Bahasa Indonesia as "Fast Food" vs. Français "Aged to Perfection?"-- National Language Creation As Violence --
I have spent the last two weeks in Yogyakarta 8:30am-9:30am in a Bahasa Indonesia language class. This language has no gender, no conjugation and no past tense...you just add on "yesterday"-- Phrases are simple " Saya dari Amerika" (I from America) There is no "to be" there is no "être". The language is only hard to learn because there are so few cognates. You just have to memorize it.
This language was "created" to help nationalize indonesia - bringing together islands that have well over 300 dialects. The whole creation of Indonesia was from what I am learning a Dutch construct, used to secure their trade and build the infamous Dutch East Indies Trade Company. After independence, the country had to figure out if it was a country at all but could not do that if they spoke different dialects. So this language was created.
After spending 4 years living in French-- a language aged to perfection...filled with such wonderful ancient expressions, subtly and conundrums - I found indonesian a shock. You cannot learn the funny little idioms that tell you about a simpler time. Like when you're telling someone in France to mind their own business you can say "occupe toi de tes nignons" -- mind you own onions...or in other words "get back to your own garden" -- or if your business meeting goes off on a tangent you can say "revenons a nos moutons" -- let's return to our sheep. This to me is just delightful-- you can be talking about software development one second and then referring to your to-do list as Sheep. History, time, our relation to land --- all tied up in little phrases...
But if you pull those away and "construct" a language to force people to come together, you rip them from their cultural roots. That perhaps is the goal-- your words now are truly determined by the state. They have ripped you from your past and given you their construction of the world to make it easier to control people. I have not yet done much research on Indonesia's official transition to a national language and how people feel about it, but were I to do another research project here, I would surely focus on this.
English, while less romantic than our latin partners, at least has its charming old expressions "get into a pickle" or "whittle away the time"