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Is the Balinese Language Dying?

Bali News: Bali, Indonesia, Balinese language, Balinese Language Congress, Ketut Suastika, Kadisbud, Bali Cultural Agency
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The chief of the Balinese Culture Agency (Kadisbud), Ketut Suastika, has told the National News Agency Antara that the number of speakers of the Balinese language is on the decline.

“It’s estimated that the number of Balinese speakers now number less than one million,” said Suastika.

If the total number of Balinese speakers is compared with the total population of Bali that now numbers nearly 4 million, the 1 million remaining Balinese speakers is considered insufficient to ensure the langage's survival in the future.

To make his case, Suastika said that among young Balinese families there are few who use “meme” or “bapa” as the way to refer to “mother” and “father.” He observes that most Balinese now use the Indonesian language equivalents in such contexts.

“In fact, there’s nothing wrong if the Balinese use Indonesian and foreign languages, but this should be done in combination with the Balinese language,” he cautioned. The Bali government officer charged with overseeing cultural matters is concerned that the Balinese will one day forget how to use their “mother tongue.”

“In the future, I see a need to use Balinese in the work environment and in educational settings. Or perhaps, a day each week dedicated to the use of Balinese could be created. For instance, every Sunday or some other special day could be set aside where workers and students are required to communicate in Balinese,” said Suastika. In this way, he feels children will begin to know and appreciate the Balinese language.

Plans are underway to hold a Balinese Language Congress in October 2011. Held once every five years, the Congress will discuss issues connected to Balinese and other provincial languages.

Suastika added: “In this Congress the problem of the Balinese language and Balinese writing system which are beginning to disappear will be discussed in order to devise strategies  for the language’s survival.” 

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