Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia – Indonesia and its two neighboring countries are former colonies of other nations. Malaysia and Singapore are former British colonies, while Indonesia is a former Dutch colony.
Usually, colonization leaves behind ‘relics’ in several aspects, such as law, politics, mentality, culture and linguistics (language).
As former British colonies for hundreds of years, the people of Malaysia and Singapore are fluent in English. However, the Indonesian population is actually different. Almost all Indonesian people are not fluent in Dutch.
Meanwhile, the influence of language from the Netherlands that appears in Indonesia is loan words, such as gordijn becomes curtains, bioscoop becomes cinema, and office becomes office.
So, why can’t Indonesian people speak Dutch?
Basically, this is caused by the different styles of Dutch and British colonialism. It is known that the British deliberately carried out a Western cultural ‘invasion’ of Malay society so that local culture blended with western culture or even disappeared.
Then, in the language sector, this policy makes Malay people quite fluent in English.
Meanwhile, the Dutch did not do that to the Indonesian population. Historical researcher from Nanyang Technological University, Christopher Reinhart, explained that there were two reasons why the Dutch had a different attitude towards local culture. As a result, the level of Dutch language fluency among Indonesian people across generations is low.
First, seen from the perspective of the structure of Dutch colonialism. At that time, the local community and the Dutch were in different structures. Dutch people consider themselves to be at the top of the class, while local residents are at the bottom.
The Dutch consider spreading a similar culture by considering the local population and the Dutch to be culturally equal. As a result, they did not want to share Dutch culture so that the structure was maintained.
Second, the Dutch always saw the perspective of economic exploitation as a characteristic of a colonial state. Reinhart said they felt it was okay not to spread the culture. The most important thing is to continue exploiting and making it economically profitable.
“Snouck Hurgronje, one of the colonial government officials, once said that ‘cultural issues don’t need to be forced. Let them grow by themselves, without eliminating local culture,” Reinhart told CNBC Indonesia.
These two Dutch attitudes lasted from the exploitation phase of forced cultivation from 1830-1900 and continued when the Dutch implemented a policy of retribution or ethical politics in 1900.
Reinhart said that the Dutch people always focused on economic aspects and did not want to damage local culture, especially after ethical politics were implemented. They increasingly understand that invading other cultures is not good.
However, this does not mean that local residents cannot adopt western culture. Because, the Netherlands is also not closed about this matter. In fact, many western cultures have been adopted by local residents.
Based on that reason, local languages, Malay and Indonesian have grown until now.
Colonized for so long, why can’t Indonesian citizens speak Dutch?