In seven years, UCLA's Indonesian language program has grown into a premier program in the United States.
This article originally appeared in Asian Languages & Cultures, newsletter of the UCLA department of the same name, Volume 4, Number 1, Winter 2007, pp. 4-5. Republished with permission and with thanks.
Have you ever used the words gong, batik, orangutan or sarong? If so, you were speaking or writing in Indonesian. The national and official language of Indonesia, the world’s fourth most-populous nation, Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) was first introduced at UCLA in 1999 concurrent with the establishment of the University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.
Taught under the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures’ program of South and Southeast Asian Languages and Cultures, Indonesian is phonetic rather than tonal, words are predominantly pronounced as they appear. Unlike several Asian languages, Indonesian is written with Roman script, the same used for writing English; though Indonesian has a complex range of prefixes and suffixes, it is not difficult to achieve basic mastery of the language.
Despite its relatively recent induction to the University, UCLA may boast of one of the premier Indonesian programs in the United States. Since the program’s inception, language instructor Juliana Wijaya has established a vibrant and comprehensive series of courses that bring the language and by extension the people and places of Indonesia to life for her students. Three quarter-sequence courses offered at the introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels prepare students from diverse majors and disciplines for study and research in and about Indonesia.
At present, graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in our Indonesian courses represent academic fields as diverse as anthropology, environmental studies, ethnomusicology, history, Southeast Asian studies, and world arts and cultures. Intimate class size throughout the levels allows ample opportunity for students to benefit from a great degree of one-on-one interaction with the instructor and with each other. Further, the focused but supportive learning atmosphere set by Wijaya creates a climate in which students are highly motivated to acquire and advance in the language.
Indonesia is an emerging democratic nation that, in many ways, is playing an increasingly important geopolitical role upon the world stage. This fact is recognized at UCLA, where in addition to language study, students interested in Indonesian may take advantage of several courses, lectures, events, and performances focused on this archipelagic nation. Many of the students who enroll in Indonesian also participate in one of the University’s two gamelan ensembles, work with faculty who are some of today’s leading Indonesia specialists, and study Javanese or Balinese dance with visiting scholars. Truly, it is an exciting time to study Indonesian at UCLA.
That around 200 million people throughout Indonesia and other modern Southeast Asian states including Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei speak Indonesian means students’ learning is hardly limited to UCLA. Moreover, due to the advantage of attending a university that is strategically located in the midst of a community of Indonesians which is 15,000 strong in the city of Los Angeles alone, those studying Indonesian here find they have access to numerous sources of off-campus learning. Students have found that their Indonesian language classes have facilitated advanced study of the language abroad and their independent research in Indonesia and the Los Angeles area alike. Many have further found that studying Indonesian at UCLA has prepared them for careers in academia as well as the private and governmental sectors.
With such a high quality of instruction, accomplished and diverse students, and access to numerous resources, the Indonesian language program is stronger than ever. We extend a very warm welcome, selamat datang, to all those interested in joining us.