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-- Wahyu D/Aju

Some of the languages ​​that are spread across the archipelago have not been documented so there are fears that they will become extinct.

LEARN TO WRITE - A group of children learned to write at a drop-in school in
the Depok Bus Terminal area, West Java, Friday (6/9). Even though they only
have sandals on their feet, they are still passionate about writing. (SH/Edy Wahyudi)
JOHNY Tjia from SIL International wondered why the government named Literacy Day which is celebrated every September 8. The name of the script is not quite right, if it refers to the word literacy in English; because literacy is not the same as literacy. Script is the same as the alphabet or alphabet, while literacy means the ability to read and write in a language.

"I don't know what the government's intention is, maybe to keep it short," said Johny when contacted by SH while preparing a literacy paper at an event in Bali, Thursday (5/9). But what can I say, even if input is given, the government may still be unmoved by its decision.

According to the ethnological version, there are 719 languages ​​in Indonesia, but 13 of them are extinct or only 706 languages ​​are still spoken.

Half or 50 percent of the language is still used by parents, but young people no longer use this mother tongue. Johny gave an example, the Javanese language Kromo Inggil which is almost extinct because currently it is only used by parents.

"The indicator is its use in children. If children no longer speak their mother tongue, it means that language is under threat. Kromo inggil in Java is no longer used by children," he added.

Of course this fact raises concerns about the extinction of a language after the parents die later. In fact, some of the language has not been documented. Even if someone has recorded it in written form, most of it is done by experts from abroad.

"For culture, there is something that has been documented, but the language has not. Only a small part of the community is aware of documenting language, customs and local wisdom," said Johny.

What is even more worrying is that when a language is no longer used, the culture will automatically disappear. Because, language records that culture. For example, ways of thinking and local wisdom are embodied in the language. Unfortunately, many of the manners that were written in the language are now lost and young people don't use them anymore.

A similar opinion was shared by an anthropologist from Muhammadyah University, Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Dr. Zainuddin Isman. He stated that the oral traditions of the Dayak people are numerous, but less than 2 percent have been documented in written form. In fact, there are no more than ten speakers of oral literature among the Uud Danum Dayak tribe in West Kalimantan who are still alive today.

The Uud Danum Dayak community in West Kalimantan is spread over Serawai and Ambalau sub-districts in Sintang District, as well as Menukung and Ellahilir Districts, Melawi Regency. Tjilik Riwut (2003:63-64) states that the Dayak tribe in Kalimantan consists of seven tribes, namely the Ngaju Dayak, Apu Kayaan Dayak, Iban Dayak or Heban Dayak or Sea Dayak, Klemantan Dayak or Darat Dayak, Murut Dayak, Punan Dayak, and Dayak Dayak. Uud Danum.

The seven tribes consist of 18 tribes who are one and the same, which consists of 405 kinship tribes. To make it easier to understand, the division is based on ethnic origin or Dayak, big tribe, small tribe, kinship tribe.

But only the Dayak Kayaan tribe at the head of Sungai Mendalam, Kapuas Hulu Regency, whose oral literature has been documented. Documentation was carried out by Aloysius Ding, a Catholic monk whose book had been printed by Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta. His name is Syair Lawe' which is now a reference for anthropologists from within and outside the country.


As a solution, according to Zainuddin, there is no other way except to increase the awareness of the Dayak community to document oral literature. If you only rely on speakers, it is very difficult to preserve it because the source of the study always comes from written documents. Therefore, the government is expected to encourage efforts to document oral literature, with the ultimate goal of encouraging the Dayak community to record it.

“Oral literature usually uses a style of literary language that most of the younger generation does not understand. Only speakers can translate into profane language because each word has its own meaning," he said.

Admittedly, low interest in writing can trigger the extinction of local oral literature and culture. Especially now that most of the speakers are old, so that it is increasingly threatening the loss of culture.

As a solution, Johny Tjia and SIL International implemented teaching in schools using the local mother tongue. “To learn written language it will be easier to use their own language. It is used for elementary school children and adults who are illiterate, as in the package A pursuit program. The lesson content also uses their own language," explained Johny.

This is because only 10 percent of Indonesians use Indonesian as their mother tongue or regional language or first language. Indonesian is mostly used as a second language. In fact, in Papua there are more than 200 languages, and in Maluku more than 100 languages.

Indeed, Indonesian still needs to be used, thus mother tongue is only used as a bridge to develop children's skills and concepts. Another method is, if in an area there are still ten parents who use their mother tongue, it should be written down or made in audio-visual form. "In Papua we make a book about malaria using the local language," Johnny gave an example.

Aceh is Back on the Rise

In Aceh, one of his humanists named Khairuddin, revealed that the culture of writing had long disappeared in Aceh, especially when the New Order regime was in power. Because, at that time Acehnese were often branded as DI/TII supporters or supporters of the Free Aceh Movement led by Hasan Ditiro.

"At that time no one dared to write critically, until finally the culture of writing in Aceh sank," said Khairuddin. However, after the collapse of the New Order, the writing culture of the Acehnese people revived.

Writers emerged to voice the suffering of the people due to the armed conflict between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Republic of Indonesia. "This culture continues to improve until now, even small communities have now started writing," he said.

Aceh is famous for its unique customs and culture, which is difficult to separate from Islam. This can be seen from the letters used by the Acehnese people in the past. Most of the books during the Aceh kingdom used Malay Arabic letters or commonly called Jawi letters. The letters are Arabic, but read in Malay.

"The books are usually about religion, history and customary law," said Sulaiman Iskandar, an observer of history in Aceh.

The use of Arabic Malay or Jawi letters for writing was originally carried out by scholars in Aceh to explain Islam.

After the Islamic religion developed rapidly there, Jawi letters were used more and more often, especially after people could read Arabic script. Even when reciting at the mosque, residents use Arabic Jawi letters. However, since 1873 when the Dutch tried to enter Aceh, the people began to abandon the habit of writing and preferred to fight the Dutch.

“Residents also rarely study religion because they live in the forests to avoid the Dutch army. The clerics also participated in giving resistance to the Dutch so they no longer wrote," said Sulaiman.

After the Dutch left Aceh, the use of the Jawi language became increasingly rare because Malay, which used to be the unifying language of the Aceh kingdom, was written in Latin letters as it is today. People also become lazy to write because they have given up this habit for too long.

Currently, there are still a number of books in Jawi, but they are only used by religious scholars because not all Acehnese can read Jawi. "Now people are used to the Latin letters," said Sulaiman.

Oral Tradition

A different view was put forward by the General Chairperson (Ketum) of the Riau Malay Traditional Institute (LAM) Daily Management Board, Al Azhar, who saw that written tradition threatens the continuity of national identity, while oral tradition is actually capable of perpetuating an identity.

In a conversation with SH, Friday (6/9), he revealed that oral traditions do grow in indigenous peoples' circles. But don't assume that indigenous peoples are illiterate.

“The people who are in the Riau Malay customary community are not illiterate and rely on orality. They are also educated people, so we cannot say that oral traditions are identical with indigenous peoples.”

The man who has received his doctoral education at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, added that oral tradition relies on memory, while written tradition relies on written forms.

In the generation that was born until the 1970s, it is still felt that the inheritance of knowledge in the family sphere is done orally through direct experience so that it penetrates into us.

"Well, in today's family there is no inheritance anymore. Children no longer rely on their parents to pass on knowledge and experience, but rely on what they learn in school in written form," he said.

When asked why indigenous peoples are more accustomed to oral traditions than writing, Al Azhar said, firstly, oral traditions in all societies have been born or are the same age as humans themselves.

Second, the archipelago knows quite a number of types of writing, but this tradition is only for a handful of educated people. So by itself the reading and writing tradition has never spread widely to the archipelago.

He added that the oral tradition lives in a friendly society, while the written tradition alienates people to individual spaces. Thus, individualism is also encouraged by the depth of the written tradition. Al Azhar does acknowledge the benefits of written tradition to record knowledge.

“The advantage of the written tradition is that if something is written down, it is relatively long-lasting and well-documented. If it is stored in the speaker's memory, it can be lost when the person who remembers it dies," he said.

Meanwhile, Yoserizal Zein, an observer of the Riau oral tradition who is also the Head of the Sang Nila Utama Museum in Pekanbaru, assesses the growth of oral and written traditions in the area as well. When he was still the Head of the Department of Culture and Tourism of Riau, studies and documentation of oral traditions were actively carried out.

It's just that the oral traditions that developed in the midst of indigenous peoples such as oral literature, customary law, marriage procedures, and other traditions are very numerous. (Junaidi Hanafiah/Deden Yamara)

Source: Sinar Harapan , Saturday, 07 September 2013

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