Balinese language

Balinese Language
( Basa bali )
part 1

Balinese language is a rich language with its own script and complex literary forms. It is also extraordinarily expressive. It can like a dove or grind like a garbage truck. Its range, and central difficulty, comes from its preoccupation with differences in rank, arising from Bali’s Hindu caste system. There are parallel vocabularies to distinguish the rank of the speakers and their relation to each other and to the people of whom they are speaking. A mistake in observing any of these distinctions by using the wrong word may be felt as an insult.

Imagine, for example, that you are an elderly lady, and a stranger comes up and cheerfully shouts, “ hi there, you old bag!” the same effect may result if a Balinese chooses the wrong word for, say, “water” Caste has been a sensitive issue in Bali since the time of colonial rule, when the Dutch hardened caste divisions and gave privileges to the upper castes. In the Bali of modern, egalitarian Indonesia, some of the pressure on the Balinese language stems from a growing feeling that caste distinctions are obsolete.

But there is much else steering Balinese- speakers to Bahasa Indonesia. The press and the education system use Indonesian. Balinese who wish to participate in national discourse write in Indonesian.The human urge for progress creates a dilemma for Balinese who want to be part of modern life and still preserve their traditions, which are held to be vitally precious. Besides, the tourism industry creates an economic incentive for Balinese to learn English and other foreign languages.

Most Balinese will tell you that they can barely speak it at all. That’s being coy: Balinese is the mother tongue of most Balinese people. It’s the language of daily life, which famously includes a big component of religious practice, local law, and artistic production, all of which is conducted in Balinese.

More or less. There is a lot of concern about how Balinese can survive among a few million speakers under the dominance of the national language, bahasa Indonesia. Many young Balinese children living in towns now speak Indonesian to each other.

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