Bahasa Indonesia: A skeleton key to Indonesia
Bahasa Indonesia, the national language of Indonesia, is one of the little miracles here. Derived from multiple languages (Asian, Middle Eastern, European) and hundreds of dialects, it is a counter balance to the geographic and ethnic differences Indonesians have with each other.
Since living in Bali I have picked up some Bahasa Indonesia (bahasa means ‘language’) and just an hour ago was telling a Sumatran guy how I explored parts of his island back in 1993, armed with a machete I bought in the market at Bukittinggi.
Just as the Philippines has Tagalog as its national language, Bahasa Indonesia allows trade, relationships, disputes and travel to happen, no matter where you are in the country. My friend Mike Hillis told me once why he chose to come to Indonesia in 1996. Already interested in the culture, Mike said he knew if he learned the language, doors would open for him. “Imagine Columbus landing in America 500 years ago, with all the Native American tribes having a different dialect. Now imagine if there was 1 unifying language, that could enable him to travel the whole country and speak to everyone.” Indonesia is about as wide as the US, with 180 different ethnic groups, 300 distinct languages / regional dialects. Bahasa Indonesia can be your skeleton key to understanding Indonesia.