In 2006 an SIL survey team evaluated use of the local language in eight Tondano villages (selected from a subset of about fifty villages where Tondano language use was reported to be strongest). They concluded that the language was not dominant in any domain of use, although it was still used in traditional ceremonies, and occasionally between middle-aged adults and/or older generations, with few or no children learning the language fluently (Hertz and Lee 2006). Also revealing is a survey conducted around the same time by the translation center at Universitas Kristen Indonesia Tomohon (UKIT) to test Bible portions translated into Tondano. Of forty villages that had been visited, in nearly half (eighteen) they couldn’t find enough speakers to complete their survey. Of the remaining, in only three villages was language use characterized as ‘strong’; in the majority, Tondano was spoken only by those aged 30 or 40 and above (interim results reported in Hertz and Lee 2006, Appendix A). For these reasons, we rate the Tondano language as 3/Definitely Endangered.
What Others Have Written
The use of the Toulour language is restricted. In formal situations it is rarely heard, though sometimes it may be used in church for clarification. Though young people understand it, they don't always speak it. Many children do not know the language. In nonformal happenings it is commonly spoken, especially in the presence of the older people. At the market, in songs, in homes, on the road, and at meetings of intimate friends Toulour is still used. At certain festive occasions such as the birthday of Minahasa or the maengket, Toulour is still spoken. Also at the mapalus (community work meetings) and in giving announcements it can be heard. Martha Salea, a native of Kakas, who has lived away from that area for more than 25 years, still speaks the language with coworkers at UNSRAT [Universitas Sam Ratulangi] and in her prayers—a phenomenon typical of older people who tend to speak the language much more than the young. Toulour speakers disagree among themselves concerning the continued use of the language. Some argue that it will soon disappear, while others claim that it will last. In conclusion, Toulour is still widely spoken, though its use is limited to nonformal, intimate situations where old people are present. It takes second place to Melayu Manado and Indonesian in all other contexts.
Hertz and Lee (2006:19–20)
The language vitality of the Tondano language can best be categorized as decreasing: “A shift toward a second language is clearly in progress. The clearest indicator is that children are neither learning nor using the language. Another indicator is that the language is used in few domains.”
This conclusion is based on clear trends seen in the selected Tondano-speaking village sites through data reported by community members and gathered by researchers. Because these villages, reported to be the strongest areas of language use, universally and clearly reflected this decline, the researchers are confident that this trend exists across the entire Tondano language area.
This trend is evidenced by the following: (a) Only a small number of children are reported to be learning the language fluently. (b) The reported percentage of people fluent in Tondano clearly decreases as the age-group decreases. (c) Use of Tondano across all researched domains is sparing and fails to be dominant in any domain.
Despite the clear language shift, language attitudes are generally positive. The Tondano people express a love for their identity and a desire for their language not to die. However, a number of respondents stated that the need to maju (‘move ahead in life’) necessitates the use of Indonesian and Manado Malay, and that because Tondano does not offer the same opportunities, it is less of a priority for younger speakers.
Tim Brickell (2012:pers.comm.)
In the five months I was in Minahasa in 2011, the youngest people I managed to find and record speaking Tondano were 19 and 20 years old. This was in the village of Watulaney. Because of bad road conditions Watulaney is one of the more isolated villages, but even there the children don’t seem to be able to speak Tondano. Villages like Kombi and Eris are easier to get to, so I doubt the situation is better in these places. Although people would tell me that certain villages were full to the brim of children speaking Tondano, in my experience this never seemed to materialize.
People in theory are positive about the Tondano language, or at least it isn’t seen in a negative light. But while people talk about doing things to maintain the language, from what I saw it usually didn’t move much past speech contests and occasional use in certain church contexts. The domain of social media is probably the most positive and utilised at the current time. The Belajar Bahasa Tondano Facebook group has 1,758 members and a constant stream of updates, most of which are in Tondano. A couple of months ago, they even streamed online a Tondano speech contest for high school students. There have been a couple of dictionaries published in the last few years, one of which I think is quite good.
All the Minahasan languages are endangered. The languages are still spoken by young people in rural areas, but the majority of the population, most especially the elite, has been switching to the Manado dialect of Malay. This process began more than a century ago, and has been proceeding with ever-increasing speed since.
Hertz, Regina; and Sandra Lee. 2006. Report of language survey on the Tondano language. Unpublished typescript, 51 pp. SIL Indonesia Survey Team.
Merrifield, Judi. [1991.] Life in North Sulawesi. Unpublished typescript, vii, 107 pp.
Wolff, John U. 2010. Proto-Austronesian phonology with glossary. 2 vols. Ithaca: Southeast Asia Program Publications, Cornell University.