November 09, 2007

'Bahasa' still has local students and foreigners alike interested

National News - Friday, November 09, 2007

Irawaty Wardany, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

While recent reports have indicated that overseas interest in learning Indonesian is on the up, local teachers have expressed anxiety that the language itself is being contaminated with foreign words.

But a language expert has said that this is not a problem and is an example of how language becomes rich and varied.

"The mixture of Indonesian and foreign languages is only used for certain occasions. It does not mean that the interest of Indonesian people in learning the language is decreasing," Yos Daniel Parera, a linguist at Jakarta State University, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

He said that people, especially foreigners, still had a high interest in learning Indonesian.

"They are interested in learning Indonesian because it is a means to learn more about Indonesian culture, politics and economic issues," Yos said.

He added that according to his experience in teaching Indonesian to foreign military officers, all of them asked him not only to teach them the standard language but also the daily language to be able to interact more easily with other officers.

"They are amazed at how well-arranged the Indonesian language is," he said.

He added that before learning Indonesian, his students said they had thought Indonesian was not an organized language.

"The thing is, it is not the language that is not well arranged but it is the Indonesians who do not use it properly," he said.

Separately, head of the Language Center at the Education Ministry, Dendy Sugono, said that currently there were 500 foreign students from 67 countries learning Indonesian in Indonesian universities.

"I expect the figure will increase to 750 students next year," he told reporters after a ceremony to conclude the 79th Language and Literary Month at the Language Center in Rawamangun, East Jakarta.

He added that Middle Eastern people were particularly interested in learning Bahasa Indonesia.

"We already have a language center in Cairo but our officials there are asking us to send more teaching materials," he said.

"There are also proposals from three countries in the region to open language centers there. One of them is Syria."

Dendy added that students of Indonesian language centers in several countries like Japan and China held regular meetings to discuss ways to improve the centers' learning methods.

"We will keep motivating students in foreign countries to learn the language by sending linguists and literary scholars abroad to attend discussions or meetings with students," he said.

He added that the center would also conduct scientific writing training sessions and debates to familiarize students with the language.

During Thursday's ceremony, the ministry presented awards to 10 newspapers for their use of the Indonesian language. The ministry also conferred the Adibahasa Award on 10 provinces.

Events during the 79th Language and Literary Month also included writing, debate and poetry reading competitions.

A ministry staff member, Baedhowi, said he hope the event would be livelier in the future.

"I hope the it will be similar to the national science Olympics," he said.