My foreigner friend visited Yogyakarta. As a good host I accompanied him to travel around while explaining a little bit about Indonesia especially Yogyakarta.
Me: In Indonesia we own more than 500 indigenous languages with 7 different phonetics symbol (In a way, I’m proud to be Indonesian).
Him: It can’t be true.
Me: I’m not kidding. In this city, most of people speak Javanese.
Him: So, how many languages do you speak?
Me: Malay is my mother tongue, Bahasa Indonesia is my second language, Sambas is my third, English is the fourth and Javanese is my last language. So in total, I could speak 5 languages.
Him: That’s a total insane. How did you manage to master all of them?
Me: My dad speaks Malay and I grew in Malay environment. While Bahasa Indonesia as our Lingua Franca is used in office, school and other official institutions. My mom speaks Sambas, I speak this language when I meet my mom’s family. So basically I master those 3 languages by nature.
Me: I started learning English in elementary as the mandatory subject. And now I’m struggling to master Javanese as the original language of this city.
Him: awesome!! do you learn foreign language?, I mean, language from other countries.
Me: I managed to give a try. But none of them works on me. I think I suck at foreign language.
Him: Why? (showing a curious smile).
Me: I tried to learn Arabic, Germany, Japanese, and Thailand. But none of them works on me. How about you?, What language do you speak?
Him: I speak two languages, Malay as my mother tongue, and English as the business language.
Me: Are you interested to learn new language?
Him: Does that matter?
Me: What do you mean? (trying to catch what he implies)
Him: Does that matter to learn other language?, what matter to me is not that someone could speak France, Germany, or Spain. What matter to me is do you speak human rights? do you speak climate change? or do you speak SDGs?. I think this world needs people who speak about global issues and its solutions.
Me: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more.
The conversation kept going on.
But the lesson that I love the most is that I realize that I was so busy to learn many languages, but forget to use them wisely. The bottom line of a language is communication.
In a way I was ashamed that I’m only proud of being a polyglot, but absentmindedly forget about the essential part of learning a language. I was ashamed that I never really use my language to talk what important to society. I was ashamed to realize that I barely sharpen my knowledge through the languages I master.
Isn’t it beautiful if this world consists of people who talk about what really matter? to see people start putting their concerns on solving global issues. To see people having intimate communication when they work on the same value. To see people share their common interests in making the world a better place to live.
Yes Indonesia has a huge language gap in the society. But I believe, everyone has similar value about humanity. And I believe we will soon speak about what really matter for all of us.