Every February 21st, the world including Indonesia commemorates International Mother Language Day. For the Indonesian people, this commemoration is a right momentum to intensively protect and teach regional languages to children.
Indonesia is very rich in regional languages. The number of regional languages in Indonesia is the second largest in the world after Papua New Guinea. Based on data of Language Development Agency at the Ministry of Education and Culture, the number of regional languages spread in Indonesia per 2018 is 668 regional languages. Among the regional languages in Indonesia, there are three languages with more than 10 million speakers, namely Javanese (84.3 million speakers), Sundanese (34 million speakers), and Madurese language (13.6 million speakers).
The wealth of regional languages is a treasure and pride for Indonesia, because each language has its own uniqueness. The characteristics of social, cultural, economic, political and various aspects of the life of the Indonesian people are reflected in the language.
Therefore, efforts to protect and maintain the diversity of languages in Indonesia must continue. If not, there will be many regional languages that will become extinct or without speakers.
Based on data from the Language Agency, as many as 11 regional languages in Indonesia were declared extinct. There are 16 languages whose status is endangered. There are several causes of language extinction, including shrinking the number of speakers, large natural disasters, inter-tribal intermarriage, and the language attitude of speakers.
Real efforts are needed from both the community and the government to protect and maintain the diversity of languages in Indonesia. The regional governments need to make regulations to protect their respective regional languages. In Indonesia, there is only one regional regulation that regulates regional language protection, namely North Sumatra Province.
Efforts to develop, foster and protect regional languages are through not only legislation, but also efforts from individual speakers of regional languages. For example, the regional languages can be documented. Each individual needs to take the initiative to document the local language. The documentation is very necessary for its sustainability so that it does not become extinct. This is the right way to protect the cultural and intellectual heritage of Indonesia.