JAKARTA - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono should avoid inserting English words and phrases into his speeches as he holds the key to encouraging the public to speak good Bahasa Indonesia, linguists said.
During the closing ceremony of the 10th Bahasa Indonesia Congress, linguists issued 33 recommendations for the government including advising state officials to obey Law No. 24/2009 and Presidential Regulation No. 16/2010, both of which stipulate that Indonesian is compulsory for the president, vice president and other state officials in official speeches.
Yudhoyono has often been criticised for using English terminology in his speeches at various national and international events, including at the Independence Day commemoration.
A few words used by the President in his speeches can be translated into Indonesian, such as "founding fathers"; "emerging economy"; "pro-growth"; "pro-job"; "pro-poor"; "pro-environment"; and "good governance", one of the linguists said at the end of the congress.
"Language is not only owned by the Education and Culture Ministry. People need role models from their leaders in how to use language well," head of the Language Development and Training Agency Mahsun MS said on Thursday. "If the President follows the regulation that he himself issued, the public would be able to follow proper language usage," he said.
Mahsun added that the law did not have sanctions in this area and that his agency could only offer advice to the President. "It is impossible for us, a language agency, to impose a sanction on the President because we have no grounds to do so."
Separately, Ivan Lanin, a linguist and former executive director of Wikimedia Indonesia, said many Indonesians preferred to insert a few English words when communicating because most of them were too lazy to seek the Indonesian equivalents. Some also believed that using English words made them appear more sophisticated.
"Indonesians often unintentionally insert English words into their conversation because it is more comfortable for them, when in fact they could use their brains to seek the proper Indonesian term the particular English phrase. One example is the use of the word 'event', which can be translated as 'acara' or 'ajang'," he told The Jakarta Post.
Ivan added that the stipulated aim of the 10th Bahasa Indonesia Congress, to see Bahasa Indonesia become an internationally recognised lingua franca, was far-fetched.
"Why don't we try to foster the use of the Indonesian language among our young people first before trying to promote it beyond our borders?" he said.
"Indonesia has no bargaining position to be spoken and used internationally, unlike English-speaking countries that dominate the global economy," he added.
The congress, which is held every five years, was this year entitled "Strengthening Bahasa Indonesia at the International Level".
In his opening speech at the event, Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh said that Indonesian should become an international lingua franca. "Let's make it a global language that can contribute positively to the world," the minister said.
He argued that Indonesia's economy would continue to grow to support the spread of the Indonesian language, the national language of the fourth most-populous nation in the world.
A number of representatives from language centers around the world also attended the congress, including the language and literature councils of Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Timor Leste, Japan and Germany.