Learn a Little Javanese!

In Indonesia, daily devotional programs are currently being translated into 16 different languages.

The work of translating must be done carefully. Certain words and phrases do not always have direct equivalents, and references that might make sense on one Indonesian island may not be fitting in other parts of the country. 

But perhaps one of the trickiest translating jobs falls to Words of Hope’s Javanese translator. 

The language of Javanese contains a complex system of speech levels. The different levels exist to reflect the Javanese cultural appreciation for politeness. For Javanese individuals, it is important to show the proper level of respect in behavior, speech, dress, and so forth. A higher level of formality is required when addressing individuals with a higher rank or a more advanced age. 

When translating Words of Hope programs into Javanese, it is important to get the speech level right!

While there are many levels and sublevels of the language that exist, Words of Hope’s translator explains four of them as follows: 

Ngoko Lugu is the first and most basic level in Javanese. “Ngoko” means rude and “lugu” means innocent. This language is only used when an older person addresses a younger person. Parents speaking to their children would use Ngoko Lugu.

Ngoko Alus is a level higher than Ngoko Lugu. “Alus” means soft, as in “soft-spoken.” This language is used for communication between people who know each other well, but are upholding the politeness of mutual respect. Coworkers in an office setting might speak in Ngoko Alus when addressing one another. 

Krama Lugu is the next and the most common level used in society. “Krama” means polite. Krama Lugu is spoken when addressing an older person, someone with a higher position, or when talking to anyone that is an acquaintance as opposed to a close friend. 

Krama Inggil is the highest level in the Javanese language. “Inggil” means high. Krama Inggil is used when addressing people who are both older and in a position of authority. It is also used in formal settings like church services and speeches. Words of Hope’s programs are translated into a mixture of Krama Lugu and Krama Inggil speech levels. 

Javanese phrases you might hear in a Words of Hope program:

  • Good Morning → sugeng enjang
  • Good Evening → sugeng sonten
  • Praise the Lord → Muji Gusti
  • The Bible → Kitab Suci
  • Jesus Loves You → Gusti Yesus tresna sampeyan