What are some facts about the Indonesian language?


Quick Answer

Indonesian is a standardized form of Malay spoken by about 30 million people as a native language and by about 140 million as a second language. Since there are many different languages spoken in Indonesia, Indonesian is used as a lingua franca in Indonesia.

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Full Answer

Indonesian is also spoken in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, as well as in East Timor and the southern provinces of Thailand. It is understandable in parts of the southern Philippines and by Malay descendants in Sri Lanka and South Africa.

Indonesian belongs to the Austronesian language family. Malagasy, spoken in Madagascar; Javanese, the native language of about 75 million people in Indonesia; Tagalog, spoken in the Philippines; and Maori, spoken by the indigenous people of New Zealand are also part of this family. Indonesian is completely unrelated to Chinese and other Sino-Tibetan languages of continental Southeast Asia.

Indonesian is not a tonal language. It has many different prefixes and suffixes that are attached to words to change their meanings, making it an agglutinative language. There are many borrowed foreign words in Indonesian, originating particularly from Javanese and Jakartan Malay and also from Sanskrit, Arabic, Dutch, English and local languages.

Many people in Indonesia learn a local language as a child and learn Indonesian later in school. Indonesian tends to be spoken more in urban areas, and local languages are more common in rural communities. Many Indonesians can speak up to three or four languages.

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