Serfing English as she is rote

The population of Indonesia is 249 million.

The population of Germany is 81 million, and that of France 66 million.

So more people speak Bahasa Indonesia than they do German and French combined.

But only a small percentage of Indonesians speak Bahasa (or a variant of it) as a mother tongue – mostly ethnic groups in Riau and Sumatra, such as the Minang people. The mother tongue of most Indonesians is the language of the ethnic group and culture they were born into. Bahasa Indonesia was from early days a trade language used for communication across the archipelago. Only in recent history was it declared the official language of the country.

“Okay, okay, professor, this is boring. Get to the point.”

The point is that many Indonesians have a cavalier attitude towards the “proper” spelling of words in Bahasa. The important thing is getting the meaning across.

This attitude spills over into English, especially tourist English.

For example:

surfsign

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4 Responses to Serfing English as she is rote

  1. Totally! Kind of fun figuring out exactly what is being promoted sometimes… Also, as you said regarding the other original languages of the different Islands and regions some of the locals, especially the older folks, often know very little Bahasa Indonesia or just won’t speak it. I recently made an attempt to learn Bahasa Galela in the North Molukus… a totally different language structure than Indonesian! For some words I had to translate Galela-Bahasa Indonesian-English then back again…. whew!

    • Bahasa is one of those few languages you can totally mangle the grammar and still be understood. Flexible and versatile.

    • Anonymous says:

      Funny, I was about to make a comment about Bahasa Tobelo which might be very similar to Bahasa Galela. It is the coolest sounding of all the languages Ive heard in Indo. Sounds a lot like Hawaiian. By the way, there is a tribe of indigenous people that live in the remote mountains of Central Halmahera known as the “Forest Tobelo” in the academic world and the Tugutil to others. These people have had little exposure to the outside world. They are not the same group as those who live near Jara Jara where you can pay a guide to visit them. They only speak only Tobelo, and Ive long wished I could go check out what their life is like. Local friends have told me that some of the people in this tribe are very tall with blue eyes, possibly descendants of the Portugese who apparently fled to the mountains when the Dutch moved in to the area. Many mysteries in North Moluku. It’s kind of like Indonesia’s last frontier, but not for long. Some pretty fancy boats have been cruising through there recently.

  2. Interesting! Thanks for the comment. I doubt fancy boat people are much interested in Forest Tobelo, but get the nose of the camel in the tent, and the change is relentless.

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