Sat, 05 Jul 2003

Mutilation of Bahasa Indonesia

Tony Rianto deserves to be complimented on his article in The Jakarta Post of June 11, in which he singled out Anton M. Moeliono as Indonesia's Noah Webster, an apt and telling way to liken our own scholar to the great American lexicographer in many respects.

After reading about the story of this man who has played "a prominent role" in the development of Bahasa Indonesia, I tried to sound out the knowledge of our youngsters of this rare keeper of our national language. Sadly enough, it is a tale of woe that Madrasah alia graduates, the freshmen of reputable universities, have no qualms about their complete ignorance of Anton Moeliono.

This phenomenon speaks for itself: People are not concerned about correct Indonesian, as reflected in the poor Indonesian in the media. New Indonesian words derived from English crop up daily, in proliferation.

The most recent example of an ingeniously invented Indonesianized foreign word is the odd-sounding "volatilitas" for "volatility", recently used by a high official in his press release, as reported in respectable Kompas.

Eventually, people not well-versed in English or other languages will be marginalized within society for being unsophisticated or "uneducated".

Worst of all, a spokesman for the military authorities made cliched statements every time, after the outbreak of disorder in the regions leading to the May 14, 1998, racial violence in Jakarta by saying, "the situation has become conducive," meaning that the situation was under control or order had been restored.

The word kondusif has now become a standard Indonesian word for a sound, good or healthy state of affairs, which is far from the correct usage of the original word.

Words like isu for "issue" are another mistake. The word sosialisasi seems to come from nowhere, because there is no such word in English as "socialization" when taken to mean "familiarization" or "popularization".

It is relevant to keep in mind the words of the Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773): "Words are the dress of thoughts, which should no more be presented in rags, tatters and dirt than our person should". Evidently, the defiling of our Bahasa Indonesia is attributable to the pomposity of the elite, without regard to the upbringing of the younger generation.

For the sake of Anton Moeliono, Tony Rianto should start crusading against the mutilation of our national language before the death knell tolls.