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Language Information

Indonesian is the national language of the Republic of Indonesia. When independence was declared in 1945, bahasa Indonesia ("Indo-nesian language") was decreed as the country's official language. Although it is the mother tongue of only about 20 million people out of a population of 200 million, it is estimated that as much as three-fourths of the population now understand it.

Indonesian is virtually the same language as Malay, the latter spoken in Malaysia. The principal difference was in the spelling up until 1972 when the spelling was made the same. The Indonesian system having been developed by the Dutch, the Malay by the British. Thus the Indonesian j is y in Malay (e.g., kaju—wood, Malay: kayu); Indonesian dj is j in Malay (gadjah—elephant, Malay: gajali); Indonesian tj is ch in Malay (kutjing—cat, Malay: kuching); and Indonesian sj is sh in Malay (sjarat—condition, Malay: sharat). The Indonesian plural, like the Malay, is formed by merely repeating the word, as in angan-angan in the poem below, which means "fantasies."

Indonesian is spoken/used in Indonesia

Language Family
Family: Malayo-Polynesian (Austronesian)
Subgroup: Indonesian

Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.

Writing Sample

Writing Sample


Every time we meet, little girl with your begging bowl,
Your smile is too eternal to know sorrow,
You look up at me, at the light red moon,
But my city has disappeared, soulless.

I want to go with you, little girl with your begging bowl
To your home, under the bridge, which expunges every shape,
To live from the life of radiant fantasies,
To be gay in the illusion of happiness.

Your world that is higher than the cathedral spire
Flashes past on the dirty water, but you know it by heart,
Your soul is so pure—far too pure
To share my sorrow.

If you die, little girl with the begging bowl,
Then the moon up there will no longer have an owner,
And my city, ah, my city
Will live on without a beacon.


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