Government Must Protect Local Languages

Government Must Protect Local Languages

Known as the world’s largest archipelago, diverse in culture and native languages, Indonesia has lost 11 of its local languages, while
more than a dozen are on the brink of extinction, prompting the government to start an assessment program for mapping and protection.

The government has recorded that there are 652 local languages throughout the country. From the figure, the Education and Culture Ministry had only measured the vitality of 71 indigenous languages from 2011 to 2017.

The Ministry is set to assess the vitality of dozens more this year in a bid to measure their state of endangerment, said Ganjar
Harimansyah, head of language protection at the ministry’s Language Development and Management Agency.

Indonesia has been listed as the world’s second-most linguistically diverse country, after Papua New Guinea. The assessment has
been globally regarded as a tool to probe whether a particular language is still widely used in a certain population.

The ministry has set a goal to assess 30 native languages this year, including Adang in East Nusa Tenggara, Benggaulu in West Sulawesi and East Marsela in Maluku, with the help of regional administrations.

A report on the state of Indonesia’s local languages published last year said the team had been unable to fully identify the total
indigenous languages in East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, North Maluku, Papua and West Papua provinces. All are located in the eastern part of the nation.

The process to measure the vitality of a language is extensive. First, a linguist has to compile the primary data, whish can be obtained from interviews and surveys, and secondary data obtained from literature studies. A linguist can spend up to two weeks in a region to do interviews and surveys with local and related authorities in the regions.

Several indicators used in the program include language transmission across generations, the exact number of speakers, the medium by which a language is used, local’s perception of the language and policies taken by local authorities on language protection.

The initial project conducted in various regions had identified that at least 11 indigenous language in Indonesia had gone extinct: nine languages in the Maluku region and two languages in Papua. The ministry had also identified some four local languages as severely endangered, meaning a language spoken only by elders above 70 years old in the origin region. Moreover, 19 languages have been deemed endangered, meaning only locals aged above 20 years old speak the language.

Government data showed 79 percent of Indonesian citizens use their local language in daily communication, yet the ministry’s assessment found in some parts of the country, local are increasingly abandoning their native languages.

Theoretically, an indigenous language can face the risk ox extinction in a region that grows as a melting pot of various cultures.
Mixed marriage can also become a factor contributing to the diminishing use of a particular language, but the biggest factor is the general perception held by a particular community over its native language.

Separately, strategic issue observer, Toni Ervianto has said the government must protect the sustainability of local languages, because its was known as Indonesia’s heritage which must be given to our next generation.

“Local languages and other local wisdoms are the tourism attractiveness in Indonesia. Indeed, Indonesia has most of amazing and
astound island’s and cultural tradition which must be protected by the government even its must be recorded patent rights at the United Nations,” said Toni Ervianto further.

The ministry under Puan Maharani, said Toni, has the prestigious and honourable duties to protect all of national heritage of Indonesia as the part of the development of culture and human.

*) Bayu K/Wilnas

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