Indonesia’s Language (BBC Travel)

Indonesia's Language (BBC Travel) • Reynold Sumayku • Tearsheets

Crowds in an alley that also functioned as street market in Petak Sembilan area of West Jakarta at dusk (2015). The photo was published—along with other photographers’ work—to illustrate BBC Travel‘s article entitled “Why No-one Speaks Indonesia’s Languange”. It is a part of “Lost in Translation”—a BBC Travel series exploring encounters with languages and how they are reflected in a place, people, and culture. Date of the article on BBC Travel: 4 July 2018.

Writer David Fettling opened the story by describing how he had some difficulties—eventhough he already learned standard Indonesian—to communicate with Indonesian people who feel easier, or prefer, to speak in their local community’s languages. “People sometimes find Bahasa Indonesia inadequate to express what they want. Part of the problem lies in the language itself: Bahasa Indonesia has fewer words than most languages,” wrote Fettling.

The writer then sought more answers by talking with scholars to elaborate. Nelly Martin-Anatias of the Institute of Culture, Discourse and Communication at the Auckland University of Technology; was quoted by Fettling that by supplementing various informal and regional speeches, young Indonesians “establish intimacy and identity” when conversing, so that they can more accurately convey emotions, express needs and tell jokes.

(Note: I personally have smooth conversations in Indonesian languange with people living in this historic neighborhood of Petak Sembilan, Glodok, Jakarta; every time I pay a visit. However, I have also an experience talking with children who strongly indicated that they are unable to speak in standard Indonesian—just about 135 kilometers from Jakarta.

My stock photos of Petak Sembilan area, Jakarta, were made in 2008 and 2015, both during Lunar New Year celebrations—and can be licensed by media for editorial purposes through