Even among the coastal population with its greater bilingualism, the Balantak language is widely used in daily life, and for this reason we rate Balantak as 5/Safe. Balantak remains predominantly an oral language, with use of a written form of the language found primarily in church contexts (scriptures, hymns), in texting, and as subtitles to popular music videos (Robert Busenitz 2011:pers.comm.). Reading or writing Balantak is not taught in schools.
What Others Have Written
We found vigorous use of the vernacular in the daily life of the people throughout the region. It is the first language for the majority of the children as well as adults, and social interaction and work activities are clearly the domain of the vernacular. Indonesian is used in the domain of formal education, government affairs, and religious activities.
There were indications that the use of Indonesian is increasing. Several places reported that the parents spoke Indonesian to their children in the home in order to prepare the children for attending school, and that the children used Indonesian when playing with each other. Most places did not report this, and our observations agree with this.
Van den Berg and Busenitz (2012:3–4)
The Balantak language is the language of the majority of daily life in the Balantak area. While Indonesian is the official language of government and education and is used for most formal religious affairs, Balantak is widely used informally in local government offices, shops, businesses, and even occasionally for explanations in the schoolroom, particularly in the earlier grades.
Balantak people view Indonesian as the prestige language, but the vast majority still prefer to use their mother tongue in most affairs of daily life. Members of the younger generation in particular frequently borrow words from Indonesian, often ‘Balantak-izing’ Indonesian root words with Balantak prefixes and suffixes. While bilingualism is steadily increasing, various factors would indicate that the vernacular is also being maintained: 1) Balantak is still very widely used. 2) Most Balantak children speak only their mother tongue before they enter school. 3) Balantak remains the language of informal communication in schools, offices, and businesses. 4) Although Balantak people typically accommodate to outsiders by switching to Indonesian, outsiders who are in the area for any length of time nearly always tend to learn some Balantak; and 5) Some incipient bilinguals appear resistant to change and persist in using Balantak almost exclusively.
Van den Berg and Busenitz (2012:3)
According to unofficial estimates, approximately 10% of the Balantak population could be described as coordinate bilinguals (that is, equally proficient in both Indonesian and Balantak), 80% as subordinate bilinguals (they can speak both languages, but are more proficient in Balantak), and another 10% as incipient bilinguals (can speak only a very limited amount of Indonesian, and, for all practical purposes, are monolingual).
Berg, René van den; and Robert L. Busenitz. 2012. A grammar of Balantak: A language of eastern Sulawesi. (SIL e‑Books, 40.) Dallas: SIL International. Online. URL: http://www.sil.org/resources/publications/entry/49492 (accessed August 8, 2012).
Busenitz, Robert L. 1991. Lexicostatistic and sociolinguistic survey of Balantak and Andio. UNHAS-SIL more Sulawesi sociolinguistic surveys, 1987–1991 (Workpapers in Indonesian Languages and Cultures, 11), edited by Timothy Friberg, 1–17. Ujung Pandang: Summer Institute of Linguistics.