The foremost foreign language is English as the world lingua franca. It is spread as long as the growth of globalization indeed. Trying to depict its existence in our everyday life is not a big challenge. Nowadays, we easily find that there are lots of English labeled things in the public area, as in the name of building and public notices , like “Pull-Push”, “Open-Close”, “the Argopuro Regency”, etc., whereas not all people understand English as well. It seems that English is dominating the public area or public service. We may be worried that our first language (Bahasa Indonesia) will be shifted or even died someday, so that we should take an action to maintain our nationality in terms of language. Then, how does the local language shifted? What is our effort to keep the balance of Bahasa Indonesia and English usage? These cases will be the significant discussion in this paper.

Keywords: language shifting, domination, public area, tangible action.



As the era becomes more sophisticated and advanced, and as human of the digital, we are demanded to socialize and habituate ourselves with the condition we are facing. The world is already become smaller and smaller, there is no real border among one country with others or world is like a Global Village. It happens as long as the development of technology and information as the result of globalization. We are not denying that the globalization has influenced a lot to our life. It brings various new innovations and inventions. One of the products is the foreign language that we know and practice now. English is taking the first position of the world language precisely. It seems to fulfill more needs because many things served in English.

English is used in one-fourth of the earth’s surface, even if only a small fraction of the population in parts of that area knows English. In many of the new countries English is either a primary language or necessary second language in the schools and business. Braj B.Kachru notes that one reason for the dominance of English is its prosperity for acquiring new identities, its power of assimilation, its adaptability for ‘decolonization’ as a language, its manifestation in range of varieties, and above all its suitability as a flexible medium for literary and other types of creativity across languages and cultures.

Indonesia is also facing the extent of globalization’s change. The foreign language can influence the language of the nation, Bahasa Indonesia. Bahasa Indonesia as the language of unity and national language has got its affirmation, such in the constitution about the state’s language, also the role and function of Bahasa Indonesia as the official language in all aspect of the people’s life. Knowing the position of both languages becomes a high responsible for the local people to keep the extent of the language from the threat of foreign language such English, because it is not denied that English grows faster and faster. Its existence not only becomes a first language choice, but further, it also becomes the fundamental needs in mass communication for international social economy.

From the illustration above, we can see how English has already grown up and extended in our country. In socio-cultural aspect, we can see the example of its existence which dominating the public area. It influences a lot to the existence of the national language, Bahasa Indonesia, but whether it is a threat or not, we should take a tangible action toward the condition to maintain our first language.


English’s Domination in the Public Area

We often see English notices in some public places that dominate the view and even become more eyes catching. Our eyes are served with those strange words arrangement that we sometimes find it difficult to understand, but these are fine to some of us whatsoever. We can see English words in the name of building like offices, housings, restaurants, department stores, shops, hospitals, and so on. Let us see the examples, such as “Happy Puppy Family Karaoke”, “Secret of Women”, “Radio Cafe”, “Quick Chicken”, “The Argopuro Regency”, “Ocean Garden”, “Jember Medical Center”, etc. Sometimes, questions come at glance, why it should be named in English if Bahasa Indonesia could also convey the message. Slightly understanding, it seems that English has certain value in the usage, but we do not know it for sure. It may be caused by the existence and position of English as the world language.

Afterwards, we can find other phenomena of English usage in public areas of facilities as in the public notices board, room’s name, etc. it could be found in some areas inside a supermarket such as in the door like “Push-Pull”, “Enter-Exit”, and “Open-Close”, or Men-Women” in a toilet. Likewise in the department store, for example the use of the word “Discount” instead of “Potongan Harga”, “Sale” instead of “Obral”, and some other English words to notice. It is not strange anymore for us to find it, whereas not all Indonesians understand English well.

In fact, we still get it difficult to know exactly why English seems having better position to use as well. But from the description of the English usage’s condition above that the English language is till dominating the public, we may be thinking of the weakness of first language usage. It seems Indonesians are not strongly confident and aware to use their language. We have to worry about this condition, we can just simply say that the existence of Bahasa Indonesia is in danger and begin to be shifted by the foreign language. The condition will be more terrible if one day, in the future, our environment or public areas full of English notices. It will be like another part of the world such in the United States, an English native country. The foreign people will be confused to recognize whether the country, they are visiting, is Indonesia or not, because as they see the public notices and advertising are in English not even stated in Bahasa Indonesia. What is the difference then?


The Causes of Bahasa Indonesia Shifting

  1. The language

English has been becoming the most spoken language entire the world. Since the industrial revolution arose. It spreads through mass communication, especially internet. Around 90’s the explosive growth of internet was extending. Therefore, consciously or unconsciously we are cramped with such situation that then leads us to the demand of understanding English or knowing at least. On the other hand Bahasa Indonesia isn’t so. This contrary condition may challenge people to learn English instead of Bahasa Indonesia.

  1. For the people

One of the reason why English becomes the world language is due to it is used by important person they may also the public figure within. The tendency to “imitate” plays the rule in the shifting process. It may also prevails to such of these things; style, mode, way of life, etc.

  1. In public places

This is probably the accumulative reasons from the first and the second point previously. It implies that English is used elsewhere and very popular for business reasons, it may easier catch the attention of people compared to Bahasa Indonesia. This of course might influence the advantages. For other reasons, English sounds “sophisticated and cool”. It is all about prestige and honor then.


A Tangible Action toward English

In Sociolinguistics point of view, there is nothing wrong in the case of language use phenomenon. But even if so, it is urgently crucial condition to watch. As people who often confess ourselves care about the nation, it will be excessive for us to still keep being silent and no action. No one expects Bahasa Indonesia will be coming to the death. Realizing that we are living in the era of the digital, it is impossible to refuse English existence and growth in our country, it is deniable indeed. But one thing to do is to keep its existence stable and not being a big threat for Bahasa Indonesia. How to do so? We need to maintain the balance of both languages usage.

In particular, all we can do is to strive for balancing the use of English and Bahasa Indnoesia both in quality and quantity of the usage. In the quality we may take examples such as in the public notices, as we discuss in the previous one. The notices should also include the Indonesian language version. For example the word “No Smoking” is also written the word “Dilarang Merokok”, and the word “Exit” With “Keluar”, and so on. The quantity meant is the size of the letter that is written, for example the word “Tutup – Buka”, “Pull–Tarik”, etc. Often we come across a few public notices stated in both English and Bahasa Indonesia, but usually the English word is typed or written in bold capital letters with larger size than the Indonesian language version which is written in much smaller size like “PUSH DORONG. It is as if to indicate that the main information is better to be conveyed in English. This is a form of imbalance usage of both languages. Therefore, the efforts above need to be realized and done, because the local language ought to have higher value and become more prestigious. In addition, these efforts also give other benefits to the reader or people in common. It could be a media or language learning means to the people for free. People who read these notices will be easier to understand the meaning in both languages. It will finally broaden one’s knowledge on language and literature indirectly. Hence, a person will still be able to learn and adapt himself with the conditions of the current era.

Furthermore, another way we might do is to understand and give a review to other people’s comprehension that Bahasa Indonesia is the national and unifying language, and an identity of the nation, Indonesia. Therefore, it is necessary for us to once again build up our confidence to keep using Bahasa Indonesia, for example in naming buildings and others such place, as long as the building is owned and founded by Indonesian citizens or Indonesian legal entities. although it sounds classic and even still abstract, but if it is done continuously by the people either active doers or passive readers, it will then give them awareness to build up a better self-confidence to give their priority of using Bahasa Indonesia rather than English or other foreign languages. Thus, the efforts of maintaining national identity will be achieved.

Again, it may be a bit difficult for us to put a lot of attention to the globalization and its maddening effects. But, it does not rule out the possibility that our language is able to compete with other languages and have a higher value. This all depends on the willingness of our people to stay aware and maintain a national language not to decay. We do not need to make high soundings way to show our nationalism. In mw point of view, by respecting and using Bahasa Indonesian properly is a form of love for the homeland. As stated in the youth’s oath of our nation or Sumpah Pemuda. “Kami putra dan putri Indonesia, menjunjung bahasa persatuan, Bahasa Indonesia.”


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