Michael Krauss, from the University of Atlanta, argues for the preservation of the native tongues that exist around the world as mankind’s linguistic diversity. Currently, they are under the mercy of technology which, on the other hand, drives the need for languages that many understand. Common languages such as English, Arabic, and Spanish do enable people to communicate easily – at the cost of the small languages. Krauss says that most of the world’s languages are no longer being learned by children. He also says that they are “beyond endangerment” and becoming “the living dead”. Even the United States, most significantly in California as the world’s third most linguistically diverse region, is losing languages fast. However, many of the small languages that are on the verge of dying out are in the tropical parts of the world, especially Africa and Indonesia.
As a person who lives in Indonesia, which has thousands of small languages scattered across the archipelago, I must worry about this “language extinction”. We Indonesians consider our languages as part of our rich and diverse culture. It is a heritage that we must protect. It is my relief to witness languages such as Javanese and Balinese still spoken in their respectful areas. The language of my hometown, Sasakese, is still frequently used by my people. Some schools still include the study of the language in their curriculum. There is our own common Sasakese for regular interaction, and there is the more restricted and polite form that we are supposed to use with elders.
I honestly do not know whether all the old languages in Indonesia still exist. However, after reading this article, I am quite certain that probably half of them have disappeared. The least we can do is protect the existence of our own unique language and hope that it does not enter the void of nothingness, like many others have, taunting us about the multiplicity of linguistic intelligence that once was.
*A one-page summary plus personal review I made for an article we read for the Reading IV class at STBA LIA Yogyakarta.