in Queensland – Park Ridge State High school, has had a very successful Indonesian ‘Immersion’ program where students from years 8 – 10 are taught Maths, Chemistry and Biology completely in Indonesian. Their teachers are native Indonesians qualified to teach those subjects in Queensland schools. These students demonstrate relatively high levels of fluency by the time they finish Indonesian studies in yr12. Does that make them any more broad-minded and aware of the wider world? I don’t know.

    Cheers,

    DavidG

  12. avatar iamisaid says:

    Arema said : “I take myself for example, I’m aware of this and yet still deliberately use Bahasa Indonesia in italic just to avoid ambiguity, because Indonesian people is also referred as ‘Indonesian’ too.”

    I say : Arema is absolutely correct in referring the language of Indonesia as Bahasa Indonesia.

    Bahasa = language
    Indonesia = the name of the country

    The English reference to the language of Indonesia is termed as Indonesian which is incorrect.

    Just as it would be for Bahasa Malaysia wherein

    Bahasa = language
    Malaysia = the name of the country

    To call the language of Malaysia as Malaysian would be totally incorrect.

    The lingua franca of India is Hindi and not Indian. To call it otherwise is incorrect.

    Why should the language of Indonesia be referred to by name as Indonesian?

  13. avatar Teng says:

    Why should the language of Indonesia be referred to by name as Indonesian?

    Because that is the English translation. It is not incorrect. I can see why Arema would use Bahasa Indonesia to avoid confusion, but to use it in an English sentence is actually incorrect English. If you follow your train of thought… calling the Dutch language “Dutch” is incorrect… because “Dutch” is also used for the people… so you should call it “Nederlands”.. however this will cause another problem because “Nederlands” is also the adjective for something Dutch.

    You can’t call Mandarin Mandarin anymore because the people are also called Mandarin. It would suggest you refer to any language in their actual native name. Good luck with that.

    “do you speak Swedish? He’s Swedish” etcetera etcetera.

  14. avatar iamisaid says:

    Teng said : “Because that is the English translation. It is not incorrect”

    I say : It does not mean that everything that is the English translation is to be regarded as being correct.

    Teng said : “If you follow your train of thought”¦ calling the Dutch language “Dutch” is incorrect”¦”

    I say : That would be an incorrect example to quote simply because as in many other similar instances, there are countries that have not expressed exact names for their national language by any other name.

    And in cases where countries have given names to their national language, it has not been used as the referred name in English. There are rare exceptions such as the national language of the Philippines – Tagalog is the English reference. In English it is not referred to as Philippinish or Philippinian or by some other name exacted upon by the guardians of the English language.

    In keeping to my line of arguement that name has been given as their country’s national language since the Independence.

    Teng said : “You can’t call Mandarin Mandarin anymore because the people are also called Mandarin.”

    I say : Mandarin is the name given by the English for standard Chinese. The Mandarin that you refer to is another same name in English referring to a handful of aristrocrats appointed by the royal palace during ancient Chinese history.

    China have a name for the national language is Putonghua. It is not Mandarin as referred to in English.

    Teng said : ” I can see why Arema would use Bahasa Indonesia to avoid confusion, but to use it in an English sentence is actually incorrect English.”

    I say : How could it ever be incorrect English to use the term “Bahasa Indonesia” in an English sentence? That would be as good as saying that it is incorrect English to use the term, “Bahasa Malaysia” or “Bahasa Melayu”.

    In essence, even the word “bahasa” is found in the English Dictionary. As one English dictionary has it explained as:

    bahasa

    noun
    the dialect of Malay used as the national language of the Republic of Indonesia or of Malaysia

    To use the term “Indonesian” for the language of Indonesia is hugely incorrect. Indonesian could also lead to a thousand other references by way of language in that country.

    Indonesia has more than 38 Provinces (losing count with newer additions since autonomy of “self government” has/is being bestowed) each with their own native dialect. To count the other language variants within each dialect would be a mind boggling pursuit. Nevermind the numbers – each has an inherent claim to be referrred as being Indonesian too.

    Meaning to say, that if one were to say Indonesian as a referred name to their language, it could point to any of these dialects. And that it isn’t when one means Bahasa Indonesia – the language of Indonesia as promulgated by the founding fathers of Independent Indonesia.

  15. avatar ausdag says:

    iamisaid,
    Thank you for your interesting contribution. However, IMHO,…

    quite simply, in English speaking countries, the English term for the national language is ‘Indonesian’. All the books on the subject are titled that way. All the University programs call it ‘Indonesian’. ‘Bahasa Indonesia’ is not (yet) accepted as an English word. Perhaps because of a mistaken use of the term ‘Bahasa’, as in ‘I’m learning Bahasa’, has the use of ‘Bahasa Indonesia’ crept into the English vocabulary. All languages change over time and if eventually it is accepted by the powers-that-be that the English language term should be ‘Bahasa Indonesia’, then so be it. But it hasn’t been accepted. So it is ‘wrong’. The correct term for the time being is, and should remain, ‘Indonesian’.

    Nor could you apply the term to ‘a thousand other references by way of language in that area. Javanese is Javanese. It is not Indonesian. Sundanese is Sundanese. It is not Indonesian, and so on and so forth. They are languages found in Indonesia, and thus they are as a group, Indonesian languages, but they are not THE Indonesian language, in the same sense that Basa Jawa is not Bahasa Indonesia.

    Just because a word is found in an English dictionary does not mean it is part of the English language. The example you cite above is clearly incorrect.

    Cheers,

    DavidG

  16. avatar iamisaid says:

    ausdag said : “Nor could you apply the term to ‘a thousand other references by way of language in that area. Javanese is Javanese. It is not Indonesian. Sundanese is Sundanese. It is not Indonesian, and so on and so forth. They are languages found in Indonesia, and thus they are as a group, Indonesian languages, but they are not THE Indonesian language, in the same sense that Basa Jawa is not Bahasa Indonesia.”

    iamisaid said : “Meaning to say, that if one were to say Indonesian as a referred name to their language, it could point to any of these dialects. And that it isn’t when one means Bahasa Indonesia - the language of Indonesia as promulgated by the founding fathers of Independent Indonesia.”

    Hi ausdag,

    From where in my post did you gather that I meant that Javanese or Sudanese or any other localised languages in Indonesia is THE Indonesian language.

    I did say that ” each has an inherent claim to be referrred as being Indonesian too” which perhaps you interpreted as me having said so.

    I am no authority in the English language. There are lots of anomalies, exceptions and incongruities even within the grammar of the English language and the English language per se.

    In your closing statement you said, “Just because a word is found in an English dictionary does not mean it is part of the English language. The example you cite above is clearly incorrect.”

    You are begging the question with that statement.

    If a word is found in an English dictionary does not mean it is part of the English language, may I know what is the standard reference of what are words that are part of the English language besides the English dictionary?

  17. avatar ausdag says:

    To count the other language variants within each dialect would be a mind boggling pursuit. Nevermind the numbers – each has an inherent claim to be referrred as being Indonesian too.

    From where in my post did you gather that I meant that Javanese or Sudanese or any other localised languages in Indonesia is THE Indonesian language.

    Sorry if I misunderstood your point, iamisaid. I took your statement, ”

    each has an inherent claim to be referrred as being Indonesian too

    to mean that each regional dialect, by the very fact that they are languages spoken within that geo-political entity known as Indonesia, is worthy of being labelled ‘Indonesian’ and hence tied somehow to the national language. But just because they can rightly be labelled as ‘Indonesian’ (adjective, not proper noun) in the same way that the people are ‘Indonesians’ and nasi goreng is ‘Indonesian’, does in no way negate the right of the language to be simply referred to as ‘Indonesian’ when speaking English. Otherwise it would be foolish to talk of this language as ‘English’. We would be compelled to call it ‘The English Language’ in all our academic, political and social references to it.

    If a word is found in an English dictionary does not mean it is part of the English language, may I know what is the standard reference of what are words that are part of the English language besides the English dictionary?

    Well, first, in the case of the entry you cite – Bahasa, it is clearly incorrect because no Indonesian in their right mind would agree with that definition. Since native users of the term would consider it incorrect, how presumptuous it would be for English speakers to make it correct.

    Second, it is not an English word which is commonly used in the course of daily conversation. That in itself is not a good ‘benchmark’ admittedly, as English is full of words that are not commonly used. However, in this case, the inclusion of ‘bahasa’ in this context, with the definition you cite, if it were to be considered part of English, would be erroneous at best.

    I note that your definition of Bahasa seems to come from http://www.thefreedictionary.com

    Noun 1. Bahasa – the dialect of Malay used as the national language of the Republic of Indonesia or of Malaysia

    If you go to a more reliable reference – the Oxford Dictionary – you will find no entry for Bahasa. The Free Dictionary in this case seems to be simply providing a convenient translation, thus not acting as an English dictionary but an Indonesian-English dictionary.

    Cheers,

    DavidG

  18. avatar iamisaid says:

    ausdag said : “Well, first, in the case of the entry you cite – Bahasa, it is clearly incorrect because no Indonesian in their right mind would agree with that definition. Since native users of the term would consider it incorrect, how presumptuous it would be for English speakers to make it correct. ”

    I say : Well, ausdag, as you put it thus, “no Indonesian in their right mind would agree with that definition” brings our discussion to another plane. That would be tantamount to saying that the Indonesian authorities did not have a clue about what they were putting down in their Independence Constitution when declaring that Bahasa Indonesia as the ligua franca of the country

    I politely do not wish this discussion to become circumlocutious by embarking further on the above submission.

    ausdag said ” “Second, it is not an English word which is commonly used in the course of daily conversation”

    I say: Any word that is accepted in an English dictionary is English de facto regardless of it being rarely used or widely used. The English language is a compendium of words and phrases from foreign languages. There is no necessity to be a language purist with regards to English.

    From the gist of this ongoing ausdag – iamisaid discussion, it almost appears that it is anathema that the word “bahasa” is considered accepted in the English language.

    ausdag said : “If you go to a more reliable reference – the Oxford Dictionary – you will find no entry for Bahasa. The Free Dictionary in this case seems to be simply providing a convenient translation, thus not acting as an English dictionary but an Indonesian-English dictionary.”

    I say: A dictionary is a dictionary.
    I am in no position to qualify which is the universal agreed upon and accepted “official” English dictionary if there is such a singular standard at all.

    If ausdag feels that in this instance the http://www.freedictionary.com is not of any merit as a dictionary source, perhaps Messrs. freedicitionary ought to be informed about it. Perhaps rename themselves as http://www.fictionary.com.

    That Oxford dictionary does not include “bahasa” does not either mean that the word is not English or that Oxford is being up-to-date.

    There are several other sources where the word “bahasa” is included in their dictionary. http://www.freedictionary.com is not the only one. Come, come, unless we are going to start calling all these other sources as being dictionaries not up to par?

  19. avatar ausdag says:

    bahasa

    noun
    the dialect of Malay used as the national language of the Republic of Indonesia or of Malaysia

    That would be tantamount to saying that the Indonesian authorities did not have a clue about what they were putting down in their Independence Constitution when declaring that Bahasa Indonesia as the ligua franca of the country

    We’re not talking about ‘Bahasa Indonesia‘. The dictionary definition you provided is for ‘Bahasa‘.

    And no, a dictionary is not a dictionary. freedictionary.com and others that give the definition you cite (an erroneous one) are simply acting as Indonesian-English dictionaries.

    That the Oxford Dictionary – considered THE authority on the English lexicon (but no infallible) – doesn’t include Bahasa may be for a number of reasons – it doesn’t recognise it as English; it is out of date; it may be considering it but still discussing the correct ‘translation’.

    Yes, the English language is built upon an amalgam of foreign languages, but that doesn’t mean we can automatically include any foreign word as English simply because a few freebie dictionaries include it in their lexicon.

    From the gist of this ongoing ausdag – iamisaid discussion, it almost appears that it is anathema that the word “bahasa” is considered accepted in the English language.

    The argument started because iamisaid almost considers it anathema to continue using the long-standing English word ‘Indonesian’ as the official term for the national language of the Republic of Indonesia. Ausdag is making the point that Indonesian has precedence over Bahasa Indonesia because the former is officially recognised as correct, the latter is a result of a misunderstanding of the the word bahasa per se, and a misunderstanding of the place of the term Bahasa Indonesia.

    May I end with a quote from an article ‘Nama Bahasa Indonesia dalam Bahasa Asing’ – by Anton M Moeliono in “111 Kolom Bahasa Kompas”, 2006, edited by Salomo Simanungkalit –

    “Jika kita belajar bahasa orang Inggris, tidak pula kita katakan, “Mulai besok saya akan belajar bahasa English,” kecuali tentu mereka yang dalam ujarannya biasa berbicara dalam bahasa campuran, seperti, “Nanti I punya I kasih sama you, kita sama-sama belajar deh bahasa English dan Chinese.”…

    Jika ada rasa kebanggaan bahasa, maka kita akan menuntut agar bahasa Indonesia itu diperlakukan sewajarnya seperti bahasa lain dan justru jangan diperlainkan seakan-akan kata bahasa tidak dapat diterjemahkan orang.

    Hanya jika penutur bahasa Inggris beranggapan bahwa kalimat I know a little French sama rapinya dengan I know a little francais, dalam bahasa bakunya, bolehlah kita anggap I know a little Indonesian dan I know a little Bahasa Indonesia sama saja.”

    Cheers,

    DavidG

  20. avatar iamisaid says:

    ausdag,

    It is apparent that you have a as you at the start of this article you submitted, you have admitted a “pet hate” for the word “Bahasa”. It is also shown at your own blogsite that you referred to readers at IM.

    Now, you ramble on to dichomotise the word “bahasa” from the essence of the discussion with “Bahasa Indonesia” in a vain attempt to say that freedictionary is not talking about Bahasa Indonesia.

    Since when has freedictionay.com been a Bahasa Indonesia-English dictionary? Your repeated claim that it is, (as well as your other sweeping and unfounded statements that you have not directly answered when questioned), is seen enfeebles your to support your argument.

    Allow me to refreshen your memory. The argument did not start with me considering that it is “anathema to continue using the long-standing English word ‘Indonesian’ as the official term for the national language of the Republic of Indonesia.” Incorrectness was the exact word used.

    It is poor rebuttal technique in a discussion to plagiarise words and in thereby doing so distort the essence of the debate.

    May I conclude that it is a questioning mind though not necessarily being anti establishment on account of it; a mind that is not given in to personal bias that is quintessential towards being progressive, more so when one is a school teacher and responsible for the education of youth.

  21. avatar iamisaid says:

    THE Oxford English DICTIONARY states:

    *Indonesian

    “¢ noun 1 a person from Indonesia. 2 the group of languages spoken in Indonesia.

    “¢ adjective relating to Indonesia

    It does not specifically state that “Indonesian” = Bahasa Indonesia or being the name of the lingua franca of Indonesia.

    I rest my case.

  22. avatar iamisaid says:

    My apologies to ausdag and to anyone reading my penultimate reply. It is bespotted with errors in good English writing. It was done hastily as I have to get the family to Church on time – not enough time to proof read/correct mistakes.

    Have a good Sunday – one and all.

  23. avatar ausdag says:

    Now, you ramble on to dichomotise the word “bahasa” from the essence of the discussion with “Bahasa Indonesia” in a vain attempt to say that freedictionary is not talking about Bahasa Indonesia.

    Freedictionary is NOT talking about Bahasa Indonesia. The quote YOU supplies is a definition (an erroneous one) of BAHASA. Where in that reference are the words Bahasa Indonesia?

    You were the one who dichotomised it by referring us to a faulty definition of ‘Bahasa‘. You were the one who took a discussion of Bahasa Indonesia off track, by referring us to an erroneous definition of Bahasa.

    From the outset, the discussion was in referrence to Bahasa Indonesia, not Bahasa. But since you rest your case on a faulty definition of Bahasa, I was merely responding to a faulty argument.

    You Oxford Dictionary reference is irrelevant. Now you are once again taking the argument off track. The problem is not with the term Indonesian. The Oxford dictionary is entirely correct. Now if you can find me an Oxford dictionary definition of Bahasa that is convincing I will be happy to concede.

    If you can also find a reference to the Indonesian authorities at the time of the Sumpah Pemuda who used the term ‘Bahasa’ to mean the National Language of Indonesia, I will also be happy to concede.

    Allow me to refreshen your memory. The argument did not start with me considering that it is “anathema to continue using the long-standing English word ‘Indonesian’ as the official term for the national language of the Republic of Indonesia.” Incorrectness was the exact word used.

    It is poor rebuttal technique in a discussion to plagiarise words and in thereby doing so distort the essence of the debate.

    You reasoning is flawed. I never suggested you used the words ‘anathema…’, just as I never used them myself.

    May I conclude that it is a questioning mind though not necessarily being anti establishment on account of it; a mind that is not given in to personal bias that is quintessential towards being progressive, more so when one is a school teacher and responsible for the education of youth.

    That would be akin to sitting on the fence, not having a firm set of underlying principles. That would be the mark of a hopeless teacher at best. Postmodernism at its worst. I have questioned and I am convinced I am correct. Thus I will teach what I consider to be correct. What are you doing yourself in your insistence that you are correct other than demonstrating as equally a closed mind as I.

    To call the language of Malaysia as Malaysian would be totally incorrect.

    The lingua franca of India is Hindi and not Indian. To call it otherwise is incorrect.

    Why should the language of Indonesia be referred to by name as Indonesian?

    You seem pretty closed in your opinion. When others answer you question, you accuse them of being closed-minded. Isn’t that the mark of a person with principles?

    Good day,

    David

  24. avatar ausdag says:

    iamisaid Says: Add karma Subtract karma +0
    December 2nd, 2007 at 10:20 am

    My apologies to ausdag and to anyone reading my penultimate reply. It is bespotted with errors in good English writing. It was done hastily as I have to get the family to Church on time – not enough time to proof read/correct mistakes.

    Have a good Sunday – one and all.

    Haha…mine too. I just reread it after I posted it and noticed a few silly errors.

    Good Day,

    DavidG

  25. avatar Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Guys,

    C’mon. No need to get worked up. Ausdag’s put in a decent effort writing that piece, no need to have swipes.

  26. avatar iamisaid says:

    austag, family and I are back from Church. (I said a prayer asking Him to enlighten austag on this discussion. LOL !)

    I reckon that both of us are back to square one with you stating, “From the outset, the discussion was in referrence to Bahasa Indonesia, not Bahasa. But since you rest your case on a faulty definition of Bahasa, I was merely responding to a faulty argument.”

    It was you who said that the Oxford Dictionary is “considered THE authority on the English lexicon (but no infallible) – doesn’t include Bahasa may be for a number of reasons – it doesn’t recognise it as English; it is out of date; it may be considering it but still discussing the correct ‘translation’.” relative to your insistence that the word, “Indonesian” being the correct descriptive name for the lingua franca of that country.

    In keeping with a questioning mind, and in giving you the benefit of the doubt, I looked up for “Indonesian” in THE Oxford Dictionary which you extol and presumably respect as THE authority.

    Since you persist that “Indonesian” is the correct English description for national language of Indonesia and the correct English word usage when referring to Indonesia’s national language, THE Oxford Dictionary did not state likewise.

    After I quoted the Oxford Dictionary attributes for the word “Indonesian”, you then brush aside THE authority on English lexicon by saying, “You Oxford Dictionary reference is irrelevant. Now you are once again taking the argument off track.”

    Really? who is taking the argument off track? Even IF for the sake of being submissive and reluctantly agreeing I am taking the argument off track, you’re doing worse – you are shooting yourself in your own feet!

    You keep darting hither tither, apparently making this discussion merely for discussion sake. It now appears that after I conceded to your own English language authority you arbitrarily dismiss it in six words !.

    In that the Oxford Dictionary does not list “bahasa” or “Bahasa Indonesia” while other Dictionaries do, does not mean that the term Bahasa Indonesia is not correct usage.

    The populace who own and speak the language, officially name it Bahasa Indonesia. It is promulaged in the Constitution of Indonesia. To which you outlandishly rebutted that “Bahasa, it is clearly incorrect because no Indonesian in their right mind would agree with that definition. Since native users of the term would consider it incorrect, how presumptuous it would be for English speakers to make it correct.”

    To wit:

    The 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia
    Department of Information

    Republic of Indonesia 1989

    “Chapter XV. The Flag and the Language

    Article 35

    The national flag of Indonesia shall be the red-and-white.

    Article 36

    The national language of Indonesia shall be the Bahasa Indonesia or the Indonesian language.

    Please register that this is the English translation of their Constitution and not reported herein in their native language and not an Indonesian transcript of the English version of the Indonesian Constitution.

    Note that it is termed as “Bahasa Indonesia” or the Indonesian language, the latter being the equivalent word for word translation of the former name.

    IF and I repeat IF, merely for discussion sake, it said differently as in “The national language of Indonesia shall be the Bahasa Indonesia or Indonesian” that would have tipped not solely in your favour but for both ourselves. However, it does not.

    When a nation declares by their own Constitution, that such is the name of their national language, that it is. And that is the correctness willy nilly.

    Arema is absolutely correct in using the term “Bahasa Indonesia” in English. “Indonesian” is not the correct reference to that national language.

  27. avatar iamisaid says:

    and to you Achmad, if you followed this discussion in its entirety, it is not about the main theme of austag’s article. There are no swipes, merely opionions. Or you have something more direct to say to me?

  28. avatar ausdag says:

    In keeping with a questioning mind, and in giving you the benefit of the doubt, I looked up for “Indonesian” in THE Oxford Dictionary which you extol and presumably respect as THE authority.

    Since you persist that “Indonesian” is the correct English description for national language of Indonesia and the correct English word usage when referring to Indonesia’s national language, THE Oxford Dictionary did not state likewise.

    iamisaid, the question was never to do with Oxford’s definition of Indonesian. It was to do with the definition of Bahasa Which you claim is an English word. And thus your exercise in looking for the definition of Indonesia was, as I said, irrelevant. On that note, the Oxford definition of Indonesian is entirely correct, just not complete. I did say it was considered THE authority but NOT infallible.

    Really? who is taking the argument off track? Even IF for the sake of being submissive and reluctantly agreeing I am taking the argument off track, you’re doing worse – you are shooting yourself in your own feet!

    I asked you show me where it is oficially stated that ‘Bahasa’, according to your freebie dictionary definition is the name of the national language.

    Article 36

    The national language of Indonesia shall be the Bahasa Indonesia or the Indonesian language.

    Thank you. Now who is shooting himself in the foot? This term stated here is ‘Bahasa Indonesia‘, not ‘Bahasa‘ as claimed by your definition.

    Had your dictionary definition been a definition of ‘Bahasa Indonesia‘, this whole argument would be effectively reduced to a simple matter of Arema and your spurious insistence that the only correct English term for the national language be Bahasa Indonesia, not Indonesian.

    In that the Oxford Dictionary does not list “bahasa” or “Bahasa Indonesia” while other Dictionaries do, does not mean that the term Bahasa Indonesia is not correct usage.

    No, but in academic and other educational and political circles, the long standing official term has been Indonesian, with Bahasa Indonesia slowly creeping into non-academic, non-standard usage. And as such, the Oxford Dictionary, being THE authority on the English lexicon can learn and include Indonesian as the name of the National Language of the Republic of Indonesia, after which, if they so desire, they can qualify it with something like, ‘…also sometimes referred to as Bahasa Indonesia’.

    But yes, Achmad is correct. No need to get our collective shirts in a knot. We are after all, merely splitting hairs.

  29. avatar iamisaid says:

    Hi austag,

    Let’s put this one to sleep because we could debate about it till the cows come home.

    The result will not contribute positively in any way to the trials and tribulations of the peoples of Indonesia, or enhance the Indonesian language in Australia or globally,

    Bahasa-wise or Indonesian-wise. the polemics shared on this matter would simply cause consternation to our fun loving Indonesian compatriots who are more concerned about food, shelter and clothing and some dangdut thrown in for good measure.

    So what if it is “Indonesian” to you and “Bahasa Indonesia” for me.

    It is not my lingua franca. Why bother?

  30. avatar ausdag says:

    By the way, in language teaching I am always referring to ‘Indonesian grammar’, or Indonesian sentence structure’, or ‘Indonesian me-kan verb forms’. If ‘Indonesian’ is not the correct term, should I then change these to –

    ‘Bahasa Indonesia grammar’, ‘Bahasa Indonesia sentence structure’ and ‘Bahasa Indonesia me-kan verb forms’?

    But then that doesn’t sit well with standard English rules of applying adjectives to nouns because Indonesia is not an adjective, Indonesian, with an ‘n’ on the end is. So, if we were to insist that the name of the language be Bahasa Indonesia when speaking English, we would be compelled to change that to suit English grammatical rules. Thus we now have –

    ‘Bahasa IndonesiaN grammar’, ‘Bahasa IndonesiaN sentence structure’ and ‘Bahasa IndonesiaN me-kan verb forms.

    So now what do we do?

    We take the only odd-one-out element away, ie, the word ‘bahasa’ and we are once again left with – viola….

    ‘Indonesian grammar’..etc.

    The only way around that, if we were to insist that Bahasa Indonesia be the correct English language term for the language would be to compromise English adjective-noun rules and reverse them to get –

    ‘grammar Bahasa Indonesia’, ‘sentence structure Bahasa Indonesia’…etc…and man..that just doens’t sit well…

    Ruling shall be for Indonesian.

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