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Indonesia has been known for its culture and traditions. Having thousands of islands inhabited by different kinds of ethnic groups, the country is indeed very rich of local customs and languages. Javanese is one of the local languages spoken by people living in Central Java and East Java. However, at the present time, it is common to find Javanese people using Bahasa Indonesia as their mother tongue. The perception and attitude towards the Javanese cultural value and the use of the language tend to show a falling trend ( Javanese language seems to be losing its native speaker, or in other words, Javanese language is fading out. There are several factors that may cause this to happen. This paper will discuss the complex structure of Javanese language, the reasons why Javanese language starts fading out, and the efforts to revive the Javanese language.

The complex structure of Javanese language tends to be the cause of its decrease of speaker. Javanese language has two main different levels of speech, ngoko and krama. Even each level can be broken down into sublevels. The use of each level depends on who a person is talking to. The use of the Javanese language variation that is based on the social status of the speakers is called undak usuk (Chaer and Agustina, 1995:52). As an illustration, a person having lower social status will have to use the polite term or krama variety if he/she talks to a person with higher social status.

However, not all Javanese people are able to speak all levels of Javanese language appropriately. The groups of people who are considered to be able to speak all Javanese speech levels well are usually older people or those having close relation to the kings’ family in Surakarta or Yogyakarta. Young people at this time mostly can only speak ngoko Javanese. This is possible since nowadays, their parents do not really teach them to speak krama Javanese and tend to speak in Bahasa Indonesia. Bahasa Indonesia is considered more practical as it does not have speech level, it can be used to address anyone in any situation.
The students’ low interest in Javanese language subject at school can be considered another reason of the fading of Javanese language. Although students at the primary and secondary schools study Javanese language, they tend to feel that it is useless. They may think that foreign language subject such as English is more important. It is not a wrong perception, however. Many students are expected to get a good job after graduating school. Most companies that offer job vacancies require English competencies. There is almost none that requires, say, Javanese speaking ability. Due to this reason, the Javanese language teaching is considered irrelevant. In fact, Javanese language subject can be used as one of the ways to preserve the local culture.

It is somewhat ironic that the Javanese language majors in universities in Indonesia have only a few students. Local culture may be considered an old fashioned kind of thing. Western culture seems to be more attractive to the young generation. What makes it more ironic is that many of the Javanese literatures are preserved in other countries, the Netherlands for example. It is such a shame that the native Javanese are reluctant or unwilling to learn their own culture and language whereas many foreigners are so much interested in learning those.

The globalization era makes people less interested in studying Javanese language. As it is said above, English is considered to be more important. The free trade market will require English speaking ability. As people will have to get involved in international affairs, foreign language competence will be highly required. Business is likely to be more interesting than culture in this era. Moreover, due to this era, the young generation will be forced to get out of their native community. As an illustration, they will find a job that requires them to live outside Java. This will make them have to use other language to communicate with other people who are, of course, not only Javanese but also Sumatran, Balinese, or even American or European for example. In the end, as they rarely use Javanese language, they will feel it hard to speak in Javanese especially the polite term (krama) if they are to speak to the older Javanese generation.

Another reason for Javanese not using Javanese language is that some people think it sounds hicky. Some people whose mother tongue is Javanese will have Javanese accent when they speak in Bahasa Indonesia, whether they realize it or not. It is different with people who are from Jakarta, for example. Their accent is considered to sound better. That is why young people now seem to like to use Bahasa Indonesia especially with Jakarta accent. Moreover, as it is often seen in the electronic cinemas (sinetron) or TV serials, the character of a servant or a person coming from village is usually described as or represented by a Javanese. This leads to a clearer perception that Javanese language is the language of a hick.
However, despite the reasons, Javanese language is indeed still useful. There are many Javanese language vocabularies that are used in Bahasa Indonesia or other foreign languages, and this, hopefully, can revive Javanese language. It was even reported that several Javanese vocabularies such as dhalang, gamelan, and sawah, have been part of English vocabularies, and words like tempe, wayang, and dhakon, have become vocabularies of Dutch language ( harian/0109/17/bud2.htm). In addition, wayang show itself has been affirmed as one of the preserved international cultures by the UNESCO.

As one of Indonesian culture identities, Javanese language of course should be used and preserved. Other attempts to revive Javanese language have been made by people who have a big concern about it. Some of these efforts are by keeping using it in everyday interaction started from the family scope, holding Javanese language conferences, ketoprak (traditional drama) or wayang (shadow puppet) shows, and publishing several Javanese magazines regularly. Furthermore, the efforts of reviving Javanese language should be done not only by those concerned with Javanese language, but also Javanese people themselves, everywhere they are. Good news in reported that Javanese people in Suriname keeps preserving their native culture in the country by keeping using Javanese language in any occasion. In addition, they also make a student/teacher exchange program with some institutions in Indonesia. It is expected that these efforts can prevent Javanese from the chance of losing its native speaker.
This paper has made an attempt to describe the complex structure of Javanese language, the reasons why Javanese language starts fading out, and the efforts to prevent Javanese from fading out. The young generation’s low interest in Javanese language is due to the westernization, the globalization era, and the perception that Javanese is the language of a hick. However, there have been some efforts made to revive the Javanese language so it is expected that there would be a little chance for Javanese to lose its native speaker.
Chaer, Abdul & Leonie Agustina. 1995. Sosiolinguistik Suatu Pengantar. Jakarta : Rineka Cipta.


  1. Nining Sutrisnaningsih said...
    I know one of the reasons why javanese language is fading away .. is that.. most of the couples talk in indonesian language.. koyok "sayang, udah makan belum"... padahal kedua2nya bisa bahasa jawa.. kan aneh to.. "kamu tuh ya, bawaanya cemberut aja"..."capek deh"... pan iso sing.."sampeyan hawane kok nesu wae..".. "kesel wis lah".....
    nina said...
    how about trying to speak "romantic javanese" "sineksen lintang lan wulan diajeng...aku tresna marang sliramu"...etc...ngarahmu sounds more romantic ra??...

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