Bahasa Indonesia as the second ASEAN language

ASEAN as an organization of nations in Southeast Asia was established  on August 8, 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand. The ASEAN Declaration in Bangkok was signed by founding countries Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

On the occasion of the 13th ASEAN Summit, the ASEAN Charter was signed in Singapore in 2007,  It stated that the goal of the regional organization’s establishment is to accelerate economic growth, social and cultural collaboration, through joint efforts with the spirit of equality and partnership to strengthen the organization and to create peace and prosperity among ASEAN members. Other goals include providing training and research facilities in education, professional, technical, and administrative fields.

In its journey to date, it has implemented various programs and one of it is the ASEAN Economic Community that started on December 2015. The ASEAN Economic Community has three main pillars that are interconnected: the ASEAN Political Security Community, the ASEAN Economic Community, and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Society. The implementation of the three pillars is on the solid and continuous work of these countries to achieve the realization of the ideals of the establishment of this association.

As the regional organization progresses, solidarity and unity among ASEAN people will be strengthened. Language and culture, mobility and population movement, and media communications are of course important and cannot be avoided among the people.  One thing that cannot be ignored is the issue of languages. This will be a new problem for ASEAN nation members and become a new challenge for ASEAN leaders to determine one language that can be used as an ASEAN language other than English.

Indonesia has a large population, huge area, diverse cultural characteristics, and abundant natural resources. In terms of linguistic, Indonesia has been widely spoken by a lot of Indonesian, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc. Outside the ASEAN region, Indonesia’s language has been studied by several countries among others Australian, Japanese, Dutch, Germany, Russia, and others. Based on this reasons, the representatives and decision makers of ASEAN have agreed that the Indonesian language would become the second official language of ASEAN after English. This effort is in support of the Asean motto; One Vision, One Identity, One Community.

Indonesian language that has been stipulated as the second language in Southeast Asia has a number of speakers who reach more than 300 million worldwide. This language becomes the second language of ASEAN due to the following factors:

The Indonesian language has the largest number of speakers in ASEAN, which is more than 250 million, and in the future the speakers are expected to increase and it spreads in Indonesia and abroad.

The Indonesian language rooted in Malay has a wide geographical spread of Indonesia, South Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore. Meanwhile, in several other countries, such as Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and the Philippines, Indonesian/Malay has become the second and third languages at these countries.

The Indonesian language has a simple sentence structure and has similarities with other languages in Southeast Asia so that the language is easy to learn.

Indonesia has become a rapid growth of the macroeconomic sector and potential  investment opportunities for foreign investors to be the gateway to introduce Indonesia to the world.

Social and cultural products of Indonesia spread across ASEAN countries can be a medium to introduce Indonesian language for example, Indonesian culinary, culture and art, and music from Indonesia is much-loved and this opens opportunities for the spread of Indonesian language. Speakers abroad, such as Indonesian workers, Indonesian students, and Indonesian tourists, can become representatives in introducing Indonesia to other nations in Southeast Asia.

Advantages for Philippines

Indonesia and Philippines are close friends and neighbors in Southeast Asia, Both Indonesia and the Philippines have many commonalities in term of historical background, cultural, linguistic, and geographical similarities. Rooted from the similarities, the two countries have already performed as a country that has its own characteristics in its accomplishment towards a civilized and advanced society. As a neighboring country, local languages in Philippines and Indonesia are Malay Polynesian languages from Proto Austronesians have much in common in terms of vocabulary, grammar, phonology. These similarities are of course help for both citizens to know each other and learn both languages, namely Indonesian as the national language in the country of Indonesia and Pilipino as the official Philippine language. The more similarities between the two languages, the easier for speakers to understand one another.

Indonesia as a multilingual nation has no less than 617 regional languages which spread from Sabang (western Indonesia) to Merauke (eastern Indonesia). The diversity of languages has made Indonesia as the second richest country of languages in the world after Papua New Guinea. The Philippines has 180 local languages spread across all provinces, municipality, and barangays of this archipelago country.

Indonesia and the Philippines have established bilateral ties of mutual respect since decades ago, marked by the two countries that pioneered the ASEAN,  this concrete and strong fraternal bond should be enhanced with more mutually beneficial cooperation for both countries and more effective communication by mutual learning and understanding of Indonesian language.

Today, thousands of businessmen and professionals from the Philippines come to Indonesia; they work as businessmen, doctors, experts, missionaries, priests, monasteries, students,  among others. On the other hand, thousands of Indonesians also come to the Philippines even since hundreds of years ago, especially from adjacent provinces such as Bitung, Miyanggas, Menado, and others.

To maintain sustainable relationship, the understanding of the different languages and cultures between the two countries should be viewed and understood wisely by both citizens. A good understanding of Indonesian language and culture is done through the teaching of Indonesian in Philippines.

As today Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture and Indonesian Consulate General of Davao City have initiated teaching Bahasa Indonesia to the speakers of other languages in Philippines.  The two countries have the same commitment to create a prosperous, just, civilized society. Cooperation in various fields, including economic, military, education and culture continues to be developed in accordance with the principles of justice and uphold the local cultural context in both countries.

(By Yalta Jalinus, M.Pd.  The author is a teacher of Bahasa Indonesia to the Speaker of Other Languages (BIPA) Ministry of Education and Culture)

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