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I am very excited to present my newest regular feature: Friday’s Featured Language! Every Friday I will be featuring an audio clip and text translation from a real native speaker of a language.  This will give speakers an opportunity to share a little bit about their language with us, and will give us an opportunity to hear what the language really sounds like!  Did I mention I’m really excited about this project? (Sorry for the excessive use of exclamation points in this post!)

My very first featured speaker is Thiyani, a native speaker of Indonesian (or bahasa Indonesia).  Thiyani grew up monolingual in Indonesia and now lives in the USA.  She speaks English in her day-to-day life, but in her home she speaks English, Indonesian, and Javanese.  She says what she likes about language in general is “its connection to culture.”

Indonesian is the national language of Indonesia, where it is spoken by over 238 million inhabitants, and is over 80% cognate with Malay, spoken by 22 million Malaysians and southern Thais.  Through its relationship with Malay, Indonesian has incorporated many words from other languages, including Sanskrit, Arabic, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, and English, and it is spoken by substantial populations in Netherlands, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the U.S.

Bahasa Indonesia generally uses the Roman alphabet, but since Indonesia is also home to the largest Muslim population in the world, some religious texts can be found written in Arabic.

Even though it is the sixth most widely-spoken language in the world, I knew very little about it and had never gotten to hear it spoken, so I was very happy to have Thiyani share!  She says we might be surprised to hear that Indonesian does not have any tenses and gender difference, but it has a lot of affixes.

The clip featured here is her favorite poem; “it is short, but beautiful,” she says.

‘Aku Ingin’ by Sapardi Djoko Damono
Aku ingin mencintaimu dengan sederhana
dengan kata yang tak sempat diucapkan
kayu kepada api yang menjadikannya abu

Aku ingin mencintaimu dengan sederhana
dengan isyarat yang tak sempat disampaikan
awan kepada hujan yang menjadikannya tiada

English translation:

I want to love you in a simple way
With the words that cannot be said
By woods to flame that makes them ashes

I want to love you in a simple way
With the signs that cannot be delivered
By the clouds to rain that makes them disappear

Thank you Thiyani for sharing this lovely poem, and for sharing the Indonesian language with us!