Indonesian THE LANGUAGE OF INDEPENDENCE
A standardised variety of Malay, Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) was on the path to becoming Indonesia’s official language by 1928 with the Indonesian nationalist movement. The name of the language was officially changed from Malay to Indonesian, or Bahasa Indonesia (literally, ‘the language of Indonesia’), and it became the official language of the Republic of Indonesia in 1945 with the country’s independence.
Malay/indonesian belongs to the Austronesian language family. For centuries, a colloquial variety known as Bazar Malay has been used as a lingua franca in the Indonesian archipelago for trading and other purposes among speakers of different regional languages. Even today, in addition to Indonesian, local people are often fluent in more regionally prevalent languages, e.g. Javanese in the central and eastern parts of Java, Acehnese in northern Sumatra, or Balinese in Bali. These indigenous languages are generally used among the local community and at home.
According to Ethnologue, there are currently roughly 23 million speakers of Indonesian as a first language. Most contemporary formal education and much of the national media are in Indonesian.
A common Indonesian expression, sayang, can mean ‘dear, love, sweetie, compassion’ or ‘a pity, too bad, waste’. Thus, one can say sayang-sayang to babies whether they are smiling or crying to indicate one’s feelings of either ‘Very sweet!’ or ‘What a pity!’ toward them.
BACKGROUND Derived from the Malay language, Indonesian differs in that its vocabulary encompasses words of Javanese and Dutch origins. It is the national language of Indonesia, but it is not widely considered as the mother tongue of the Indonesian people, except in Jakarta and nearby.
Like Malay, Indonesian uses the Latin alphabet. Though it underwent an official spelling reform in 1972 after the country’s independence, some of the names and places in Indonesia still use the old romanised Dutch spelling. For example, Jogjakarta is sometimes still spelt as ‘Yogyakarta’.