How many languages do you speak?

I’m an Australian, born in the 1950s, and grew up speaking English. Living on an island continent, with its ‘White Australia Policy’, I believed English was the only language I would ever need. Fortunately my childhood beliefs evolved as Australia  became a less racist, multi-racial society.

At the age of 40, I became besotted with Indonesia, spending my vacations visiting places across the archipelago. To fully enjoy the holiday experience I began to learn their   national language.

In 1999 I moved to Bali and a fluency in Bahasa Indonesia became essential to my existence. I enrolled in language classes to kick start my learning. Immersion in life here, forced me to use my evolving language skills. For the past 15 years I’ve been speaking Bahasa Indonesia as my main language and somehow its all worked. I might communicate like a 5 year old child, but we all make it work.

I believe in life-long learning so am still learning and improving my language skills. Yesterday, I went to the doctor for my last Rabies injection (another story) and saw  a sign ‘Oksigen’ on the wall above an oxygen cylinder. Indonesia has a phonetic alphabet and so I should not have been surprised that the ‘x’ sound in borrowed words is replaced by ‘ks’ when written.  Taxi is  written ‘taksi’. After 15 years, I realised that the ‘x’ in the Indonesian alphabet is there for decoration.

When Komang arrived at work this morning,I shared my new revelation with him.

“Am I right?” I asked.

“Mungkin,” he replied. So now we both know that maybe I was right, but the ‘who cares” look on Komang’s face said it all. Being right is not as important as learning something new.

And in case you are wondering about words like Xray, Tax and Exit, Indonesia hasn’t borrowed these words, they have their own. (X-ray = Rontgen or Ronsen, Tax = Pajak, Exit = Keluar)

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