I am delighted that lately I have been collecting college friends in Facebook. Everyday each one pops up and says hi. While some of them I recognize immediately as they were in my assignment or student body groups, I need more time on others as we weren’t that close in uni (excuse me, my class had 150 students, I couldn’t be friends with everybody even though being in the same room for 4 years!) or because they have changed quite a lot it’s difficult to recognize them (which apparently is my case. Everybody says I look totally different. More… sinful…). Usually the first time we realise we have a history, either s/he or I would leave a comment on each other wall’s, gushing how long it has been and what we have been doing since more than 10 years a go.
What struck me during the process is that most of my friends usually leave their first comments in English rather in Indonesian, or a mix between English-Indonesian. Which is quite interesting, because this is something that we do unintentionally, and it indicates that we think in both languages! At least I do: I count in Indonesian and think in English. I dream in both and speak in both as well. Confusing? Not really…
But again, I live in UK and am forced to be engaged in English almost 24/7. Usually after haven’t met Indonesians for a while, it takes me a wee bit of time to switch my gear from English to Indonesian. Not long, usually about a few minutes. A friend who has lived in UK for 13 years needs longer time. However, my schoolmates live in Indonesia, and yet it seems they speak and write English really fluently, and are more comfortable to do the communication in English rather than Indonesia.
Of course we immediately would blame MTV, Hollywood movies and soaps, and International Schools, as the force of English domination. But let’s face it: we are facing the new era. The era where Indonesians realise how important English is and everyone rushes to take extra course and learn extra hard to understand the language. One time when Tamara and I were waiting at Singapore Air office in Kuningan, we heard to toddlers speaking in perfect English in thick American accent, and we both thought they were Americans until we heard the mother replied in Indonesian. When we turned our heads, well well well, they are true Indonesians indeed (they are not even mixed Indonesian-Westerner!). With such perfect English!
Does it mean it is the end of bahasa Indonesia? Think about how many English words we absorb and turn into Indonesian. Think about us, or our kids, who could fluently fire anything in English but find it difficult to do the same in proper Indonesian (there are more than one occasions that I actually have to look up dictionary because I couldn’t remember the word in Indonesian). Think about the international companies in Indonesia which force their staffs to engage the business in English, from emails to reports (have you tried to write a report in Indonesian? I have once for a client, and it took me twice longer than write it in English, with lots of peeking at dictionary and asking the proper Indonesian word to my colleagues. Embarrassing!).
Do you think Indonesian language will vanish from our country, let’s say, in 20-30 years? Or we will reach the state where it is like in Malaysia where people can fluently speak both, or even more?
Note: image on the teaser is taken from here.