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:

    waduuuhhh…. ayuneeeee 🙂

    @ Kangmas Mantri…
    yes.. I am agree..

    even my nieces and my nephews in Yogya, they couldn’t speak fluent javanese.. they spoke bahasa Indonesia in Yogya dialect…

    menyedihkan 🙁

  2. Lairedion says:


    even my nieces and my nephews in Yogya, they couldn’t speak fluent javanese.. they spoke bahasa Indonesia in Yogya dialect…

    menyedihkan 🙁

    Yes ingkang mbakyu, that brings us back to the very topic of this thread.

    I read the article again and I must say SBY is partly guilty himself for the dying out of Javanese. It is his administration which allowed Arab minded people to gain more influence at the expense of indigenous languages and cultures.

  3. Suryo Perkoso says:

    Patung Says:

    March 28th, 2009 at 4:28 pm
    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….

    Yes Patung, that’s her. Lizzy. Lives in Tumpang – can knock out a lovely tune so she can.

  4. Suryo Perkoso says:

    fullmoonflower Says:

    March 28th, 2009 at 3:03 pm

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

    Well spotted, but the “wakilan khas Ngalam” was a giveaway.

    I did indeed live in Solo though for two years, however I really didn’t get too much benefit learning halus though at that time. I do better now taking the kids to see their great grandmother who can read and write Jowo (if only the kids could learn).

  5. kkarso says:

    off topic:
    Is there somewhere a koran in Javanese (latin writing) available? pls enlighten.

  6. Saipul says:

    I have to say that I am quite proud of my church denomination (Gereja Kristen Jawa), as they do quite a lot to preserve the Javanese language. Outside Jakarta, services are held almost exclusively in Javanese, while in Jakarta and a few other major urban areas one or two services per month (depending on the congregation) are held in Javanese. They print Javanese Bibles, and the fact that some still use the Hanacaraka Bible is quite impressive as well.

    But there’s simply no way the language can survive long-term without it being taught in schools. Certainly it won’t die anytime soon, but the total number of speakers will probably drop to less than 50 million within 3-4 decades.

  7. David Wong Jowo says:

    Siji, Dua, Tiga, Papat, Limo, Nenem, Pitu, Wolu, Sangat, Sidoso

    My father is from Kitowinangun Kabumen area, but my mother is mix chinese and sundanese, so mostly I speak Sundanese and Indonesian, since my father is outnumbered by my mother’s family. He also speak sundanese instead of javanese around the family. I agree that most Javanese are very proper and polite, and most of them are born leaders.
    I visited the place where my father was born and grew up in Central Java, spent some times in Jogyakarta, it was like home… the people…the music… the night life… and all those hindu temples, Borobudur, Prambanan and others. There is nothing like it in the world! Ayam Mbok Berek is excellent! The culture is outstanding, wayang wong, wayang kullit, Hanuman dance, etc. Truly Javanese culture is out of this world!

    Bule culture is destroying the world, however, little by little by the introduction of McDonald, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, also Western influences in clothings and other aspects of life. Hopefully some local people will rise up to the occasion and maintain their heritage for years to come, so the future generation can also enjoy them…

    Bade tinda pundi mas? Mlaku mlaku? ngatur nuwun!

  8. bonni says:

    Bule culture is destroying the world, however, little by little by the introduction of McDonald, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, also Western influences in clothings and other aspects of life.

    Hey hey hey… Leave the donuts alone… I love donuts as well as I love babi panggang as a bataknese… 😀

  9. Lairedion says:

    Wahhabism is doing a better job destroying Indonesia. We can handle McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts. Plus there’s a choice by not going to eat there and stick to our own kitchen.

Comment on “Javanese Language”.

RSS feed

Copyright Indonesia Matters 2006-20
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Contact