Javanese Language

Sep 13th, 2006, in Society, by

Javanese language and script are dying and president Yudhoyono is one who is concerned.

In Semarang from the 10th to 14th of this month is being held the Fourth Javanese Language Congress, attended by about 800 people, at the Hotel Patra Jasa, with the congress having the goal of “Pemberdayaan Bahasa dan Sastra Jawa Melalui Pendidikan Dalam Rangka Penguatan Bhineka Tunggal Ika”, or energising Javanese language and culture through education with the aim of strengthening Unity in Diversity (the motto of Indonesia).

Various important people such as government ministers are in attendance. One person, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a native of Pacitan, a town deep in the backwoods of East Java, is unable to attend due to him being overseas but he nevertheless wrote a speech for the opening of the congress, read out by Education minister Bambang Sudibyo.

Javanese Numerals
Javanese Numerals, 0 to 9.

In his letter/speech Yudhoyono regretted the fact that the knowledge and use of old Javanese is gradually declining and urged that measures be taken to prevent ethnic Javanese youth from leaving behind their mother tongue. He noted that even in everyday discourse between friends or family the use of Indonesian, and even English, was becoming more common, among Javanese youth in Central and East Java, where Javanese is the native language. The disuse of Javanese, typically suggested the old fashioned Yudhoyono, also entailed the loss of the habits and customs of Javanese culture.

One measure that is going to be taken to “save” Javanese is the promulgation of a new education law, the Rancangan Undang-Undang (RUU) Bahasa, said Bambang Sudibyo, a law which seeks to promote the usage of English, for international communication, Indonesian, for national unity, and local languages such as Javanese, for uncertain purposes.

Bambang was also worried about the impending death of Javanese:

I’m really worried that many Javanese people have lost competence in writing Javanese script because they don’t use it, whereas they have graduated from primary school which means that they [should] be able to read and write in Javanese.
(Saya khawatir banyak sekali orang Jawa yang kehilangan kompetensi menulis huruf Jawa karena tidak dipakai, padahal mereka sudah lulus SD yang artinya sudah bisa menulis dan membaca aksara Jawa.)

According to this report two languages in the world die out every month, and one reason, seemingly relevant to the case in question here, suggested for their death is:

Language death most commonly involves bilingual speakers shifting from using two languages, to just using the socially dominant one. This often happens when the dominant language is more prestigious than the minority one. When people know they’ll only get respect or a good job if they speak the dominant language, there’s great motivation to dump the language that’s holding you back.

Such language extinction can often cause great stresses for the people affected, but, in the case of the Javanese it seems, people may well be content to see their old identity and its language and traditions subsumed into the wider, more powerful, Indonesian one, so long as the “Indonesian” construct holds together, that is.

129 Comments on “Javanese Language”

  1. Mohammed Khafi says:

    I find it strange that he is worried about the Javanese language dying out but has said nothing about the still extremely high illiteracy rates here, basic education first Pak SBY!

    But then I suppose Golkar need to find their voters somewhere 😉

  2. Ismail says:

    strange sir but i believe Islam is to blame, I think it subjugate every culture it comes in contact with, once the COUNTRY of Islam conquers a people it changes their names, their culture, the language, and everything that make the people unique, you can’t even pray in your language anymore.
    some have completed the full transformation(lost civilisation) others are in the process hopefully they can fight back and recover before their identity before its lost for ever.

  3. Miss Indo 07 says:

    hey hey guys,
    maybe SBY wants to get a nobel prize for javanese language saviour

  4. Mohammed Khafi says:


    Once again you are confusing True Islam (Submission to Allah) with the present representation of Islam which is Submission to Sunnah and Hadith.

  5. Ismail says:

    Khafi, perhaps you are right(don’t think so) but the problem is that your views on the sunnah and the hadit are not main stream,vast majority of Islamic traditions through the ages are built on.
    even its sharia(legal system) that subjugate all other cultures is heavely dependent on this traditions.

  6. Mohammed Khafi says:

    Hi Ismail,

    Exactly right, that is why I strongly believe that Islam in its purest form, is the only way for Islam to become strong and just. It is not just the subjugation of other cultures which is a problem, Sunnah and Hadith inspired Islam also subjugates its own people and especially it’s women, it has kept vast numbers of people in poverty and ignorance and down-trodden by the rich and powerful. It is enabling exactly the practices which Prophet Mohammed came to release them from.


  7. Ismail says:

    Khafi hello,

    thanks for your response, I am always glad to read your reply, I have told you in another post on what I believe is the true relationship between the hadit, sunnah and the al-Quran. I believe in what your are trying to do but i sense that you will be hard pressed if you depend solely on the Quran because its filled with lots horror tales of subjugation, some of which might be made circumstantial by the hadit and the sunnah .

    please conside the following verses

    Qur’an 5:33 “The punishment for those who wage war against Allah and His Prophet and make mischief in the land, is to murder them, crucify them, or cut off a hand and foot on opposite sides…their doom is dreadful. They will not escape the fire, suffering constantly.”

    Qur’an:9:5 “Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war.”

    please not that the unbelievers=Christians, Hindus and other polyethist

    some Muslim apologist try to explain the above verses by invoking the sunnah and the hadit bukhari and Muslimi even though such attempt are futile and asinine but its still an attempt.

    I have studied the Quran and carefully and i can tell you that is full of this kind of verses. but do correct me when I am wrong I will make the required changes.thanks

  8. Hassan says:

    Ismail: nice effort, einstein. regular strategy of cherrypicking the Quranic verses and translate it to your own propaganda needs. to properly understand what a verse meant, you should consider the context or the situation on which it was revealed. you must have known that both those two verses were revealed in the time of war. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was at war with the pagan Arabs.

    9-5 “Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war.” was a strategy of war that Allah SWT had revealed to His prophet and followers.

    as for your other argument “please note that the unbelievers=Christians, Hindus and other polyethist” is not true, either. as Christians and Jews of that day were generally referred to as ‘people of the book’ by the Quran.
    unbelievers in that verse referred to the pagan Arabs.

    now, was that a pathetic attempt to fuel hatred between Muslims and Christians???
    i’d say you were caught in the act of lying a.k.a. bs-ing.

  9. Mohammed Khafi says:

    First Verse:

    First we have to realise that at the time of the revelation of Al Quran, the world was a very different place from the one we live in today, gross acts of violence were common place, things which to us are quite barbaric in the present day. Also what needs to be borne in mind is that many verses in Al Quran are allegorical, this verse could be interpreted as a means of scaring off those at the time who were fighting against Islam, such as the Death Penalty for Drug Smuggling which is common for many Asian countries. Please also note that an alternative less barbaric punishment is listed ‘banishment” The right path is clear from the wrong.

    Second Verse:

    “A declaration of the dissolution of agreements from God and His messenger to the idolaters with whom you have made [no-war] agreements. Thus, you [O polytheists] may freely traverse in the land for four months, but know that you shall not escape God’s judgment and that God shall surely humble the unbelievers. A proclamation [should be made] to these people from God and His messenger on the day of Hajj-e-Akbar, [declaring] that God and His messenger are no longer under any obligation toward these polytheists. If you repent, [O polytheists,] it shall be better for you but if you turn your backs [paying no heed], then know that you shall not be able to escape God’s judgment. Give these rejecters the glad tidings of a painful punishment, except those polytheists who have not dishonored their treaties with you and have not aided anyone against you. With these, fulfill your treaties till the appointed term. Indeed, God loves the righteous. When the sacred months are over, slay the polytheists wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them and lie in ambush for them.” ( Al-Taubah 9: 1 – 5).

    A close look at the above verses shall suffice as evidence to the fact that the directive, “Arrest them, besiege them and lie in ambush for them” is given against those polytheists with whom the Muslims, under the leadership of the The Prophet, had entered into an agreement and who had disregarded this agreement and aided others against the Muslims. Obviously, these qualities cannot be generalized on all the polytheists of the world [today].


  10. Ismail says:


    first, you just gave your interpretation of the verses, and its just different from mine, all you need to do is just defend your position, no need for name calling, secondly by implying that the verse was revealed during war means that there are part of or all of or all the Quran is not relevant today(21th century) and yet you say Muslims say its for all time i wish you call tell that to all the terrorist all over the world because they don’t seem to understand you version of truth.

    Hassan you said ,”now, was that a pathetic attempt to fuel hatred between Muslims and Christians???” I think the Quran did for you, please don’t give any impression that you can not defend the Quran and Islam hate Christian as mush as Jews, yes, it called them people of the book but that all changed later.

    please consider the following( just a few of the so many) and please send you thought.

    Qur’an 5:51 “Believers, take not Jews and Christians for your friends. They are but friends and protectors to each other.”

    Qur’an 88:1 “Has the narration reached you of the overwhelming (calamity)? Some faces (Jews and Christians) that Day, will be humiliated, downcast, scorched by the burning fire, while they are made to drink from a boiling hot spring.”

    Qur’an 9:29 “Fight those who do not believe in Allah or the Last Day, who do not forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, or acknowledge the Religion of Truth (Islam), (even if they are) People of the Book (Christians and Jews), until they pay the Jizyah tribute tax in submission, feeling themselves subdued and brought low.” [Another translation says:] “pay the tax in acknowledgment of our superiority and their state of subjection.”

    you will found out that Christian and Jews are inferior, that is why they have to pay jizyah according to Allah and the Quran. I am not making them up, this is your holy book.

    hello Khafi , I just showed you that without the hadit you can not place time for this verses and the event its covers. i which again that the terrorist agree with you that is allegorical, but even that argument is unacceptable because a Holy God do not have to use such have to convey devine truth.

    this shows that there nothing devine about the “holy book” its restricted to time and its translation is based on a set of books(hadit and sunna) that you have said it not devine.

    please write your thought no need for name calling where I am wrong please point it out.

  11. Mohammed Khafi says:


    You said:
    “I just showed you that without the hadit you can not place time for this verses and the event its covers.”

    I am afraid that you did nothing of the sort, there is sufficient documented historical evidence of the period, to place the verses in time of war without having to resort to Sunnah and Hadith.

    You also said:
    “no need for name calling”

    I was not aware that I had resorted to name calling.

    You profess to having studied Al Quran and the Sunnah and Hadith, I can only assume from your attitude that none of the good teachings of Al Quran have entered your heart, you are totally focused on the bad. This in itself must say something about your character. I can go to any of the Monotheistic scriptures and give you passages of hatred and violence, I chose not to as I don’t believe that is the intention of God in giving us the scriptures. My belief is that there is a path which is given to us all by God which will lead to harmony and understanding amongst all who believe in him. If you wish to continue on your path of blind hatred and animosity please find somebody else with the same mentality as yourself to discuss it with.


  12. Hassan says:

    Ismail: my friend khafI had properly pointed out that
    “A closer look at the above verses shall suffice as evidence to the fact that the directive, “Arrest them, besiege them and lie in ambush for them” is given against those polytheists with whom the Muslims, under the leadership of the The Prophet, had entered into an agreement and who had disregarded this agreement and aided others against the Muslims.”

    so your argument “there are part of or all of or all the Quran is not relevant today(21th century)” is therefore nullified.

    anyway, what is the point of doing what you do, Ismail? are you an orientalist wannabe or a professional bigot?? are you in it for the money or someone promised you paradise if you continue your effort to smear other people’s faith??

  13. Fanglong says:

    Hi friends !

    What’s the use of knowing one more language if although speaking the same language people continue not to understand each other ?

    Javanese can think with a set of words and speak “politely” with another set of words : they are already bilingual. The same for Balinese. The same for every language : we all have so many levels of speech. I am a Frenchman & I can tell you we have so many words for the same thing we use for fun or according to the context. For instance, a “dog” is usually a “chien”, but we often call it a “cabot” (if it barks too much), a “toutou” when we speak to a little child, a “klebs” (from Arabic kalb) between teenagers — those are colloquial, but many words moreover have slang versions everyone uses with the feeling that the official language is a kind of burden, far too academic and unsuited…

    Back to the point ! How nice would it be if all Indonesians could speak and write Indonesian ! What a strength, what an overwhelming wealth of fancy ! But of course beginning home with the language of the place (which is not any language). I’ve got a friend who taught me this : “Think global, act local !” Not bad at all, nay ? It seems Indonesian has already many spoken “dialects” + a more or less generalized “slang”. Indonesia is vast and should keep to its wonderful motto. That’s why I’m sad when I hear Javanese goes shaky, and even sadder when I hear (young) Indonesians use not only more & more English words but also English itself instead of their natural home language + Indonesian. But the question is : is it really possible to be perfectly fluent in at least two languages — meaning : can a human being integrate two visions of the world in one body and mind ? Isn’t there a risk of not speaking either well, and then not being able to communicate perfectly ? Questions…

    I’m sorry with these unending discussions opposing human brothers & sisters when they call themselves “Muslim” or “Christian”, and so on. We’re living in the 21st century : shouldn’t we have understood the allegorical character of all (many, some) religious systems or texts ? Haven’t you seen that what’s “true” here might not be “true” there ? All of you know that. Why then going on fighting, here with words, like children in a schoolyard?

    Saying that a religion as such resorts to violence to convert is very stupid : especially when a Christian says that about a Muslim ! How infinitely stupid to even utter that without bursting into laughter ! You guessed that if a Muslim would say the same to a Christian, he wouldn’t be less faulty. Vicious circles of thoughts, mere ideas with no evidence : immemorial habits. Thinkers should think above that. The public thing with religions is moral rules edicted for social convenience according to people, place, time, etc. Nothing absolute. More mystically, between people (any human, any sentient being) there’s a very solid common ground we can call God, the Unspeakable. But this truth is for the wise, the appeased, the serene, the vast. Let’s fly like the gigantic simurgh, with elephants pirouetting amongst our feathers !

  14. Sean Gibson says:

    nice effort, einstein

    I was not aware that I had resorted to name calling.

    Sorry Mohammed Khafi but you did resort to name calling. Why did you not know what you have written? Perhaps your ability to read is affected like your ability to write. Maybe that is why you don’t know what is in your own unholy book.

  15. Mohammed Khafi says:

    Sean Gibson,

    Perhaps you would be kind enough to point out to me where I am guilty of name calling, I have been back through all of my posts and can find nothing which fit’s that description? If you are refering to the comment

    nice effort, einstein

    If you look closely you will see that that particular comment was made by Hassan and not myself.

    Perhaps it is your ability to read which is at fault?, perhaps you are blinded by your barely disguised hatred of Islam.

    My friend, if you take the trouble to read some of my other comments on this site, you will have a better idea of just the sort of person I am, your animosity is totally unwarranted, I think you will also find that my knowledge of my holybook is, whilst not encyclopaedic, sufficient for my belief in a loving, caring and tolerant Islam, quite different from the one which you seem to see.


  16. Lukman Hakim says:

    kabare….I’m from Malaysia. Regarding javanese language practice in Malaysia is actually less, I should say. I’m actually a Javanese blood, booth my parents is Javanese. Though never spoken but only a little word. Although my parents Javanese, only my mom spoken it fluently.
    It is kinda sad really. Other language are still strong as like chinese and indian.
    Malaysian javanese are losing its identity and language.
    Its the old generation fault actually. well sorry about that, I didnt learn.
    Its not too late. but action got to be done. Javanese language must not perish. It is our honor to keep it alive.

  17. landawan says:

    Lukman Hakim…indeed you must keep it alive! Look at this disscussion on Javanese language…it has turned into a religious discussion! Kok isa – luwih apik basa jawa wae!

  18. Ismael says:

    Hello Friends,

    I know this is an old topic (and please do not mistake me for Ismail) and perhaps there will be no one left who will read this. But about the Javanese language, I can’t speak it nor understand it though I’m Javanese by birth. I was born in Surinam and raised in Holland, this month I will set foot on Jawa for the first time ever. I’m really looking foreward to go to Java yet feel a shamed that I never learned the language wile both my parents speak it fluently.
    How can a topic like this result in an religiose dissagreement???? But for all sakes I must say mr Khafi you really got some knowlege. Your knowlege leads to understanding and patience. Isn’t that also a kind of language that should be thought or to understand?!? Regardless your religion or etnicity……

    Mator nuwon, (now that I did have learned)

  19. Janma says:

    Ismael, I hope you have a fulfilling trip to Java! That’s pretty exciting to be going there for the first time! I guess it would be about the same for my people who go to visit Ireland for the first time from Australia… Like a vague memory and a vague connection but something drawing you back to see where your people came from. You will probably find it easy to learn Javanese if you have heard it from your parents since you were little.
    Selamat Jalan! (I don’t know how to say that in Javanese?)

  20. melissa says:

    I need help in translating the word “guardian angel” or “wali malaikat” into javanese written text! please help. 🙂

  21. Suryo Perkoso says:

    @janma – us rough Javan’s might say “sugeng mlaku-mlaku”

    @ Melissa – try PakMantri, as my tutor in Kromo Inggil, he may oblige, alternatively contact my “budhe” In Sragen, she can still read and write using aksara jowo.

  22. fullmoonflower says:

    @ Suryo…

    sugeng mlaku-mlaku???? 🙄 …. aduh lagi iki aku krungujawamu kuwi ngendi to? 😆

    Selamat Jalan = “Sugeng Tindak” in Kromo Madya or Kromo Hinggil, or in Kromo Ngoko we just say “Sing Slamet, ati-ati neng Ndalan” (take care, have a safe trip)

    @ Melissa…

    wish I can help you…
    I have font “Hanacaraka” in MSWord. But how to write “huruf palawa” here? I don’t know…
    I’m sorry 🙁

  23. fullmoonflower says:

    @ Lukman Hakim

    the best way is just try to practice it, perhaps you can start talking to your mom in Javanese.

    I was born and grew in Yogya, obviously Javanese was my prime language. But now I can speak Banjar and Manado. It just because I learn by practice. 🙂

  24. Suryo Perkoso says:

    Saking Ngalam, aku nggak duwe limob mbak, mlaku wae.

    Aku uga duwe font iki, nanging nggak laku disini.

    @bunga bulan purnama – clever arse.

    Wong Jowo nggak iso lali boso jowo – MERDEKA!

  25. David says:

    Wong Jowo nggak iso lali boso jowo – MERDEKA!

    Lol, but they are, right now, more and more of them.

    Soon to be dead language Suryo, no future.

  26. fullmoonflower says:

    oooh…. from your “slank” javanese, I guess you are from Jawa Timur… Malang… 🙂

    Ngalam = Malang
    Limob = Mobil…

    hahahaha 😆

  27. Suryo Perkoso says:

    You wes, tenan.

    Actually you may be right, chatting with the missus just last night and she can’t remember what “bejo” meant.

    Bloody bule.

  28. David says:

    Yes well we’re all soon to be dead so it doesn’t matter if you’re interested in Javanese or not, no harm to it, so…back to FMF’s question point about Malang….

  29. Suryo Perkoso says:

    @ Patung, you haven’t met my brother Cak Albaroyo…..

    I wish someone would tell my kids – wes kleleran loro-loroan.

  30. Suryo Perkoso says:

    Patung Says:

    March 24th, 2009 at 10:16 pm
    Yes well we’re all soon to be dead so it doesn’t matter if you’re interested in Javanese or not, no harm to it, so…back to FMF’s question point about Malang….

    She could be right….

    Wingi Suryo kelangan adapes karo landas’e ndek masjid mergakno gak sholat

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