Indonesian Language

History

The Indonesian language is an Austronesian language, and is part of the Malay language branch of this language family. It originated as a separate language as the Riau dialect of Malay. It is a language that was spoken in Northeast Sumatra for five hundred years. The Indonesian language was not identified as such until the country itself declared independence from the Dutch in 1945. Forging a national identity included the standardization of the Indonesian language as a separate entity to Malaysian.

The Indonesian name for “Indonesian” is Bahasa Indonesia. This literally just means the language of Indonesia, and is often shortened by English speakers to Bahasa. Although this word just means language, it is understood that it refers to the Indonesian language specifically.

Popularity

Indonesian is the official language of Indonesia, having been declared as such when Indonesia declared independence in 1945. There are around 23 million native speakers, but a massive 165 million speakers in total. Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, with almost 100% of its population speaking Indonesian. Interestingly enough, the majority of Indonesian people also define themselves as being fluent in another language. Another 1.5 million people speak Indonesian worldwide, though mostly in the Netherlands, the Philippines, Australia, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.

Formal education and national media broadcasts are also primarily in the Indonesian language, though Standard Indonesian as used in publication is not used in daily speech, where many words have been borrowed from other languages such as Javanese and Chinese. Indonesian slang is also very common.

Though the vast majority of speakers who live outside the vicinity of Jakarta do not speak Indonesian as their first language, there are still many speakers of Indonesian as a second language, as outlined above. There 300 languages native to Indonesia, and it is unsurprising that Indonesian itself is not the primary or only language that people know. It is also spoken as a “working language” in East Timor, a state in the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

Language

The Indonesian language is closest to the Standard Malaysian language in terms of grammar and word order. However, there are differences mainly in vocabulary and pronunciation. Due to the Dutch colonization, there are certain words that show their roots to be the same as the Dutch language. With Malaysian being such a similarly common trading language to Portuguese, from the 16th century through to the early 19th century, there are also clear derivations from the Portuguese language. Indonesian as a language has borrowed many words from many influences, from the surrounding countries to the prominent religions in this country, such as Sanskrit from the Hindu and Buddhist religions.

There is no use of grammatical gender in the Indonesian language, with no distinction even being made to such words as “girlfriend” or “boyfriend”. However, as with many Asian languages, ages are inferred by the particular pronoun that is used. Again, in the way of Asian languages, people that are friends of the family are often referred to as members of the family when being addressed.

Why Learn The Indonesian Language?

Unlike the languages of French and English, for example, the language of Indonesian is not always thought of as being one of the most spoken languages in the world. It is often overlooked for those languages that have an Indo-European origin, but in fact, it is in the top ten most spoken of the world languages, so learning the Indonesian language will enable the speaker to reach a wide variety of people.

Around 10% of Indonesia’s trading export market is the U.S., making the Indonesian language a useful one to learn in terms of business and trade. The Indonesian island of Java is the world’s highest populated island, with the population expected to grow to over 250 million by 2020.


1 Comment

  • #1 by Tyler on December 30 - 12:15 am

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    According to the last census in 2010, the population of Indonesia is 237.6 million… I don’t agree with you or wikipedia about the number of native speaker, I think it’s more than that as young generations from provinces (outside Jakarta) grow up learning 3 languages at the same time, Javanese, Indonesian and English but I assure you that most people speak Indonesian better than they speak Javanese. So I can say my native languages are both Javanese and Indonesian.

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