01 July 2013

Alissa Stern

BASAbali.org, a U.S. based nonprofit organization, is bringing together Balinese linguists, anthropologists, and language software specialists to develop the first interactive materials for spoken Balinese, a language with only a million speakers left, and Balinese script, which is already endangered.

Many factors contribute to the decline of Balinese. Since independence, the national government, like those of many multilingual countries, has pushed for a unifying, national language — in this case Indonesian — to be spoken in schools, government meetings, and official public settings. The media, which until recently was required to be in Indonesian, encourages children to speak Indonesian. Social networks like Facebook, which are a more popular mechanism for messaging in Indonesia than email, compound the problem since there is a reluctance to use Balinese when it’s not clear that everyone in the “group” can understand. So, Indonesian Bahasa became the default language (until very recently, when the first three Balinese-only language groups were formed).


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