I Gde Nala Antara: Balinese Language Teacher

Pak Nala was born and raised in Seraya, Karangasem District. He earned his degree in Balinese at Udayana University in Denpasar in 1986 and his Masters at Padjadjaran University in Bandung in 1996. Pak Nala started as a middle school and high school teacher before becoming a professor at Udayana. His hobbies are volleyball and writing Balinese script which he teaches free at his home for children interested in writing on lontar palm leaf manuscripts. Pak Nala is the Vice Dean of the Faculty of Letters and Culture at Udayana University, the head of the Balinese Governor’s Language Board (Badan Pembina Bahasa Aksara dan Sastra Bali Provinsi Bali) and serves as the consulting expert for the online Balinese-Indonesian-English Wiki Dictionary created by BASABali.


How did BASAbali start?

BASAbali was originally established in 2011 in the USA as a nonprofit to create interactive software to teach Balinese. The instruction is based on a model of learning through videos of dialogues. We were fortunate to have software capable of handling this model that was donated by Transparent Language, a US language learning company. The videos were taken by a Balinese team on Bali who were supported by linguists from Udayana University. We are fortunate to be part of Transparent’s 7000 Language Program, which enables us to donate the software to schools and community organizations around the world.


How was the program introduced in Balinese schools?

 We piloted a program with 12 middle schools around Denpasar where university students from Udayana worked with teachers and their students. We have since blossomed into other areas, including an online multimedia Balinese-Indonesian-English Wiki dictionary that evolves as the language does. Videos of Balinese native speakers provide context. Last Saraswati Day, we held a festival simultaneously in 9 countries to raise awareness about Balinese as an important resource along with the national language of Indonesian.


Where does BASABali get funding?

We have been operating primarily with volunteers on a budget of $3,000-$10,000 per year. We compensate the Balinese linguist team and Balinese editors as funds are available (the US team does not receive any compensation). We get a little money from selling software to individuals (at a highly subsidized rate of $25 per package) and through private donations from within and outside of Bali. Occasionally, we run a Kickstarter campaign to help with a specific initiative like the wiki dictionary. We appreciate very much the help we receive.


How has your project been supported?

 People have helped with their skills and sage advice on a number of fronts. A Balinese graphic artist made a logo for us. A French attorney living in Singapore and married to a Balinese woman offered legal expertise. A fair trade company donated rewards. A woman from Provence living in Bali who saw parallels with her native tongue – also a minority language — wrote articles and held a local fundraiser on our behalf. A PR specialist emailed us pointers on how to make better videos for our Kickstarter campaign. Another person donated the use of his sound studio. Several people helped with our website and wrote blog postings. A woman from Greece offered video production help. An art student made us a doodle and a video cartoon. A law firm made copies of the DVD to distribute to schools. A woman from the Netherlands donated Facebook ads. Someone from Australia offered to help distribute the DVDs in Australia. Someone sent a blessing. The national and provincial governments have also been very supportive of our work.


Why did you become involved in the BASAbali?

 I feel that it’s important, especially my work in the development of the Balinese-Indonesian-English Wiki Dictionary, to have a team of linguists who can work with the public to add to the richness of the Balinese language. Working together, so have combined the popular with the academic understanding of Balinese. I also want this unique and colorful language to continue to exist and grow not only among ethnic Balinese but also out into the world at large. With the techniques that we’ve developed, it can be easily learned by anyone with a little language ability.


Why is it important preserving minority languages?

Language is an integral part of a people’s culture. It is part of how we think and who we are. When you learn a people’s language, you learn their culture. With our language we can understand our culture completely. We are fortunate that Balinese is still strong. We are working to keep it strong.


Does Balinese have different dialects?

 Balinese is spoken a little differently in different parts of Bali. There are two major dialects. The Bali Aga Dialect is the Old Balinese still used in the mountain areas such as Kintamani,  Seraya and Bugbug. Then there is the Plain Dialect that is used in the Wiki Dictionary. This dialect is spoken a little differently in different districts. We have a “northern form” as well as speech levels in Wiki.


What is the easiest, least expensive and most effective way to learn Balinese?

 The best is just to talk to Balinese people in Balinese.  Speak with local families first. Try your best to listen. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Little by little you will learn. We also recommend our software available through the BASAbali website. Even better is to get a live teacher. CintaBahasa provides Balinese classes to expats using our materials.


Is Balinese easy to learn?

It’s not that difficult, but it depends on your motivation and how much time you put into it. The different speech levels can be complicated and a little difficult for foreigners to learn in the early stages. Many foreigners who live in Bali can speak Balinese. Others are studying and are already speaking quite well. Some bule have even assumed a Balinese identity and have taken on names like Made or Nyoman!


How can we help to preserve the Balinese language?

We don’t think about it in terms preserving. Languages evolve. We want to keep Balinese alive and encourage the younger generation to value their language. Expats can help by showing their support for Balinese and by encouraging native speakers to speak Balinese to their children. We’re especially grateful to people who add words or video to the Balinese Wiki Dictionary.


Where can one learn more about BASAbali?

Our website: www.BASAbali.org. The Balinese Wiki Dictionary is at http://dictionary.basabali.org/. At last count, we have had over 81,700 visitors and 5026 people registered to add/edit.


What is the best way to contact you?

Email: nala.antara62@gmail.com


For anyone interested in being considered for Siapa, please contact: <pakbill2003@yahoo.com>

Copyright © 2016 Bill Dalton

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