Bahasa Indonesia, Ethnic Languages, and English: Perceptions on Indonesian Language Policies and Planning

Author: Yanty Wirza (Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia)
Speaker: Yanty Wirza
Topic: Language ideologies
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Recent language policy and planning in Indonesia have been geared toward strengthening the national language Bahasa Indonesia and the preserving of hundreds of ethnic languages to strengthen its citizens’ linguistic identity in the mid of the pervasive English influences, especially to the young generations.

The study examines the interplays of language ideology between the participants’ perceptions, values, and aspirations toward English with the larger ideologies at work at the local, national, regional and international levels. Utilizing in-depth interviews to five English university lecturers and document analysis, the study revealed that while the participants were highly cognizant of the importance of strengthening and preserving the national and ethnic languages, they were captivated by the purchasing power English has to offer for themselves in terms of their personal and professional advancement, as well as for the future of their students and children.

The participants weighted on the recent policies to make Bahasa Indonesia an international language and its use in international conferences and events resulted in mixed perceptions. On the other hand, the participants perceived that the government’s decision to reduce English instructional hours in the national curriculum was highly politically charged and counterproductive to the nation’s advancement. The participants viewed that this policy would create more divisive societies where English served as one of the class markers of the elites. Important implications in policy and educational practices will be discussed.