Written by Linda Koswara, interfaith activist
Identity is one of the important aspects of our life. It defines what we are, and our connection with the people surround us. It builds a sense of solidarity within our group. It preserves our tradition and history. It helps us acknowledging self while discovering others. Preserving heritage language in the era of globalisation becomes more critical as one of the impacts could weaken our sense of belonging with our group. The impact would more and more encourage us to think and speak internationally, instead of locally.
In the long run of globalisation, losing identity could be one of some serious threats. Why should we care if we lose an identity? Why should we preserve the heritages languages and be proud of them? Crystal (2002: 31) argues that being in a multilingual culture would bring many advantages, either it is financial or non-financial. Financially, it would benefit tourism sectors, arts and local industries. Non-financially, it would open one mind and expand one horizon even more. It also contributes in accepting people from different social background.
He later argues about how heritages languages—in his term is local languages—benefit a community, “[l]ocal languages are seen to be valuable because they promote community cohesion and vitality, foster pride in culture, and give a community (and thus a workforce) self-confidence.” Therefore, in accordance with Crystal’s argument, preserving a local language is something that is crucial in the era of globalisation. In Indonesia case, protecting its heritage languages is something its people need to work together.
In order to preserve the heritage languages need cooperation from all parties; government and the people themselves. In the city of Bandung, West Java, a government program concerning the Use, Maintenance and Development of Sundanese Language, Literature and Script (P3BSAS) was launched in 2012 through Regional Regulation of Bandung City. This policy is carried out as a way to preserving the Sundanese culture.
It has seven strategies that include (1) Sundanese language program implementation in education curriculum, (2) Rebo Nyunda program, (3) Road naming using Sundanese script, (4) Bandung Cultural Awards program, (5) Sundanese program in collaboration with local communities or institutions, (6) Multiplication of publications and Sundanese book collections in local libraries, (7) Multiplication of Quran with Sundanese translation (Darmayanti et al., 2018).
According to a research conducted by Darmayanti et al. that is presented in the XI Indonesian Language Congress, five out of seven strategies are already well implemented even though there are still some obstacles. In Sundanese language program implementation, for instance. In order to make this program to be better executed, the role of universities and prospective teachers are needed. There are only a few numbers of Sundanese language teachers in West Java schools.
Not to mention that many of these teachers’ education background is not from Sundanese language education. Darmayanti et al. argue that this could be the reason why the students’ Sundanese language skills are still considered weak.
Meanwhile, in South Sulawesi, another heritage languages preservation programs had launched through the Third International Congress of Heritage Languages. Reported from Badan Bahasa Kemdikbud (2018), one of the programs includes encouraging the people to be proud to use heritage language in the daily occasion. This program is implemented through the use of Buginese lontara script in street signs and advertisement boards with a purpose to introduce the Buginese language to tourists.
Having the same concern with Bandung, the government of South Sulawesi collaborates with a local state university to launch heritage languages education for teacher program. However, it still cannot be executed very well because of some problems in bureaucracy procedures; the teachers cannot get the same financial right with other subject teachers.
In the national context, the Indonesian government through Language Development and Coaching Agency of Ministry of Education and Culture focus on two main programs to protect and preserve heritage language, that are language conservation and revitalisation. (Siedoo, 2018) In conservation, there are efforts to prevent or repair aspects of language that are damaged. The revitalisation is more inclined to maintenance and revival aspects of language.
Both are to ensure the continuity of language and to promote the use of heritage languages and literature among the younger generation. Looking at the purpose of the two main programs, the government has implemented these programs by collaborating with some local governments and local state schools. The national government policies are in accordance with policies made by Bandung and South Sulawesi government. The way to preserve heritage languages is started from school, by transforming education curriculum and educating the teachers as well as pay full attention to their welfare.