Do You Think Indonesian Could Become An ASEAN Language? Here’s The Explanation

English currently is being adopted as the official language in most discussion forums and events held by ASEAN officials due to its ease in administrative and discussion processes.

It is also used in every decision-making agenda, regional meeting, and charter agreement by the ministers of foreign affairs or the government leaders.

English is chosen because of its widespread utility in several ASEAN countries, such as Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. However, it is remains a question to be addressed whether English, a non-mother tongue for the majority of the population, itself can connect ASEAN people, as the most of them speak Indonesian.

Thus, do you think Indonesian could become an ASEAN language?

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ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising ten countries in Southeast Asia. As when referring to one of the aims of ASEAN itself, which is to create an economic integration amongst the Southeast Asian nations, a unity in a form of language and communication can arguably serve as an important tool of connectivity.

Here are the list of the official languages used by states contracted in ASEAN, sorted by the most speakers and its similarity in the language family:

No Languages Countries Language Family Speaker (approx.)
1 Indonesian Indonesia Austronesian 200 millions (2010)
2 Malaysian Malaysia & Brunei Austronesian 33 millions (2017)
3 Filipino Philippine Austronesian 45 millions (2013)
4 Khmer Cambodia Austroasiatic 16 millions (2007)
5 Vietnamese Vietnam Austroasiatic 96 millions (2017)
6 Lao Laos Kra–Dai 30 millions  (2017)
7 Thai Thailand Kra–Dai 80 millions (2015)
8 Tamil Singapore Dravidian 6 millions (2018)
9 Mandarin Singapore Sino-Tibetan
10 Burmese Myanmar Sino-Tibetan 33 millions (2007)
11 English (Working Language)

Indonesian, Malaysian, and Filipino Language

So, it is down to this three particular languages in ASEAN that in total has the most speakers. All of them are from the same language family, that is Austronesian language, which means they are in some way has a general similarity. However, let’s dig further down to their branches.

Even though, Filipino and the other two languages are from the same main parental language, Filipino is the one out of those three that has more differences, as Filipino language branches down to Philippine after Malayo-Polynesian, while the other two branch down to Malayo-Sumbawan and stay in the same branch to Malay language. Thus, we can eliminate Philippine from the candidates for ASEAN language.

Now, here comes the question of why don’t just make Malay language as the official language in ASEAN as it is has both speakers of Indonesian and Malaysian population. The answer is simply because it is not consider as an official languages in both countries, yet we can agree that it does not eligible to be the ASEAN language.  

You can check more about Malay language here.

Let’s get back to the main question. Can Indonesian become an ASEAN language?

Considering that Indonesian has a large population of speakers, around one third of ASEAN population speaks Indonesian, and also not to mention that Indonesian is a archipelago country yet the language can be absorbed well by most of its inhabitants means that it is an easy language to learn.

So, in practical terms, it is a yes that Indonesian can become an ASEAN language.