Finding a Javanese language mentor can be a difficult task. Javanese is rarely taught in the US and online resources are few and far between. However, with over 90 million Javanese speakers worldwide, there are certainly opportunities to connect with mentors, especially online. Below, I outline some useful steps for finding a Javanese mentor yourself — and working them effectively.
0. Learn Indonesian
The reality is that most people who speak or study Javanese already know Indonesian. This makes sense because Javanese is one of Indonesia’s regional languages and foreigners who become interested in the language usually do so after studying Indonesian. The two languages share similar grammatical structures, pronunciation, and vocabulary, and many Javanese grammar books assume some Indonesian knowledge already.
- Think about your purpose for learning Javanese.
Javanese is a complex language with multiple language registers (Ngoko, Madya, and Krama being the main three). It also has its own script called Aksara Jawa, though Javanese is generally written using the Latin alphabet today. Depending on your purpose for learning the language, you will have different needs. Keep those in mind when selecting a mentor, as they will certainly ask which register(s) you would like to learn.
- Find mentors through language exchange websites.
Log onto websites such as Italki and connect with Javanese speakers. These will usually be Indonesian nationals. It will be helpful if they speak some English, unless you already speak Indonesian. Remember to keep in mind what you want to learn and why, so as to help guide your mentor as needed.
- Pay for classes.
Wisma Bahasa is a very well-run language institute in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, which offers Javanese classes. The Peace Corps uses their services for this language education. If money allows, these sessions are a fantastic way to grow your language abilities.
4. Find opportunities to practice — passively and actively.
What makes Javanese so fun (and challenging) is its different language registers, which are context-dependent. Thus, you will need to put yourself out there and find different speaking practice situations to ensure you capture vocabulary from different registers. Beyond language exchange websites, look for social media accounts, radio stations, and more, where you can read Javanese. Look too for comment sections and other areas of discourse to see how different registers are used.
Now that you have a mentor, it’s important to think about the best way to work with them.
5. Establish language goals.
Think about what you want to get out of the mentorship — and how/why. Use your ISP to do this. Talk through your goals and your plans with your mentor. See what is realistic in a given timeframe. Ask them for any useful websites or other resources.
5. Evaluate your learning progress.
Mentorship is an ongoing process; be sure to reflect on your progress and how your mentorship dynamic. It is okay to want to change certain things, but you should also trust the process. Reflect on your ISP and how your mentor can best help you continue to reach your goals.
6. Use your mentor’s network.
Chances are your mentor is well connected to a community that uses target language and perhaps even language teachers within that community. Don’t be afraid to ask them to connect you to language tutors, community programs, and more!