Javanese is a significant language in Central and Eastern Java, in Indonesia. For the 100 million Javanese in Indonesia, it is their mother tongue, with Indonesian as a second language with more or less an equal level of proficiency. It is so widely spoken there are many words in Indonesian that are loaned from Javanese; prospective learners who understand at least some Indonesian can pick up Javanese with a little bit of effort. It works the other way too. As new generations are schooled in Indonesian, more and more areas of life are discussed in Indonesian. Changes in the way we live our lives require new vocabulary. Much of that, relating to computers, social media, for example, is influenced by English, with Indonesian coming a way behind. Javanese seems somewhat unaffected by the language developments needed to deal with with way we live our lives now. For that reason, a Javanese speaker now may pepper their speech with quite a lot of Indonesian (or English) to allow them to talk about cars, computers, the internet, and so on.
In the Javanese palaces of Yogyakarta and Surakarta, refined Javanese involves a wide range of interactive codes and sophisticated acknowledgement of social level in the usage of vocabulary. Another way to put it, status and position in relation to the person being spoken with, determines word use, and grammar.
Why bother learning Javanese?
Yes, it's true. For the traveller, there are very few occasions when Javanese is absolutely necessary for being understood - Indonesian can be used in almost all situations.
The different levels also don't make it easy. Not to mention that the informal ngoko can be so fast and idiomatic that a learner will quickly lose track, and the formal kråmå seems to have no application except for refined announcements and smalltalk.
But if you really want to connect with Javanese people, then their language is the way to do it. Although Indonesian is the language of government and official life, Javanese is the language of the home, and family, and affairs of the heart.
Most Javanese respond positively to attempts to use their languages, and having even a few words of Javanese will add depth to your experience of Java.
Focus on getting familiar with greetings and smalltalk. Javanese society is much concerned about saying the right thing at the right time. Taking time to learn how to use polite greetings and smalltalk will get you off to a good start.
There are at least three types of the Javanese language, which are ordered by formality. There is substantial difference in the vocabularies of each type:
- Ngoko is typically used between friends, social equals and from a person of higher status to the lower status
- Kromo is typically used by persons of lower social status to those of a higher status, for announcements & speeches, or to show humility
- Kromo Madya, a blend of vocabulary from Ngoko and Kromo, is used between strangers whose social status is unknown but who don't want a too formal conversation
In addition to these three forms that are defined by the status of the people speaking to each other, there is also:
- Kromo Inggil, a further vocabulary set that is added into the other forms when speaking to or referring to another person of very high status. Because it is used when referring to other people, it can happen that two close friends talking in low-class Ngoko (because they are social equals) about a high-status person, will replace certain key-words referring to that person, with the Kromo Inggil version. If they were speaking directly to the high-status person, they would use a mix of Kromo and Kromo Inggil.
To add to the confusion, Javanese is not strictly codified and there are significant regional variations. For example, Javanese as spoken in Surabaya has a number of differences from that in the central Java cities of Surakarta and Jogjakarta. Javanese as spoken in these two cities is considered standard, and is the version most usually taught. This phrasebook uses this version.
A very good indicator of how Javanese nuances can even be heard in a single word, the word Inggih or yes, can determine a persons status and standing, whether it sounds more gg or more jj in the pronunciation. When in a palace, if you can, without being impolite, listen to courtiers, or other people clearly of status, and hear if you can distinguish their usage, and hence identify whether they are higher or lower in status.
These levels and nuances are very real to Javanese people who will go to great lengths to make sure they are using the right level. Visitors and travellers may be sure that when attempting their first steps in Javanese, they will receive a fair hearing from their audience and not be judged too harshly if they use a word in the wrong context. They have all done it themselves at some point.
Javanese has its own writing system called Hånåcåråkå ꦲꦤꦕꦫꦏ, related to scripts such as Thai and Balinese. Though still used in official palace documents, and sometimes seen side by side with Latin script in street signs and the names of public buildings, it has been almost totally replaced by the Latin alphabet. A traveller will almost never have to read Javanese script to get information. Makes an awesome tattoo, though.
A very few non-standard pronounciations
Javanese is largely phonetic in its spelling and pronunciation, except for a very few notable exceptions.
Glottal stops are frequent but quite regular, being usually marked by a k. However, there are a couple of hidden ones:
The guide below includes the names of the single letters. It's useful to know how to spell out your name, for example if buying tickets over the phone.
- a ah
- like British English hat. See the information box on non-standard pronunciations.
- e eh
- either ay as in English say, or uh as in English comma (schwa). The difference is not usually shown in text. An acute accent é is used here to show the e with the ay sound.
- i ih
- like English pin, hit
- o oh
- like English hope, or English lot. Not normally differentiated in writing. Here the difference will be shown phonetically.
- u oo
- like English moon
Don't worry about getting the aspirated (with a small puff of air) and retroflex (with the tongue curled up at the top of the mouth) sounds perfect, you will be understood.
- b bay
- like English bird
- aspirated, like English abhor
- c say
- like English chin
- d day
- like English dog
- retroflex, like English mudhut
- f ef
- like English fun
- g gay
- like English go
- h hah
- like English hand
- j jay
- like English jump
- k kah
- like English kill. A final k will almost always be a glottal stop, the sound of the first h in uh-oh. In the phonetic representations, this is shown as ': bapak (bapa').
- aspirated, like English sinkhole
- l el
- like English love
- m em
- like English me
- n en
- like English nose
- like English singer
- like English finger
- like English canyon, like Spanish mañana
- p pay
- like English push
- q kee
- like English kill
- r er
- like Spanish perro
- s es
- like English sun
- like English should
- t tay
- like English top
- retroflex, like English lighthouse
- v vay
- as in Spanish vaca, between English v and w, but without the lip rounding of an English w. (IPA: ʋ).
- w way
- like English win
- x eks
- like English six
- y yay
- like English yes
- z zed
- like 's' in English has, like 'z' in English zero
Please and thank you work a little differently in Javanese than in English. If being offered something, rather than accepting with Yes, please, you need to say Yes (thank you): iyå (suwun). The thank you is highly optional here, just yes/iyå on it's own is perfectly fine. The Javanese use this kind of construction much less than English speakers use yes, please. If you do want to say it with the suwun, make sure the iyå is clear. To be offered something and just say suwun would indicate that you do NOT want it: no thank you. Javanese use please in the sense of inviting you to do something (månggå MONG-goh), much more frequently: please start eating, please excuse me, please let me walk by you, please let me take my leave, etc. There doesn't seem to be a situation in Java where månggå is not appropriate.
Saying no and not
Ora (OR-ah) and mboten (MBOH-tuhn) are the straightforward ways of saying no or not. But there are other ways of doing it. For a start, ora and mboten only work with verbs, adjectives and adverbs: aku ora mlaku (I am not walking), pitipun mboten abrit (the bike isn't red) or bisé ora banter (the bus isn't fast).
If you need to negate a noun, use dudu ngoko and sanés kråmå: Iki dudu gedhang (This is not a banana). Punika sanés pantun (This is not a rice plant).
Some Javanese people may be shy of the finality of no/not, choosing to say not yet, durung ngoko, déréng kråmå. So, you may hear someone saying they can't speak English say kulå déréng saged båså Inggris (I don't yet know how to speak English) regardless of whether they actually have any intention of ever trying to learn. Kurang.
Referring to others politely
Honorifics are widely used in Java to refer to, or address, someone.
Ngoko followed by kråmå (if any). If only one version is given, it works in both ngoko and kråmå. If there are kråmå andhap or kråmå inggil terms they will be indicated by ka and ki respectively.
Though stress is indicated, it tends to be light, and there will be a general feeling of evenness across a phrase. If anywhere, stress most often falls on the second to last syllable.
- Halo (HA-loh).
- How are you?
- Piyé kabaré? (pee-YAY ka-ba-RAY?). Kados pundi kabaripun? (KA-dos PUN-dee ka-BA-ree-pun?)
- Fine, thank you
- Apik-apik waé (A-pi' A-pi' WA-ay). Pangéstinipun saé (pang-est-EENEE-pun SAH-ay)
- What is your name?
- Jenengmu såpå? (JUH-nuhng-moo SO-po). Asmanipun panjenengan sinten? (as-MA-nee-pun pan-JUH-nuhng-an SIN-tuhn?)
- My name is ______
- Jenengku _____ (JUH-nuhng-koo ______). Nami kulå _____ (NA-mee koo-LO ______).
- Nice to meet you
- Seneng ketemu (suh-NUHNG kuh-tuh-MOO). Bingah kepanggih (BING-ah kuh-PANG-gee).
- Månggå (mong-GO). Used only in the 'inviting' sense: "Please sit down".
- Thank you
- Matur nuwun (MAH-toor noo-WOON).
- Thank you very much
- Matur nuwun sanget (MAH-toor noo-WOON SANG-uht).
- You're welcome
- Sami-sami (SAH-mee SAH-mee).
- How old are you?
- Umuré pirå? (OOM-oor-ay PEE-ro?). Umur panjenengan pinten, inggih? (OOM-oor pan-JUH-nuhng-ahn PIN-tuhn, IHNG-gay?).
- Where are you from?
- Såkå ngendi? (SO-ko NGUHN-dee?). Panjenengan saking pundi? (pan-JUH-nuhng-ahn SAH-king POON-dee?).
- I am from_____.
- Aku såkå _____. (AH-koo SO-ko _____). Kulå saking _____. (KOO-lo SAH-king _____.)
- Where do you live?
- Manggoné néng ngendi? (Mahng-GON-nay NEHNG NGUHN-dee?) Lenggahipun pundi inggih? (Luhng-GAH-ee-poon POON-dee IHNG-gay?)
- I live in _____.
- Aku manggon néng _____ (AH-koo MANG-gon NEHNG _____). Kulå manggén wonten _____ (KOO-lo MANG-gehn WON-tuhn_____.)
- Where have you been?
- Såkå ngendi? (SO-ko NGUHN-dee?). Saking pundi? (SAH-king POON-dee?).
- Where are you going?
- Arep lungå nyang ngendi? (AH-ruhp LOONG-o nyang NGUHN-dee?). Badhé tindak dhateng pundi? (BAH-day TIN-da' DAH-tuhng POON-dee?)
- Just going for a walk
- Mlaku-mlaku waé (MLAH-koo MLAH-koo WAH-ay).
- I am going to_____.
- Aku arep nyang _____ (AH-koo AH-ruhp nyang _____). Kulå badhé dhateng _____ (KOO-lo BAH-day DAH-tuhng _____).
- Can you accompany me to...?
- Can you take me to...?
- What is your work?
- Gawéanmu åpå? (GAH-way-an-moo O-po?). Damelipun panjenengan punåpå? (da-MEL-ee-poon pan-juh-NUHNG-an muh-NO-po?)
- What are you doing?
- Lagi åpå? (LA-gee O-po). Saweg punapa, inggih? (SAH-wuhg muh-NO-po, IHNG-gay?)
- Where do you go to school?
- Sekolahmu ngendi? (suh-KOH-lah-moo NGUHN-dee?).
- Iyå (ee-YO). Inggih (ihng-GAY). It is also usual to just repeat the relevant word (here shown in ngoko): Do you have the eggs? Have. Ånå endhogé? Ånå.
- Ora (OR-ah). Mboten (MBOH-tuhn). As with the affirmative, a negative answer can just be the relevant word, negated (here shown in kråmå): Do you have the eggs? Not have. Punåpå penjenengan wonten tiganipun? Mboten wonten.
- Åjå (O-jo). Sampun (sam-POON)
- Mbok menåwå (mbo' muh-NO-wo).
- Lan (lahn)
- Nanging (NANG-ing)
- Utawi (oo-TAH-wee)
- Uga (OO-ga). Ugi (OO-gee).
- Karo (KA-roh). Kaliyan (kah-lee-YAN).
- Tanpa (TAN-pah).
- Sebab (SUH-bab).
- Kenåpå (kuh-NO-po).
- Kepriyé (kuh-PREE-yay). Kadospundi (KAH-dohs-PUN-dee).
- Excuse me(getting attention)
- Anu... (AH-noo...). Nuwun séwu (NOO-woon SAY-woo).
- I'm sorry
- Ma'af (ma'-AHF). Ngapunten (Nga-PUN-tuhn). Nyuwun pangapunten (NYU-woon pah-nga-PUN-tuhn).
- Ati-ati (A-ti A-ti (meaning take care): a frequent way of saying goodbye, especially if someone is leaving.
- I can't speak Javanesese [well]
- Aku ora iså båså Jåwå [sing apik] (A-koo OH-ra IH-so BO-so JO-wo [sing A-pi']). Kulå mboten saged båså Jåwå [saé] (KOO-lo MBOH-tuhn SA-guhd BO-so JO-wo [SA-ay]).
- Do you speak English?
- [Kowé] Iså [ngomong] båså Inggris? ([KOH-way] EE-so [NGO-mong] BO-so IHNG-rihs?). [Panjenengan] saged båså Inggris? (Pan-JUH-nuhng-an] SA-guhd BO-so IHNG-rihs?).
- Is there someone here who speaks English?
- Åpå ånå sing iså båså Inggris? (OP-o On-o sing EE-so BO-so ING-grihs?). Punåpå wonten ingkang saged båså Inggris? (Muh-NO-po WON-tuhn ing-KANG SA-guhd BO-so ING-grihs?).
- Tulung! (TOO-loong!).
- Look out!
- Awas!' (Ah-WAHS!).
- Take care
- Ati-ati (A-tee-A-tee).
- Good morning
- Sugeng énjang (SOO-guhng EHN-jang).
- Good evening
- Sugeng sonten (SOO-guhng SON-tuhn).
- Good night (in the sense of sleep well)
- Sugeng dalu (SOO-guhng DAH-loo).
I don't understand Yes, I speak/understand a little. Who is he/she? What is he/she saying? What do you mean? Please say it again. Please say it more slowly. Please write it down. Let's go! Wait! Can I speak to ...? (on the phone) One moment
- How do you say ...?
- Piyé carané ngomong ....? (PEE-yay CHA-ra-nay NGOH-mong...?). Pripun caranipun pitutur ....? (PRIH-poon cha-RA-nee-pun pih-TOO-TOOR...?)
- What is this/that called?
- Iki/iku åpå? (IH-kih/IH-kooh opo?). Niki/niku nåpå? (NIH-kih/NIH-koo no-po?)
- I don't understand
- [Aku] ora mudeng ([AH-koo] OR-ah moo-DUHNG). [Kulå] mboten ngertos ([KOO-lo] MBOH-tuhn NGUHR-tos).
- Where is the toilet?
- Paturasanipun wọnten pundi? (Pa-too-rah-SAH-nee-poon WOHN-tuhn POON-dee?)
- Stop! Thief!
- Mandeg! Maling!
- I'm lost
- Aku kesasar. Kulå kesasar.
- I'm sick
- Kulå sakit.
|1||siji (SIH-jih)||setunggal (suh-TUNG-gahl)|
|2||loro (LOH-roh)||kalih (KAH-lih)|
|3||telu (TUH-loo)||tigå (TEE-go)|
|4||papat (PAH-pat)||sekawan (suh-KAH-wan)|
|5||limå (LIH-mo)||gangsal (GANG-sal)|
|6||enem (uh-NUHM)||enem (uh-NUHM)|
|7||pitu (PIT-oo)||pitu (PIT-oo)|
|8||wolu (WOL-oo)||wolu (WOL-oo)|
|9||sångå (SONG-oh)||sångå (SONG-oh)|
|10||sepuluh (suh-POO-looh)||sedåså (suh-DOH-so)|
|11||sewelas (SUH-wuh-las]||setunggal welas (sewelas)|
|12||rolas (ROH-las)||kalih welas|
|13||telulas (TUH-loo-las)||tiga welas|
|14||patbelas (PAT-buh-las)||sekawan welas|
|15||limålas (LEE-mo-las)||gangsal welas|
|16||nembelas (NUHM-buh-las)||enem welas|
|17||pitulas (PIH-too-las)||pitulas (PIH-too-las)|
|18||wolulas (WO-loo-las)||wolulas (WO-loo-las)|
|19||sångålas (SONG-oh-las)||sångålas (SONG-oh-las)|
|20||rong puluh (RONG POO-looh)||kalih dåså|
|21||selikur (suh-LIH-koor)||selikur/kalih dåså setunggal|
|22||rolikur (roh-LIH-koor)||kalih likur|
|23||telulikur (TUH-looh-LIH-koor)||tigang likur|
|24||patlikur (pat-LIH-koor)||sekawan likur|
|30||telung puluh (tuh-LOONG LIH-koor)||tigang dåså|
|31||telung puluh siji||tigang dåså setunggal|
|32||telung puluh loro||tigang dåså kalih|
|40||patang puluh||sekawan dåså|
|41||patang puluh siji||sekawan dåså setunggal|
|42||patang puluh loro||sekawan dåså kalih|
|51||séket siji||séket setunggal|
|52||séket loro||séket kalih|
|61||sewidak siji||sewidak setunggal|
|62||sewidak loro||sewidak kalih|
|70||pitung puluh||pitu dåså|
|80||wolung puluh||wolu dåså|
|90||sangang puluh||sanga dåså|
|101||satus siji||setunggal atus setunggal|
|102||satus loro||setunggal atus kalih|
|120||satus rong puluh||setunggal atus kalih dåså|
|121||satus selikur||setunggal atus kalih dåså setunggal|
|200||rong atus||kalih atus|
|500||limang atus||gangsal atus|
|1,001||séwu siji||setunggal éwu setunggal|
|1,002||séwu loro||setunggal èwu kalih|
|1.500||séwu limang atus||setunggal èwu gangsal atus|
|1,520||séwu limang atus rong puluh||setunggal èwu gangsal atus kalih dåså|
|1,550||séwu limang atus sèket||setunggal èwu gangsal atus sèket|
|1.551||séwu limang atus sèket siji||setunggal èwu gangsal atus sèket setunggal|
|2,000||rong èwu||kalih èwu|
|5,000||limang èwu||gangsal èwu|
|10,000||sepuluh èwu||sedasa èwu|
|100,000||satus èwu||setunggal atus èwu|
|500,000||limang atus èwu||gangsal atus èwu|
|1,562,155||sayuta limang atus swidak loro èwu satus sèket lima||setunggal yuta gangsal atus sewidak kalih èwu setunggal atus sèket gangsal|
- saiki (...). sapunika
- mengko (...). mangké
- sadurung (...). sadéréng
- wis (...). sampun (...).
- not yet
- belum (buh-LEUHM). The 'u' is like the `oo' in `foot'
- morning (dawn until around 11
- 00) : esuk
- noon/early afternoon (11
- 00-15:00) : awan
- late afternoon (15
- 00 until sunset) : sore
- subuh (...)
- one o'clock AM
- jam siji esuk (...)
- two o'clock AM
- one o'clock PM
- two o'clock PM
- _____ second(s)
- _____ (...)
- _____ minute(s)
- _____ menit
- _____ hour(s)
- _____ jam
- _____ day(s)
- _____ dina/ dinten
- _____ week(s)
- _____ minggu
- _____ month(s)
- _____ wulan
- _____ year(s)
- _____ taun
- the day before yesterday
- the day after tomorrow
- three days after today
- this week
- last week
- next week
- Senén (suh-NEHN)
- Selåså (suh-LO-so)
- Rebo (RUH-boh)
- Kemis (KUH-mihs)
- Jumawah (juh-MAH-wah)
- Setu (SUH-too)
- Minggu (MING-goo)
There is also a five-day week running concurrently with the seven-day week. The days are Pon (pon), Wagé (WAH-gay), Kliwon (klee-WON), Legi (luh-GEE) and Paing (pah-ING). The five-day cycle is still in limited use. Rural markets, especially livestock markets, may still be held on one of the days of the five-day cycle. Combining both 7- and 5-day cycles gives an overall 35-day cycle. Particular days in that cycle may be noted as being auspicious. For example, Jumat Kliwon is considered to have spiritual significance, and people may take the time on that day to visit and clean up family graves.
Writing time and date
- light brown
- dark brown
Bus and train
- straight ahead
Most things to do with money, such as banking, money changers, credit cards, and so on, is done in Indonesian. Being able to count money in Javanese will be useful in a traditional market or small local shop. The following phrase might come in useful:
- Where is the ATM?
- ATMé ngendi? (ah-tay-em-ay NGUHN-dee?). ATMipun pundi? (at-tay-em-i-poon POON-dee?)
A traditional market is certainly a place where you could use Javanese. In more old-fashioned stores that still have shop assistants who follow you around, they will always open the conversation in Indonesian with Cari apa? (What are you looking for?), but you could quickly move the conversation into Javanese - asking for things in a different size, or a different colour.
- Do you have this in my size?
- How much is this?
- Is this pirated?
- May I pay _____?
- (too) expensive
- I don't want it.
- Don't even think about it.
- Can you lower the price?
- The quality is not good.
- I don't want that.
- OK, I'll buy it.
- I don't need a plastic bag
- Aku ora butuh krésék (AH-koo OH-ra BOO-tooh KREH-sehk). Kulå mboten betah krésék (KOO-lo MBOH-tuhn BUH-tah KREH-sehk). Cheap, low grade plastic bags are given out liberally in shops and food outlets. Most of them end up being burned or thrown in the river, where they eventually make their way to the ocean. Please don't accept one if you really don't need it.
- It's cheaper over there.
- Do you ship (overseas)?
- I need...
- ...a toothbrush.
- ...pain reliever. (e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen)
- ...cold medicine.
- ...stomach medicine.
- ...a razor.
- ...an umbrella.
- ...postage stamps.
- ...a pen.
- ...English-language books.
- ...English-language magazines.
- ...an English-language newspaper.
- ...an English-Javanese dictionary.
Pretty much all the words related to cars and driving are in Indonesian. Road signs and directions are all in Indonesian. Javanese might be useful, though, if you are driving in a rural area and need to ask for directions.
- Slowly, please, driver' : ingkang alon-alon, nggih, Pak (ing-KANG AH-lon AH-lon, NG-gay, Pa).
The language of government and officialdom in Java is Indonesian. Feel free to use your politest kråmå to open the discussion and pass the time of day, though.