Language Politics: Malay, Indonesian Compete to Be ASEAN Official Language

Diana Mariska
Reading illustration (Photo: Pexels)
Reading illustration (Photo: Pexels) - Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia are currently in an unofficial competition after state officials of Malaysia and Indonesia proposed the national language of their respective countries to become ASEAN’s official language

When Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob visited Indonesia earlier this month, he discussed a number of strategic issues with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, including the intention to propose Bahasa Melayu as ASEAN’s second official language.

After the two leaders met at Merdeka Palace, Jakarta, on Friday, April 1, Yaakob claimed that he and Widodo agreed that Bahasa Melayu should become one of ASEAN’s official languages because it’s widely used in countries across the region.

However, on Monday, Indonesia’s Minister of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology Nadiem Makarim released a statement rejecting the idea and, instead, proposing Bahasa Indonesia to become an official language in the region instead.

“I, as a Minister of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology, surely reject the proposal. However, because our fellow country has the intention to propose Bahasa Melayu as ASEAN’s official language, the idea needs to be evaluated and further discussed in the region,” the statement read.

He added that Bahasa Indonesia has become the most-spoken language in Southeast Asia, and globally, it’s spoken in up to 47 countries.

Indonesian Language for Foreign Speakers (BIPA) courses have also been held by 428 institutions across the globe.

“Considering Bahasa Indonesia’s excellences in historical, legal, and linguistic aspects, and how [it] has become an internationally recognized language, it’s appropriate that Bahasa Indonesia is at the forefront and, if possible, becomes the working language in ASEAN’s official meetings,” Makarim argued.

Closely Related

Historically, Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia are very closely related, and the story began in the 7th century, during the age of commerce, where Bahasa Melayu was widely used across the Southeast Asia region. Many evidences have been found that show the use of Ancient Malay in this era, including in Indonesia.

Along the way, people in Nusantara (which would later became Indonesia), met and interacted with people from other regions and cultures, and it inevitably shaped the Bahasa Indonesia that we now know. Some of the languages with great influence were Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian – as well as European languages and cultures.

Until it was officially announced as the language of unity in the Youth Pledge (Sumpah Pemuda) on October 28, 1928, Bahasa Indonesia had gone through many changes and absorption process of foreign words.

Decades later, Bahasa Indonesia seems to be going strong amid the globalization and continues to be part of the nation’s identity. Many Indonesians still speak their language with pride, and as Indonesia’s influence on the global stage continues to grow, it’s only to be expected that the country promotes and encourages the use of Bahasa Indonesia in the region (or even worldwide) – not only as symbol of national pride, but also one of power.

Tag # bahasa indonesia # malay language # indonesia malaysia relations # indonesian language # ismail sabri yaakob # nadiem makarim

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