Why not teaching Dutch?

That’s the question from one of my colleagues, this afternoon. We’re all at this presentation followed by a casual drinks and chats. The starters are about how many languages are there in one country. We all in this little circle, took turns giving out answers including the Dutch, and then it came to me.

Q: “Kania, how many languages are there in Indonesia?”

Me: “Ooh we have plenty, but there’s one national language and we all can speak that”

Q: “How many languages you can speak of?”

Me: “In total? Err… 2, Indonesian and English, and none of traditional Indonesian languages, hahaha”

Q: “Wait, you have one more, you can speak Dutch”

Me: “Well, if you count my sleazy Dutch then I can also count Korean and French”

Q: “Where did you learn those?”

Me: “French was in high school, and Korean in college”

Q: “They taught French in high school in Indonesia? What else do they taught?”

Me: “Well, in my school, there’s an optional foreign language classes, besides English (because it’s mandatory), we have French, German, Japanese, and Arabic… and I chose French and learning it for 2 years”

Q: “Wait, you say they teach French and German, but no Dutch?”

Me: “Yes”

[mind you, this is a Dutch man speaking to me, they colonized Indonesian for 3,5 centuries (4 according to them) and they ‘hate’ the Germans]

Q: “But why? Netherlands were colonizing Indonesian for so many years, and why’s German? Is there any German colony near Indonesia? What (historical) connection you (Indonesia) have with the Germany?”

Me: “Well, you see, after the independence declaration, our first president wanted to get rid off everything Dutch, that includes eliminating Dutch language in the education, and he even made people with Dutch-sounded names changed into Indonesia-sounded names”

Q: “Yes, Soekarno, I know that… but still, why not? Don’t you want to read old books written in Dutch?”

Me: “…”

This actually what I’ve been discussing lately. Why did we do that? We see Malaysia and India taught and even speak some English in their daily life. But then again, it’s all been said and done, so it’s a choice to learn it or not, but one thing for sure, the Dutch know that we, Indonesia, let’s just say, don’t like them.


4 thoughts on “Why not teaching Dutch?

  1. Hmmm….because in Indonesia, Dutch is not as popular as France or German or … Korea 😛

    There is one of my friend who studied Danish because he really likes H.C. Andersen books and he wants to read the books from original language. Wow…amazing.

    So, for your fellow friend…only a few people who really want to learn a language because they want to read old books from original language … only geek people in history or languages – in my opinion – 😛

  2. Actually, people did speak Dutch in 1940s to 1950s. Even until today, student and teacher from Faculty of Law still understand Dutch since it is compulsory to understand the law.

    Indonesian eagerness to speak German was simply because German was seen as a country where they can learn new technology and machinery.

    If you met him again, tell him to forgive my ignorance but as far as I know, there were only a small number of old books in Dutch which may interest Indonesian, which are:

    1. Max Haveelar -> already translated to Indonesia
    2. Indonesische Overpeinzingen -> already translated to English and Indonesia
    3. Door Duisternis tot Licht -> already translated to Indonesia
    4. Oeroeg -> already translated to Indonesia

    Why did we rid Dutch languages? Because our founding father saw the emergence of English language as International language. If you read papers like Daoelat Ra’jat published by Hatta, there were a lot of ads posted by English teacher. If you read Hatta’s story when they were in Boven Digoel, you’ll learn that our founding father prefer to use English to Dutch.

    And you do realize that in some vandal paint in old pictures, you’ll see more English and Indonesian word than Dutch language. The decision is political.

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