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By the way ...

Killing
the Indonesian
language, hara-kiri
style

The Jakarta Post


The Jakarta Post
| Sun, November 1, 2015 | 02:49 pm

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There are many ways to kill a language, but in Indonesia,


the national language is being murdered every day by all
sorts of people ' by naming their groups, companies or
organizations and their products and services in English or in
abbreviated gobbledygook no one can recognize.
But the ultimate double murder was committed by a
'twenty nine my age' man who recently burst into notoriety with
his 'bahasa intelek' (smart talk) conflated from English
and Indonesian words into mumbo-jumbos like
'harmonisisasi' (harmonization), 'labil

ekonomi' (economic instability) or'kudeta hati' (heart


coup d'tat), as he wooed his singer-dancer girlfriend ' whose
last name was 'Gotik' (short for 'goyang itik' or
'duck's shuffle', for the way she grinds her bum when
performing).
But the young man was not unique in that 'crime'.
Mixing up syllables from several words to form a portmanteau is a
rampant linguistic habit in Indonesia. All the media (especially the TV
industry), with their insatiable hunger to economize on print
space and sound bites do it, for the money, not the
country.
And the government, which is supposed to be doing it for
the country, is more than happy to oblige by cooking up
many more tasteless alphabet soups to kill our linguistic
appetite, if not the language itself.
'Bareskrim' and 'Kejagung', for instance, have nothing to
do with ice cream orjagung (corn), but they are two
government institutions ' the National Police's Criminal
Investigation Corps and the Attorney General's Office
respectively ' that put criminals behind bars, including the 'twenty
nine my age' man himself for cheating.
But there is no greater killer of the Indonesian language than today's
youth, who speak gibberish consisting of half-broken English,
which they call'bahasa gaul' (slang), complete with
disjointed and newfangled vocabularies
like 'ngetren' (trendy), 'kren' (fashionable)
and 'gokil' (crazy).
They are the new Indonesian 'Me Generation',
characterized by their mindless use of the

word 'aku' (me) when they speak.


But the trend toward excessive construction of new words
proliferated even in the old days and none other than the
self-proclaimed 'mouthpiece' of the Indonesian people that
concocted such bizarre acronyms (all meaningless now),
such as 'Nekolim' (neo-colonialist imperialism)
or 'Nasakom' ' an abbreviation
of nasionalisme (nationalism), agama (religion), komunis
me(communism).
Now, his own name and that of his vice president
(Soekarno-Hatta) have been abbreviated by people
as 'Soetta' (as in the name of Jakarta's airport), in a kind
of vulgar reversal of karma or even an act of cultural blasphemy, as the
duo are Indonesia's famous founding fathers.
But Sukarno, along with his education minister Mohammad Yamin, also
represents a creative generation that issued the 1955 law to replace the
Dutch suffix '-eit' with '-as' ' leading to the
popularization of words
like 'universitas'(university), 'fakultas' (faculty)
and 'realitas' (reality).
Such creative innovation still exists today, as
prefixes 'pra-' (for pre-), ' pasca'(for post-)
and 'swa-' (for self-) have meanwhile been introduced.
Otherwise, most of the words recently minted by the
media, such as 'pemirsa'(viewers, from ' penonton')
or 'pariwara' (commercial, from 'iklan'), are not
necessary, because they replaced perfectly good, existing
Indonesian words. Other words, such as 'klasika' (from
'classified ads') or 'rutinitas' (from routine) are just

plain wrongly translated.


It is true that borrowing of words from other languages
has been the mainstay of most languages in the world
and Indonesian is no exception.
Globalization is killing every language, including English
itself, by its own bastardized siblings like Singlish,
Manglish, Chinglish and Inglish.
But with the Indonesian language, it is no longer
borrowing words from English, but the wholesale
mimicking and parroting of English expressions that is
really disturbing.
Although this cultural 'disease' has been identified and
diagnosed, the trend (dubbed 'Indo-Saxonization' in The
Indonesian Quarterly article of April 1977) has continued unabated,
except now the infestation has come from consuming too
many alphabet soups and English-labeled consumer
goods without feeling the slightest of intestinal or
intellectual diarrhea.
'As the language goes, so goes the culture,' they say, so this
linguistic hara-kiri has got to stop. Although legislating
against or limiting the use of foreign words and
mandating the use of local ones has been tried in other
countries with marginal success, it is never too late to try
to stop the bleeding. If not, the Indonesian language as
we know it will be dead or 'labil' as a 'bahasa intelek',
to paraphrase our 'twenty nine my age' language killer
himself.