I thought only linguists care about the local, indigenous language’s existence, but I was wrong. About a week ago, I registered an account on Kompasiana, thinking that I might want to make another blog there. I know I am a blog junkie, I always want more and more blog although I know I wouldn’t be able to maintain all.
While bloghopping, I came across this blog entry from a user named: Bude Binda, with a very interesting title: “Senja Kala Bahasa Jawa” (translate: “The Dawn of Javanese Language”). As the title was vaguely explanatory, the whole text which was written in a proper Bahasa reminded me to one subject I learned last term. The Language Death.
Bude Binda was worried, just like us -linguists, that one day, Javanese language will be extinguished. She saw the symptoms of dying language: the fewer young generations learn the language, the lack of willingness from older generations to pass this cultural inheritance to their predecessors. If you happened to come from Central Java, how many of you actually aware of the usage (let alone speak) of each level of Javanese language?
I was raised in a bilingual family, or multilingual – depends on how you see it. My father was born and raised in West Java and instead of conversing in Javanese, he spoke Sundanese and Mandarin fluently. My mother however, born and raised in Central Java, and very fluent in various level of Javanese language because she worked as a salesperson to the locals when she was young. My siblings and I were in the middle, and to be utterly honest, we lost our root.
We don’t speak either Sundanese nor Javanese very fluently, and because of the anti Chinese policy for decades in Indonenesia, none of us speak Chinese either. I’m good at Bahasa Indonesia, and always score better than my peers at English. And after awhile, I started to realise that my parents were more excited, and happy, if I scored better grade at foreign language and speak a formal Bahasa like scholars then conversing in Ngoko (Javanese lower class language- usually used between peers), or talk with broken Indonesian with thick heavy accent.
Then I understand why Bude Binda was worried.
Not only in Indonesia, but the Language Death happened all over the world. Some indigenous aboriginal language was declared dead not so long time ago when the last speaker of language died with no one had the chance to learn and pass that language. In middle east, the Kurdish language is dying and now people are trying to save it from death. In England there Cornish language, which was dead, and now the locals and government tried to resurrect the language from death.
There are questions why we should save languages from dying. As a linguist, of course my answer is: so that we can keep our job. But as someone who cares about culture, would I want to see my culture die?