Marshallese is one of the official languages of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. It is described as a Malayo-Polynesian language, which means that it is somewhat related to well-known Polynesian languages such as Tongan and Samoan. However, it is more closely related to the lesser known languages of Micronesia such as Kiribati from the Gilbert Islands and Chuukese from the Chuuk Islands.
Although Marshallese shares the status of official language of the Marshall Islands with English, Marshallese is its own language and is not a mixture of any other languages. The people of the Marshall Islands have been speaking Marshallese since before the first western explorers arrived at the islands around 1520. Since this first contact with the west, the Marshallese language has been influenced by languages such as Spanish, German, Japanese and English. However, the influences of these other languages on Marshallese has been strictly lexical, meaning that Marshallese has borrowed words from other languages but its grammatical structures and phonetic characteristics have been left almost entirely unaffected.
Today, speakers of Marshallese may be found in the Marshall Islands, of course, but also in Arkansas, Hawaii, Oklahoma and other places in the United States. Many of the Marshallese living in the United States are well organized in communities that keep honor the traditions of their homeland while incorporating many of their adoptive communities. These adoptive communities have also done a great deal to support the Marshallese arrivals and help them transition and become productive members of their societies.
The Marshallese that settle in the United States tend to have large families and live with or near other Marshallese. They take jobs in factories, farms, and as civil servants.
Many people from around the world are interested in the Marshallese language and culture, and language learning materials have become increasingly available. Among the texts available in Marshallese are works such as several versions of the Bible, the Book of Mormon and some books of legends.
The official spelling of Marshallese words is based on the entries of the Marshallese-English Dictionary. The Naan dictionary is also an easy to use dictionary that includes alternative spellings used by Marshallese speakers.
There are also several books written to help English-speakers learn Marshallese. Practical Marshallese was written by Peter Rudiak-Gould and it is easy to use by beginning and intermediate speakers of Marshallese.
Marshallese are very welcoming people. The reasons why people become interested in Marshallese include proselytism, commerce, adoption, tourism, proximity to Marshallese communities and cultural experience. Those who have the opportunity to meet Marshallese people remark on their hospitality and kindness. Marshallese.org is meant to meant to provide tools for all those interested in Marshallese to learn about the language and culture. The Dictionary at Marshallese.org is a searchable database that includes lexical data provided by Nik Willson, from the College of the Marshall Islands, and bilingual text that is meant to show how specific words were translated before. Other Marshallese-learning tools will be reviewed or posted here as they become available.