Top Three Languages of Indonesia

By Sarah-Claire Jordan

Indonesian dialectsIndonesia is often one of those countries that Americans know very little about, unless they have made it a point to read about or have visited it. Most people know that it can be found somewhere in the south of the Pacific Ocean, more or less in between mainland Asia and Australia, but beyond that many of us draw a blank. This is unfortunate, as it is a country rich in history and culture that has a lot to share with the world.

One of the first steps in familiarizing oneself with a country is to find out what languages are spoken there, and then read a bit about each of these languages. Here are the top three languages of Indonesia:

1. Indonesian

An interesting thing to point out about Indonesian, before we go into more detail, is that it is actually a variety of the Malay language that became standardized and is now the official language of the country. Before it was declared the official language of the country, it was used as a way of communicating between all of the islands that make up the country and have their own languages. Indonesian has borrowed from many other languages, such as Persian and Arabic, but if you look at its vocabulary, you will see that the most foreign loanwords you will find are actually Sanskrit. Something interesting about Indonesian is that it doesn’t have words like “him” and “hers” or “girlfriend” and “boyfriend”, but does have words that distinguish people based on age.

2. Javanese

Another Austronesian language, of which there are many in Indonesia, Javanese is spoken by those who would consider themselves ethnically Javanese, or from the eastern and central parts of Java, one of Indonesia’s many islands. Javanese has its own writing system, but is also written using Latin and Arabic scripts. There are three different dialects of Javanese that correspond to the region of Java they are spoken in. Javanese grammar is interesting in that verbs are not conjugated. Instead, a marker is inserted into the phrase to show when something happened, like “today” or “last year”.

3. Sundanese

A regional language of Indonesia, Sundanese is a Malayo-Polynesian language of the Austronesian language family spoken by around 39 million people. Most of the speakers live in western Java, but there are Sundanese speakers found on other Indonesian islands as well. Sundanese has more in common with Malay and Madurese, another regional language, than with Javanese, for example. Though most people write in Sundanese using Latin script, the Sundanese script is still used by some. Though the symbols are totally different from those of the Latin alphabet, is written and read from left to right, like most other languages written using the Latin script.

Alpha Omega Translations is a translation, interpretation, and desktop publishing company founded on a strong passion to help people connect globally, regardless of what language they speak or country they live in. No dialect or regional language is too obscure, as everyone deserves to be able to communicate with the rest of the world.

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