Should I learn Indonesian or Malay Why
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The Indonesian language
In hardly any other country is there such a complex linguistic diversity as in the multi-ethnic state of Indonesia, the largest island state in the world. Around 500 ethnic groups speak roughly the same number of different regional languages and dialects, which can make communication in the next town a problem. Since most of the approximately 250 million Indonesians learn the respective regional language as their mother tongue, one is of course required
common linguistic basis for supraregional communication: Bahasa Indonesia, the "language of Indonesia" (hereinafter referred to as "Indonesian"). It makes a decisive contribution to the unity of the multiethnic state and is learned in primary school as a second language in addition to the mother tongue. So Indonesian is first of all a foreign language even for most Indonesians!
Indonesian (like Tagalog or Maori, for example) belongs to the family of Austronesian languages, which have nothing in common with other major East Asian languages and - as the name might erroneously suggest - has nothing to do with Australia.
Today's Indonesian, which has been elevated to the standard national language since the founding of the state after the Second World War, - like today's Malaysian - emerged from Malay. Malaysian and Indonesian are now considered two languages, but they are over 80% identical! With knowledge of Indonesian, you can communicate very well not only in Indonesia, but also in all of Malaysia. Around 200 million people around the world speak Indonesian or Malaysian today. This makes Malay one of the
most spoken languages in the world, which are also spoken in Singapore, East Timor, southern Thailand and the Philippines, among others.
Malay, i.e. the basis of Indonesian, was the common language of communication and trade for the most diverse ethnic groups in what is now Indonesia and Malaysia in pre-colonial times. This did not change even after the colonization of what is now Indonesia by the Dutch in the 17th century. Malay is strongly influenced by Sanskrit, the influence of which, especially in the religious sphere, is still recognizable today, e.g. by the word guru for "teacher". From the 13th century came
with the advance of Islam, Arabic expressions were added (e.g. hakim "judge"). While the British established their colonial rule in what is now Malaysia, in what is now Indonesia - also due to the colonial rulers - terms from Dutch were increasingly mixed into the language. Even today, kantor is the term for "office" and knalpot stands for "exhaust". Administration and technology vocabulary comes mostly from Dutch.
In the age of globalization, of course, English has "left its mark" on Indonesian. Expressions such as team or business have become tim and bisnis, so they have been adapted to Indonesian. You also know, for example, the Malay words amok or amuk "crazy with rage" or orang utan for "forest people". So you see: Indonesian is not quite as foreign as it may seem at first glance.
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