The number of native speakers of the Indonesian language is generally underestimated. An extreme case is Ethnologue which until recently maintained that the Indonesian language has 23 million native speakers. The prevailing picture is that the vast majority of Indonesians speak a regional language as their mother tongue and begin to learn Indonesian when they go to school. As the result of the relative late exposure to the national language, most Indonesians cannot be considered as native speakers of bahasa Indonesia.
In this paper it will be argued that the above mentioned scenario may have been true in post-independence Indonesia and probably up into the 1980ies, but does no longer reflect the linguistic reality of Indonesia in the 21st century. Today Indonesian is universally understood, even in the most remote parts of Indonesia, and the majority of Indonesians grow up bilingually. While many Indonesians still continue to speak regional languages within their families, they typically switch to Indonesian as soon as the discussion extends beyond familiar topics.
Using data from the 2010 census and other sources, it is argued that the number of Indonesian native speakers has exceeded one hundred million, which places Indonesian in the top-ten list of languages by number of native speakers.
The full article is about 20 pages strong. You can download it free of charge. © Uli Kozok 2016.
A brief summary of the article is available here.