Bahasa Indonesia is in ruins, no thanks to the young and foolhardy.
By Gibran Sani. JJK Magazine Oct 2014 : 108
Indonesians are creative. That much is true. Yet sometimes, we tend to take our creativity to levels that are mind-bogglingly absurd. As many of you reading this may know, Indonesia is a culturally rich country, packed with traditions, languages and dialects that would dwarf most other nations. Jakarta, as the melting-pot epicentre of the archipelago, epitomises this unique characteristic. A brisk walk through a shopping mall, and you’ll find your ears bombarded with all sorts of languages, dialects and accents. But the glue that keeps us together, despite all our differences, is our mother tongue: Bahasa Indonesia. This tuneful, poetic language is as exotic as it is beautiful. That was until the Big J’s young and restless decided to ruin it all.
"The mere whisper of youngsters dropping contemporary Indonesian lingo would make our ancestors turn in their graves."
Slang (or bahasa gaul) is a common phenomenon around the world, and Jakartans are linguistic experts when it comes to it. However, recent developments have seen our beloved Bahasa Indonesia being torn to shreds and then put back together again using a cheap adhesive. An example is how the young pronounce words backward. “Bisa” – Indonesian for “Can” – is vocalised as “Sabi”. And what about the newer words that have been rolled off the bahasa gaul production line? “Gokil”, which can refer to either “Crazy” or “Awesome”, is the new and improved “Gila”, it seems. How they come up with them, God only knows.
So how did this crime against Indonesian vocabulary come about? Our forefathers certainly never taught us to ravage our own national language. The mere whisper of youngsters dropping contemporary Indonesian lingo would make our ancestors turn in their graves. I think creativity has a pivotal role in all this; the need to stray from the ordinary and to stand out from the norm. As I have mentioned before, this linguistic paradox happens everywhere on earth. Young African-Americans have created a whole new culture with their ghetto English, while East Londoners have decimated the Queen’s English with their cockney lexicon. The root of it all is how kids are raised and their socio-cultural surroundings, including the places they hang out in and with whom.
Back to Jakarta, this jargon peculiarity has created a social disparity between the young and the not-so-young, but this gap has become smaller as the latter have got in on the act as well. It’s become all-too-familiar to hear older Jakartans utter phrases that are commonly spouted by teenagers. Let us hope and pray that the outcome does not lead to us forgetting how to speak Bahasa Indonesia in its purest form.