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. fullmoonflower says:

    Denmas Aluang…

    you know, a real Javanese usually altruistic…

    but this one Suryo Kontho… hmmm πŸ™„ …
    he has written wrong javanese and campur aduk tidak karuan, but keep arrogant and being a detractor…

    ngisin-ngisini waris….

  2. fullmoonflower says:

    uwong kuwi kudu tansah mikul dhuwur mendhem jero…
    tetep eling lan waspada…
    ati-ati marang ilat lan latune…

    that’s what my great grand mother told me when I was very young…

  3. Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    See Suryo .. you upset our lil daffodil. Javanese woman can be vicious if agitated.

  4. Suryo Perkoso says:

    You’ve changed your tune, two nights back you wanted kawin.

    Now you and old tai lalat are making off like loro blonjo .
    Wah, loro wes dadi siji.
    Don’t forget my invite….

  5. fullmoonflower says:

    You’ve changed your tune, two nights back you wanted kawin.


    I think I never said that πŸ˜›
    I told you that : I am a HAPPY SINGLE WOMAN…. πŸ™‚
    don’t want to ruin my happiness dengan seorang laki-laki yang menyebalkan..

    thank you…. πŸ˜€

  6. Suryo Perkoso says:

    Now who is mixing BI and Jowo?
    Dewi Sri FMF and Ayunan Arek Payung Sadono.
    Sing Ayu ama sing Cempluk

  7. Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    LOL. The strongest stallion gets first pick of the fillies.

    ps. it is the masculine charm, the irresistible tai lalat, playboy moussy and kissable lips that melt her.

  8. Suryo Perkoso says:

    Kasihan deh, like kissing a sinkplunger through a tennis racket covered in dog hair.

  9. fullmoonflower says:


    what’s happened? πŸ™„

  10. Suryo Perkoso says:

    You got married to old face-ache.

    Have you seen that pembantu post?

    Get in ther girl and give ’em stick.

  11. fullmoonflower says:


    sounds someone is broken hearted…. πŸ˜†


  12. Suryo Perkoso says:

    I’ll get over it, lain kali, lain wedhok.

    You mind you make sure old gajah abo wears a clean sarung.

  13. fullmoonflower says:


    yes… I see…
    someone is broken hearted, and get anger….


    peace, dab … eh sam πŸ™‚

  14. Lairedion says:

    Kang Mantri said:

    Maybe you could provide the translation for some of us here who does not understand bahasa Sunda, so that we’ll know what we (Indonesian) teach our children.

    Here you go. The English translation can be a little weird but the message is clear. Manuk Dadali is Sundanese for the Indonesian Garuda.

    Mesat ngapung luhur jauh di awang awang
    Gliding high and far in the sky
    Meberkeun janjangna bangun taya karingrang
    Spreading his wings without hesitation
    Kukuna ranggaos reujeung pamatukna ngeluk
    His claws are forceful and his beak is hooked
    Ngapak mega bari hiberna tarik nyuruwuk
    Flapping clouds while flying fast and swooshing

    Saha anu bisa nyusul kana tandangna
    Who can catch up with his courage
    Gadang jeung partentang taya badingan nana
    Graceful and bold with no equal
    Dipikagimir dipikaserab ku sasama
    Feared and admired by his peers
    Taya karempan ka sieun leber wawanenna
    No worries of fear, full of bravery

    Manuk dadali manuk panggagahna
    The Dadali bird is the mightiest bird
    Perlambang sakti Indonesia jaya
    The powerful icon of victorious Indonesia
    Manuk dadali pang kakoncarana
    The Dadali bird the most famous
    Resep ngahiji rukun sakabehna
    Loves to unite all in harmony

    Hirup sauyunan tara pahirihiri
    Living peacefully together with no ill intent
    Silih pikanyaah teu inggis bela pati
    Love each other, no risk for death
    Manuk dadali gadung siloka sinatria
    The Dadali bird the spirit of chivalry
    Keur sakumna bangsa di nagara Indonesia
    For all nations in the Indonesian state

    Perhaps I will start a thread with some basic Sundanese words for non-speakers who are interested.

  15. Suryo Perkoso says:

    Perhaps I will start a thread with some basic Sundanese words for non-speakers who are interested.

    Yep, I reckon we have done enough harm to poor old BoJo in all it’s forms, let’s murder sunda now.

  16. Lairedion says:


    Yep, I reckon we have done enough harm to poor old BoJo in all it’s forms, let’s murder sunda now.

    Poor dude. Do you feel frustrated mbakyu FMF and Pakmantri wore you out on BoJo knowledge? πŸ™‚

  17. Suryo Perkoso says:

    I’ll just stick with nggoko and a bit of madurese slung in for good measure.
    I’ll be properly impressed if I see them write it, though Pak M may well do just that.

    Interesting to see though, and I wish I had the time to properly study Inggil as it really deserves – It sounds so sweet to listen to.

    As an aside, one of our distant neighbours is an American, lived in Tumpang for years, and does a very good sinden by all accounts. I guess i’ll have to be content with “sewu kuto” (or sewu kutu as my daughter prefers), though the name “Didi Kempot” puts me in mind of a dwarfs exhaust system or possibly something much ruder….

  18. Lairedion says:

    Nice story but I don’t care really.

    If I seek knowledge on Javanese language and culture here on IM I’ll stick with Pakmantri, FMF and AAB as my reliable sources.

    We already have witnessed too many “Javanese” failing at the first hurdle. πŸ™‚

  19. Suryo Perkoso says:

    Firstly, I didn’t ask you to care – it was an illustration only, just pointing out that if one learns boso ndeso, then it will be limited to what we are surrounded by.

    For what it is worth, we have also witnessed one or two sundanese falling flat too, but hey, it’s only fun isn’t it?

    And you are right, just a small portion of Javanese speak the language with anything like a measure of correctness, and a smaller proporttion of those would be capable of explaining the finer points.

    I wonder why some pribumi resent some pribule taking the trouble to learn their language?

    I’d just stick with Pak Mantri if I was you –

  20. fullmoonflower says:

    Kang Mantri asal Mantrijeron… FMF asal Kauman, belakang Masjid Gede…

    Perhaps oneday you’ll meet us at Lesehan Ronde Alun-Alun Lor or at Angkringan Alun-Alun Kidul or at Gudeg Yu Jum (Plengkung Wijilan)
    would you like to join us, Suryo?
    enjoy Ngayogyakartahadiningrat at night … πŸ™‚

    hmmm… btw, my jogja community, will open a cafe at Kota Baru by this year… near by Kreteg Kewek, in front of Gereja Ayam.

    monggo lho pinarak… πŸ™‚

    Kang Mantri,
    sak meniko saben malem minggu dateng ngajengipun BI sampun kathah tiyang wandu je… πŸ™

  21. Suryo Perkoso says:

    Mas Suryo asal Pakis.

    Perhaps we can take gudeg at RM adem ayem in Solo?

  22. fullmoonflower says:

    Solo??? walah…. opo ora kurang adoh kuwi..? hahahaha

    Yogya is central of Gudeg… you can find Gudeg anywhere… no need to go to Solo..
    taking 2 hours trip only to buy something that you can find in Yogya… it’s useless πŸ˜›
    wasting time and money… hahaha

    But anyway, Gudeg Solo is quite different with Gudeg Yogya…

    Gudeg Yogya is Brown, it because of the daun jati we used when we boil it for 8 hours in a big kendhil on a small fire..

    Gudeg Solo is White, because they don’t use daun jati in cook processing, and it is boiled less than 8 hours, perhaps for 2 or 3 hours only..

  23. Suryo Perkoso says:

    I’ll be sure to specify that the boil it for at least 8 hours, not a minute less.

    In Solo I believe they use a small kendhil on a big fire.

    If you lived in Solo as I used to, then RM Adem Ayem was a 10 minute trip on that absurd one way systems on the way back from having a beer, it would have been silly for me to go to Jogja :-} and they would probably have been shut by the time I arrived.

  24. fullmoonflower says:


    but anyway, as a Solo man, your Boso Jowo is too Malang not Solo…


  25. Pakmantri says:

    In Solo I prefer to have “sego liwet” with “sambel goreng jepan”, “telur pindang” dan “kumut”. And side dish of tahu/tempe bacem and peyek πŸ˜€
    Nasi liwet “Wongso Lemu” is the best in Solo.
    Or other typical foods from Solo, “serabi notosuman“, “tengkleng ibu Ediyem“, ……. the list will be too long. πŸ™‚

    Ngendikan bab boga, Solo mboten kalah saking kuto-kuto sanesipun jalaran tiyang Solo menika β€œkeplek ilat”.
    (Speaking about food, Solo is on par or more than other cities because people from Solo like to indulge their palate.)


  26. Pakmantri says:


    I’ll blame this one on you, kang!!
    You know when there is a tune or a song in your head that you cannot shake it off for days?
    That’s what happen to me after reading your post about “Manuk Dadali“, it stuck in my head for a couple of days. every time I sing, hum or whistle that’s the only tune that came out.

    Hatur nuhun. πŸ˜€

  27. Pakmantri says:

    Lairedion said:

    If I seek knowledge on Javanese language and culture here on IM I’ll stick with Pakmantri, FMF and AAB as my reliable sources.

    Speaking of Javanese language and Culture these two western ladies put me to shame.
    The first one is Nancy Florida, she is an American who documented and cataloged Javanese literature in Solo, she speak very fluent “kromo inggil”.
    And the second one Laura Romano, she is an Italian who believe deeply in kejawen, she promote and gives seminars on kejawen ( Sumarah ) all over Europe. She too speak very fluent Javanese.

    Both of them have more knowledge of Javanese culture than me or than most Javanese for that matter.

    Salam. πŸ™

  28. Lairedion says:

    Sawang sulna, kang.

    Nice song, isn’t it? My daughter sings it almost fluently. Those pirated VCD’s (karaoke pop Sunda) of yesterday are still doing good. πŸ™‚

    Both of them have more knowledge of Javanese culture than me or than most Javanese for that matter.

    Oh but that’s not so strange.

    I once met a British woman in an angkot in Bandung. There were some guys calling her names in basa sunda cohag (kasar sekali). She replied to them in perfect basa sunda lemes (halus). The men walked away in shame at the next stop. I talked with her a little more and she turned out to have deep knowledge on Sundanese language and culture. And in Holland there’s Mieke Schouten, a professor at the University of Amsterdam who wrote many books on Minahasa culture, language and society, most of Manadonese don’t even know about.

    However you shouldn’t feel ashamed of it. You just grow up sometimes being unaware of your mannerism and background. You have other worries on your mind. Western people have better tools and possibilities to dive into “exotic” cultures. It’s a good thing though so it can be preserved for future generations as Indonesians are too busy to walk away from their own heritage.

  29. David says:

    There’s also the American pesinden Karen Elizabeth Schrieber in Malang, she’s doing a great job keeping some of the local girls around her area interested and learning traditional dance. Her husband though, who is Javanese, well he struck me as a bit of a creep, he hit on my sister….

    Mangun Dharma Art Center

  30. Pakmantri says:


    I agree, kang.
    Most Indonesian right now are either too busy struggling to keep their family afloat or to busy collecting wealth and no time to study or preserve their cultures. πŸ™

    @Om Patung,
    Tarareng kyu Om. πŸ™‚

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