Why do Indonesian (people) Refer to Indonesian (language) as Bahasa Which Literally Means “Language” in English?

There is misunderstanding among Bahasa Indonesia learner on calling Bahasa Indonesia. Many foreigners, even Indonesians themselves, are referring Bahasa Indonesia as simply Bahasa.

But, there are some people refer it as Indonesian. So, which one is the correct one? We will discuss it in the following part.

The Origin of the Word Bahasa

The word Bahasa in Bahasa Indonesia is actually the same as the word language in English. In formal occasion, Indonesian calls their language completely as Bahasa Indonesia. But, in most occasions, Indonesians tell foreigner to call Bahasa Indonesia simply as Bahasa.

Maybe, the cause of this simplification is the use of Bahasa Indonesia to refer to Indonesian language is too long compared to only as Bahasa.

As in English, to call another language, they will simply use word like, French or Italian, to call the language. So, if they have to call Indonesian language as Bahasa Indonesia, it would be too long compared to how they call other languages. Therefore, it is simplified into Bahasa.

Bahasa Indonesia or Bahasa?

To settle this confusion, it has to be explained on how the Indonesian calls languages. In Bahasa Indonesia, to call other language, the formula is to use Bahasa (means language) plus the country’s name. For instance, to call English, Indonesian will say Bahasa Inggris, and for French, they will say Bahasa Perancis.

Based on that explanation, it is not quite correct if we call Indonesian language as Bahasa. We should refer it completely as Bahasa Indonesia. This statement is supported by the fact that in many formal occasions, like books about Indonesian language, it is stated as Pelajaran Bahasa Indonesia. If the book is entitled Pelajaran Bahasa, it means that the book is about every language in general.

Bahasa Has Been a Well-Known Reference for Bahasa Indonesia

Because the use of the word Bahasa that refers to Bahasa Indonesia has been happened since forever, to make it right is not easy. It needs some amount of time to make foreigners or even Indonesian itself to call Indonesian language as Bahasa Indonesia instead of Bahasa.

This case is not really a mistake by Indonesian or foreigner to call Indonesian language simply as Bahasa. If both speakers understand that the word Bahasa refers to Indonesian language, it does not really matter about this being a mistake. This is due to the function of a language is to convey message to others.

So, if by using the word Bahasa they know it refers to Bahasa Indonesia or Indonesian language, it is fine to use it in any occasion.