Lesson 40: Conditionals in Marshallese

This post is based on Practical Marshallese by Peter Rudiak-Gould, a freely distributed, full-length textbook for learning the native language of the Marshall Islands. It has been used since 2004 as the official language manual for all volunteers in the WorldTeach Marshall Islands program, and it has formed the basis of language classes for Americans at Kwajalein Atoll. The 102 short lessons describe the grammar of the language in practical and familiar terms, and a glossary presents 1500 useful words.

When you come, when you came, what, where, and if

In Lesson 19 you learned that the word for ‘when’ is ‘ñāāt.’  However, if you want to say ‘Leave when it is finished’ or ‘I’ll fish when it is low tide’ (that is, when the word ‘when’ is not implying a question), then use the word ‘ñe’:

Rọọl ñe eṃōj               = (not Rọọl ñāāt eṃōj) leave/when/it-finished = Leave when it is finished
Inaaj eọñōd ñe epāāt   = (not Inaaj eọñōd ñāāt epāāt) I-FUTURE/fish/when/it-low tide = I will fish when it is low tide

– If you are saying ‘when’ in the past tense, such as in the sentence ‘I didn’t know how to fish when I came,’ then you must use ‘ke’ (not ‘ñe’) for ‘when’.  Since this is only used for the past tense, having the past tense afterward is optional:

Iaar jaje eọñōd ke ij itok         = (not Iaar jaje eọñōd ñe ij itok) or Iaar jaje eọñōd ke iaar itok = (not Iaar jaje eọñōd ñe iaar itok) I-PAST/not know/fish /when(past)/I-PRES/come I-PAST/not know/fish /when(past)/I-PAST/come   = I didn’t know how to fish when I came

– ‘Ñe’ can also mean ‘if,’ so there is some ambiguity:

Bojrak ñe kwōṃōk           = stop/when,if/you-tired = Stop when you’re tired or Stop if you’re tired
Rōnaaj ṃōñā ñe rōkwōle = they-FUTURE/eat /when,if/they-hungry = They will eat when they are hungry or They will eat if they are hungry

If you want to make sure that you say ‘if,’ not ‘when,’ then say ‘eḷaññe,’ which means only ‘if.’

– If you are saying ‘if’ in a sentence like ‘I don’t know if they are working’ or ‘I am going to see if they are studying’ you can use either ‘eḷaññe’ or make the phrase into a question by adding ‘ke’:

Ijaje eḷaññe rej       = jerbal            or Ijaje rej ke         = jerbal              I-don’t know/if/they-PRES/work 1 I-don’t know /they-PRES/?/work = I don’t know if they are working = I don’t know are they working?   = I don’t know if they are working
Inaaj lale eḷaññe    = rej ekkatak or Inaaj lale rej ke = ekkatak I-FUTURE/look/if /they-PRES/study   I-FUTURE/look /they-PRES/?/study = I will look if they are studying = I will look are they studying?   = I am going to see if they are studying

– If you are using the word ‘what’ without implying a question (such as in the sentence ‘I know what you did’) then do not use ‘ta,’ but rather ‘men eo’ (‘the thing’) or ‘men ko’ (‘the things’):

Ijeḷā men eo kwaar kōṃṃane= I-know/thing/the/you-PAST/did-it = I know what you did
Roñjake men ko ij ba             = listen to/thing/the(plural)/I-PRES/say = Listen to what I say

– If you are using the word ‘where’ without implying a question (such as in the sentence ‘Go to where there are fish’ then do not use ‘ia,’ but rather ‘ijo’ (‘there’) and put ‘ie’ at the end of the sentence:

Etal ñan ijo ewōr ek ie   = (not Etal ñan ia ewōr ek) go/to/there/there are/fish/in-it = Go to where there are fish
Eṃṃan ijo iaar ḷotak ie  = (not Eṃṃan ia iaar ḷotak) it-good/there/I-PAST/born/in-it = I like where I was born

Vocabulary

ṃwilaḷ deep, profound
pejpej shallow
uklele (from English) ukulele, to play the ukulele
kautiej respect, to treat respectfully
baro (from English) borrow
innām ḷak ṃōj and then
kadek poisonous (of fish), poisoned (from eating fish), intoxicated, drunk, get drunk
ek in kadek poisonous fish
dānnin kadek alcohol

Pronunciation Practice – ‘t’

            You have already learned some Marshallese letters that are pronounced differently in different contexts.  For instance, ‘j’ usually sounds like a cross between ‘s’ and ‘sh,’ but when it is right between two vowels it sounds like a cross between ‘z’ and the ‘g’ in ‘mirage.’

Marshallese ‘t’ is another letter that is pronounced differently in different contexts.  Usually it is pronounced close to an English ‘t.’  But listen to the way that Marshallese people say the following word: ‘tutu.’  The first ‘t’ sounds a lot like an English ‘t,’ but the second one sounds more like English ‘d.’ (If they are speaking very carefully and deliberately, both t’s may be like English ‘t.’) Thus, Marshallese ‘t’ usually sounds like English ‘t,’ but when it is right between two vowels, it sounds more like English ‘d.’

Here are some words to practice on:

Sounds like English ‘t’   Sounds like English ‘d’  
tutu ‘take a shower’ tutu ‘take a shower’
tata ‘-est’ tata ‘-est’
ti ‘tea’ itok ‘come’
etto ‘a long time ago’ katak ‘learn’
rūtto ‘old’ jota ‘evening’
ṃanit ‘culture’ letok ‘give to me’
lọjet ‘ocean’ ralitōk ‘eight’

Practical Marshallese

Lesson 39: Which fish, what kind of fish, you and who else?

This post is based on Practical Marshallese by Peter Rudiak-Gould, a freely distributed, full-length textbook for learning the native language of the Marshall Islands. It has been used since 2004 as the official language manual for all volunteers in the WorldTeach Marshall Islands program, and it has formed the basis of language classes for Americans at Kwajalein Atoll. The 102 short lessons describe the grammar of the language in practical and familiar terms, and a glossary presents 1500 useful words.

Which fish, what kind of fish, you and who else?

            There are even more ways to make questions in Marshallese.

– To say ‘which ___’ or ‘what kind of ____’, use the following words after the noun:

ta which?
rot or rōt or tor what kind of?

For example:

Āne ta?   = island/which = Which island?
Ek rōt?    = fish/what kind = What kind of fish?

– There is a question word that means ‘and who else?’:

et and who else?

For example:

Kwe et?  = you/and who else = You and who else?
Amy et?  = Amy/and who else = Amy and who else?

– There is yet another word for ‘why,’  which is used in a special way:

jaaṃ why?

You must put it right after a subject pronoun.  For example:

Ejaaṃ jerbal?  = he-why/work = Why is he working?
Kwōjaaṃ jeḷā  = kajin ṃajeḷ? you-why/know/ language of/Marshall = Why do you know Marshallese? (i.e. How do you know it?  How did you learn it?)

(As you can see from the second example, ‘jaaṃ’ can sometimes imply ‘how.’)

– There are some question words that always go by themselves, never with a sentence:

Ewōr ta? What’s up?  What’s happening? Ebajeet? Why?
Eita? What’s the matter? Bwe? Why?
Eita ___? What’s the matter with ___? Bwe ta? Why?
Eet? What’s the matter? Bwe et? Why?
Tu ia? Where exactly? Im ta? In order to do what?

Vocabulary

deḷọñ to enter, to go inside
diwōj to exit, to go outside
jimattan half, half of
kōn menin so (as in ‘I was sick, so I didn’t go to school’), therefore
joḷọk iien or kọkkure iien waste time
karjin (from English) kerosene
laḷ in the world, the Earth
ḷain (from English) line, clothesline, line up, form a line
ṃōttan ___ in (a certain amount of time), ___ remaining Ex. Ṃōttan ruo = Two left/two more
peeḷ (from English) bell

Pronunciation Practice – How to pronounce the name of your island correctly

This book uses the new spelling system, which spells words very close to how they are pronounced.  The only exception is the names of places, which have been spelled according to the old system for so long that they are almost never spelled with the new system.  However, so that you can pronounce the names of atolls, islands, and parts of Majuro correctly, here are the real pronunciations.  As you can see, some of them are quite far from the normal spelling:

Usual Spelling Actual Pronunciation Usual Spelling Actual Pronunciation Usual Spelling Actual Pronunciation
Ailinginae Aelōñinae Jemo Jāmọ Maloelap Ṃaḷoeḷap
Ailinglaplap Aelōñḷapḷap Kili Kōle Mejit Mājeej or Mejeej
         Aerok Aerōk Knox Ṇadikdik Mili Mile
         Je Je Kwajalein Kuwajleen Namorik Naṃdik
         Woja Wōja          Ebeye Ibae Namu Naṃo
Arno Arṇo or Aṇṇo Lae Lae       Majkin Ṃajkōn
         Ine Ine Likiep Likiep Rongelap Roñḷap
         Kilane Kilañe Majuro Mājro Rongerik Roñdik
         Tinak Tinak        Ajeltake Ajeltake Taka Tōkā
Aur Aur        Delap Teḷap Ujae Wūjae
Bikar Pikaar        Ejit Ājej Ujelang Wūjlañ
Bikini Pikinni        Enemanit Āneṃanōt Utirik Utrōk
Ebon Epoon        Laura Ḷora Wotho Wōtto
         Taka Tōkā        Rairok Rairōk Wotje Wōjjā
Eniwetak Ānewātak        Rita Rita     Wodmej Wōdmeej
Erikub Ādkup       Rongrong Roñroñ    
Jabwot Jebat        Uliga Wūlka    
Jaluit Jālwōj or Jālooj        Woja Wōja    

Practical Marshallese

Lesson 38: More about questions

This post is based on Practical Marshallese by Peter Rudiak-Gould, a freely distributed, full-length textbook for learning the native language of the Marshall Islands. It has been used since 2004 as the official language manual for all volunteers in the WorldTeach Marshall Islands program, and it has formed the basis of language classes for Americans at Kwajalein Atoll. The 102 short lessons describe the grammar of the language in practical and familiar terms, and a glossary presents 1500 useful words.

How, how much, how long, how big (More about questions)

In Lesson 19 you learned some common questions words (‘who,’ ‘what,’ etc.) and learned that they can be put in many places in the sentence, not just at the beginning.  There are some exceptions to this.  For the words for ‘how,’ ‘how much,’ ‘how long,’ and a certain word for ‘why,’ you must put them at the beginning of the sentence.  Here are these words:

ewi wāween or enret or ālmen how? ewi joñan how much?
ewi toon how long? (in time, not length)
ta unin why?

To use these words, put ‘my,’ ‘your,’ etc. afterwards.  For instance:

Enret ami kōṃṃane?  = how/your(plural)/do-it = How do you guys do it?
Ewi joñan aṃ jeḷā        = kajin ṃajeḷ? how much/your/know /language of/Marshall = How much Marshallese do you know?
Ewi toon aṃ pād ilo     = Majuro? how long/your/located/in/ Majuro = How long have you been in Majuro?
Ta unin ami ṃōṇōṇō?  = why/your(plur.)/happy = Why are you guys happy?

(Remember that there is another word for ‘why’ [‘etke’] which is used exactly like in English: ‘Etke kwōj jerbal?’ means ‘Why are you working?’)

– ‘Ewi joñan’ can also be used for the ‘how’ in ‘how big?’ ‘how tall?’ ‘how small?’ etc.:

Ewi joñan an kilep?           = how much/its/big = How big is it?
Ewi joñan aṃ nañinmej?   = how much/your/sick = How sick are you?

– If you want to say any of these sentences in the past or future, add ‘kar’ or ‘naaj’ either before the question word, or after the word for ‘my,’ ‘your,’ etc.:

Naaj enret aer kōṃṃane?         = or Enret aer naaj kōṃṃane?     = FUTURE/how/their/do-it how/their/FUTURE/do-it = How will they do it?
Kar ewi joñan am nañinmej?     = or Ewi joñan am kar nañinmej?  = PAST/how much/your/sick how much/your/PAST/sick = How sick were you?

– You must be careful when you want to say ‘how.’  If you mean ‘how’ in the sense of ‘in what way,’ ‘by what means,’ use ‘ewi wāween,’ ‘enret,’ or ‘ālmen.’  If you mean ‘how’ in the sense of ‘is it good?’ ‘do you like it?’, then use ‘eṃṃan ke’ (‘is it good?’).  If you mean ‘how’ in the sense of ‘what’s it doing?’ ‘what is its condition?’, then use ‘ej et’ (‘it does what’).  For example:

Ewi wāween aṃ  = ṃōñā mā? how/your/eat/breadfruit = How do you eat breadfruit? (In what way?  By what means?)
Eṃṃan ke           = Ṃaḷoeḷap? it-good/?/Maloelap = How’s Maloelap? (Is it good?  Do you like it?)
Ej et lañ?             = it-PRES/do what/weather = How’s the weather? (What is it doing?  What is its condition?)

Vocabulary

joob (from English) soap
joob in tutu soap for bathing
joob in kwaḷkoḷ soap for washing
kijeek fire
hand, arm, wing
pedped reef, foundation
tōmak believe Ex. Ij jab tōmak eok = I don’t believe you Ex. Ij tōmak bwe kwōnaaj bar itok = I think you will come back
wōn turtle
bōjrak stop
kọkkure to mess up (something), waste, break (a rule), violate, hurt, ruin, damage, harm

Pronunciation Practice

More about j

In the Pronunciation Practice in the last lesson, you learned that ‘j’ is pronounced halfway in between ‘s’ and ‘sh,’ or ‘ts’ and ‘ch.’  The only time when this isn’t true is when ‘j’ is surrounded by vowels on both sides, such as in the words ‘ṃajeḷ’ and ‘mijak.’  In this case ‘j’ is pronounced halfway in between English ‘j’ (as in ‘jam’) and the ‘g’ in ‘mirage.’  Start by pronouncing an English ‘j’ (as in ‘jam’) and slowly turn it into the ‘g’ in ‘mirage.’  If you stop halfway in between, then you have the pronunciation of Marshallese ‘j’ when it is between vowels.

Here are some words to practice on:

ṃajeḷ ‘Marshall Islands’ rijikuuḷ ‘student’ kōjerbal ‘use’
mijak ‘scared’ kajin ‘language’ bwijin ‘many’

Practical Marshallese

Lesson 37: After, before

This post is based on Practical Marshallese by Peter Rudiak-Gould, a freely distributed, full-length textbook for learning the native language of the Marshall Islands. It has been used since 2004 as the official language manual for all volunteers in the WorldTeach Marshall Islands program, and it has formed the basis of language classes for Americans at Kwajalein Atoll. The 102 short lessons describe the grammar of the language in practical and familiar terms, and a glossary presents 1500 useful words.

After you go, before you go, I see you go, I watch you go

– You can use ‘my,’ ‘your,’ etc. in yet another way in Marshallese.  To say ‘after you go,’ or ‘before you go,’ you say instead ‘after your go,’ ‘before your go’.  Here are the words for ‘after’ and ‘before’:

ālikin  or  ṃōjin after
ṃokta jān before

For example:

ṃōjin jerbal                  = after/work = after working
ṃōjin am jerbal            = after/your/work = after you work
ṃokta jān iukkure        = before/play = before playing
ṃokta jān aer iukkure  = before/their/play = before they play

– You can also use ‘my,’ ‘your,’ etc. to say ‘I let you go’ (‘I let your go’) ‘I watch you go (‘I watch your go’) or ‘I wait for you to go’ (‘I wait for your go’), etc.:

Rej kōtḷọk aṃ iukkure      = they-PRES/let/your/play = They let you play.
Ij alwōj am iukkure           = I-PRES/watch/your/play = I am watching you play
Kwaar lo aō etal               = you-PAST/see/my/go = You saw me go
Raar roñ ad bwebwenato = they-PAST/hear/our/talk = They heard us talking
Ij kōttar aṃ kōmat            = I-PRES/wait for/your/cook = I am waiting for you to cook

– You can also use ‘my,’ ‘your,’ etc. after the word for ‘because of’ (‘kōn’) to make a phrase like ‘because you are sick,’ ‘because you are working’:

kōn am nañinmej     = because of/your/sick = because you are sick
kōn an Alino jerbal   = because of/her/Alino/work = because Alino is working

(You can also just say ‘kōnke’ or ‘bwe’ to mean ‘because,’ as in ‘kōnke kwōnañinmej’ (‘because you are sick.’)

– This can also be used to say ‘Thank you for ____’

Koṃṃool kōn ṃōñā eo      = thank you/because of/food/the = Thank you for the food
Koṃṃool kōn aṃ jipañ eō = thank you/because of/your/help/me = Thank you for helping me

Vocabulary

kinaak to tell on, to report someone to an authority figure
bọọj (from English) boss, leader
bar head, head hair
bōran head of, head hair of, tip of
inepata worry, worried, upset  Ex. Jab inepata = Don’t worry
jea (from English) chair
jitto western half of an island
jittak eastern half of an island

Pronunciation Practice

‘j’

            Marshallese ‘j’ sounds something like English ‘s,’ ‘sh,’ ‘z,’ ‘j,’ ‘ts,’ ‘ch,’ or ‘garage,’ but it is not quite any of these.  To learn how to pronounce it more accurately, say English ‘s’ and then ‘sh.’  Say one and then the other over and over again and notice what your tongue is doing.  In both sounds the tongue is near the top of the mouth, and a little bit of air is escaping over it, making a hissing sound.  With ‘s,’ the tongue is behind the teeth, but with ‘sh’ it is farther back, behind the ridge that is behind the teeth.  Now pronounce ‘s,’ hold it, and slowly turn it into ‘sh.’  If you stop halfway in between, then you have Marshallese ‘j.’

            ‘j’ sometimes sounds different than this, but it is always pronounced in the same place in the mouth, halfway in between where English ‘s’ and ‘sh’ are pronounced.  Another pronunciation of ‘j’ other than the one described in the paragraph above is as follows: pronounce English ‘ts’ (like in ‘pots’) over and over and slowly change it into ‘ch’ (like in ‘chat’).  If you stop halfway in between, you will have this other pronunciation of ‘j.’  Try saying these words with either the s/sh pronunciation or the ts/ch pronunciation:

jaab ‘no’ ṃōj ‘finished’ ejjeḷọk ‘there are no’
juon ‘one’ aebōj ‘drinking water’ kajjitōk ‘question’
jān ‘from’ mej ‘dead’ kajjioñ ‘try’

Practical Marshallese

Lesson 36: Comparatives in Marshallese

This post is based on Practical Marshallese by Peter Rudiak-Gould, a freely distributed, full-length textbook for learning the native language of the Marshall Islands. It has been used since 2004 as the official language manual for all volunteers in the WorldTeach Marshall Islands program, and it has formed the basis of language classes for Americans at Kwajalein Atoll. The 102 short lessons describe the grammar of the language in practical and familiar terms, and a glossary presents 1500 useful words.


Pretty big, very big, big enough, too big

            In the last lesson you learned how to make sentences like ‘I fish often’ by saying ‘it is often my fish.’  You can also do the same sort of thing with adjectives, to say things like ‘It is very good,’ ‘it is pretty good,’ etc.  Here are some words you can use this way:

eḷap very
edik not very
ebwe somewhat, pretty, fairly, enough
ejabwe not enough

For example:

Eḷap an eṃṃan     = it-big/its/good = It is very good
Edik an eṃṃan     = it-small/its/good = It is not very good
Ebwe an kilep        = it-enough/its/big = It is pretty big or It is big enough
Ejabwe an kilep     = it-not enough/its/big = It is not big enough
Eḷap aṃ nañinmej  = it-big/your/sick = You are very sick
Ejabwe aer aetok   = it-not enough/their/tall = They are not tall enough
Eḷap an kilep          = it-big/its/big = It is big

– If you want to say sentences like ‘It is big enough,’ ‘I walk slowly,’ or ‘I eat a lot’ in the past or future, then put ‘naaj’ or ‘kar’ either with the first word or after the word for ‘my,’ ‘your,’ etc.:

Ekar bwe an kilep           = or Ebwe an kar kilep       = it-PAST/enough/its/big enough/its/PAST/big = It was big enough
Ekar ṃōkaj aō etetal       = or Eṃōkaj aō kar etetal   = it-PAST/fast/my/walk it-fast/my/PAST/walk = I walked fast
Enaaj ḷap aṃ ṃōñā         = or Eḷap aṃ naaj ṃōñā     = it-FUTURE/big/your/eat it-big/your/FUTURE/eat = You will eat a lot

– There are also a few words like this that go right before the adjective, like in English:

lukkuun or lukkuun in very, really kanooj or kanooj in very, really kadik particularly, too
jab lukkuun or jab lukkuun in not very jab kanooj or jab kanooj in not very    

For example:

Elukkuun kilep           = it-very/big = It is very big
Ejab lukkuun eṃṃan = it-not/very/good = It is not very good
Kwōkanooj in jouj       = you-very/of/nice = You are very nice
Ekadik kilep               = it-particularly,too/big = It is particularly big or It is too big
Ekadik lōñ                  = it-particularly,too/there are = There are too many

Vocabulary

retio (from English) radio
tāākji (from English) taxi
teej (from English) test, exam, take a test
pāātḷọk tide going out (getting lower)
ibwijtok tide coming in (getting higher)
kaṇaṃṇaṃ mosquito coil
kabbōl to turn on (a light, lamp, etc.)
kun to turn off (a light, lamp, etc.)
jabdewōt any, anything, anybody
marok dark
kōtḷọk let, allow, let go, release

Language Tip

Too much, too big

            To say phrases like ‘too much,’ ‘too many,’ or ‘too big’ in Marshallese, you can use ‘kadik’ for ‘too.’  But you can also just say ‘a lot,’ ‘very many,’ ‘very big,’ and context indicates that you mean ‘too much,’ ‘too big.’  For instance:

Elukkuun lōñ armej    = it-very/there are/people = There are many people or There are too many people
Ekadik lōñ armej        = it-too/there are/people = There are too many people
Eḷap aṃ idaak            =    it-big/your/drink = You drink a lot or You drink too much
Ekadik ḷap aṃ idaak  = it-too/big/your/drink = You drink too much

            If you want to say ‘it is too big to carry’ or ‘the tide is too low to fish’ just use ‘lukkuun’ for ‘too’ and ‘ñan’ for ‘to’ :

Elukkuun pāāt ñan eọñōd= it-very/low tide/for/fishing = The tide is too low to go fishing

Practical Marshallese

Lesson 35: Adverbs

This post is based on Practical Marshallese by Peter Rudiak-Gould, a freely distributed, full-length textbook for learning the native language of the Marshall Islands. It has been used since 2004 as the official language manual for all volunteers in the WorldTeach Marshall Islands program, and it has formed the basis of language classes for Americans at Kwajalein Atoll. The 102 short lessons describe the grammar of the language in practical and familiar terms, and a glossary presents 1500 useful words.


I walk fast, I walk slow, I fish often, I fish sometimes

In the last three lessons you learned how to use ‘my,’ ‘your,’ etc. to say sentences like ‘I have eaten,’ ‘you have eaten.’  In this lesson you will learn how to use them to say sentences like ‘I walk fast,’ ‘you walk slow,’ ‘I fish often,’ ‘I fish sometimes’:

– In Marshallese, instead of saying ‘I walk fast’ you would say ‘it is fast my walk.’  For instance:

Eṃōkaj aō etetal         = it-fast/my/walk = I walk fast
Eruṃwij aṃ etetal        = it-slow/your/walk = You walk slow
Eṃṃan aṃ kōṃṃane = it-good/your/do-it = You do it well
Enana aer kōṃṃane   = it-bad/their/do-it = They do it badly

– In the same way, you can make sentences like ‘I fish often,’ ‘I usually fish,’ etc.  Here are some words you can use in this way:

emakijkij     = often eḷap                            = a lot
ejọkkutkut   = seldom edik                            = little
ekkā wōt     = usually, very often juon/ruo/jilu alen         = or  juon/ruo/jilu katten one/two/three times
eto              = for a long time

For example:

Emakijkij aō eọñōd        = often/my/fish = I fish often
Ejọkkutkut am eọñōd     = seldom/your/fish = You seldom fish
Ekkā wōt an nañinmej    = very often/his/sick = He is sick very often
Eto aō pād ilo Tōkā        = long time/my/located/in/Taka = I have been on Taka a long time
Eto aō jab lo eok            = long time/my/not/see/you = I haven’t seen you for a long time
Eto aō jañin lo eok         = long time/my/not yet/see you = I haven’t seen you for a long time
Eḷap ad idaak                 = a lot/our/drink = We drink a lot
Eḷap an Merina ekkatak = a lot/her/Merina/learn = Merina learns a lot
Edik am ṃōñā                = little/your/eat = You don’t eat very much
Ruo katten aō pād ilo Je = two/time/my/located/in/Je = I have been in Je twice
Jete katten am eọñōd?   = how many/time/your/fish? = How many times have you fished?

– For a few words, you can just put them at the end of the sentence like in English:

jidik a little, for a little while juon/ruo/jilu alen or juon/ruo/jilu katten one/two/three times
jet ien sometimes
aolep iien always lōñ alen often, many times

For example:

Kwōj ṃōñā jidik                       = you-PRES/eat/a little = You eat a little
Ij iukkure jet ien                       = I-PRES/play/sometimes = I play sometimes
Iaar etal ñan Ebeye juon alen = I-PAST/go/to/Ebeye/one/time = I went to Ebeye once

Vocabulary

keememej remember Ex. Ij keememej = I remember
jibwe to take, to grab, to touch
būbū grandma
jiṃṃa grandpa
kōḷḷā to pay, to get paid
kōmat to cook
mat cooked (not raw)
kūbwe feces
kwōpej (from English) garbage
ḷotak to be born

Pronunciation Practice

r and d

Marshallese ‘r’ and ‘d’ are very different from English ‘r’ and ‘d,’ but very similar to each other.  To start being able to pronounce them, say the following sentence over and over: ‘dead-headed Ed edited it.’  As you do it faster and faster, you will notice that your tongue is going up towards the ridge behind your teeth and quickly tapping it before going back down.  This is equivalent to the untrilled (not rolled) ‘r’ in Spanish, and is very close to both ‘r’ and ‘d’ in Marshallese.  If you can master this untrilled ‘r’ then you can use it for both ‘r’ and ‘d,’ and Marshallese people will usually understand you.

If you want to be able to pronounce Marshallese ‘r’ and ‘d’ even better, than you need to learn to trill (roll) your r’s.  Say ‘oughta’ over and over, and feel your tongue tapping against the ridge behind your teeth.  Eventually, you will find the right tongue position where the air coming out of your mouth makes your tongue vibrate against the ridge behind your teeth.  Practice it every day until you get it.

If you want to pronounce Marshallese ‘r’ and ‘d’ perfectly, then you need to learn the slight difference between them.  ‘d’ is the same as ‘r’ except that ‘d’ is pronounced with the tongue a little bit closer to the front of the mouth.  ‘r’ is articulated on the ridge behind the teeth, but ‘d’ is articulated right at the top of the teeth.  This is a very difficult contrast to master, but it is worth trying.

Here are some words to practice on:

riṃajeḷ ‘Marshallese person’ dik ‘small’
ripālle ‘American’ dān ‘liquid’
ire ‘fight’ idaak ‘drink’
ṃōrō ‘kill’ jidik ‘a little’
karreo ‘to clean’ leddik ‘girl’
jorrāān ‘problem’ ḷaddik ‘boy’
iar ‘lagoon’ ad ‘our’
kōttar ‘wait’ pād ‘located’

Lesson 34: Perfect Past Questions

This post is based on Practical Marshallese by Peter Rudiak-Gould, a freely distributed, full-length textbook for learning the native language of the Marshall Islands. It has been used since 2004 as the official language manual for all volunteers in the WorldTeach Marshall Islands program, and it has formed the basis of language classes for Americans at Kwajalein Atoll. The 102 short lessons describe the grammar of the language in practical and familiar terms, and a glossary presents 1500 useful words.


Have you fished? Have you ever fished?

– Similar to the last two lessons, in Marshallese all of the following are said in the same way:

  • Are you finished eating?
  • Have you eaten?
  • Did you already eat?
  • Have you already eaten?

Just add ‘ke’ after ‘eṃōj’ in the phrases you learned in Lesson 32:

Eṃōj ke aṃ ṃōñā             = it-finished/?/ your(sing.)/eat = Are you(sing.) finished eating? or Have you(sing.) eaten?
Eṃōj ke an ṃōñā              = it-finished/?/ his,her,its/eat = Is he/she/it finished eating? or Has he/she/it eaten?
Eṃōj ke an Colleen ṃōñā = it-finished/?/ her/Colleen/eat = Is Colleen finished eating? or Has Colleen eaten?

etc.

– There is another phrase which means ‘Have you ____?’ or ‘Have you ever ____?’, but not ‘Are you finished ____?’:

Kwōnañin ke ____? Have you ____?       or  Have you ever _____?
Enañin ke ____? Has he/she/it ____?  or  Has he/she/it ever ____?
Renañin ke ____? Have they ____?      or   Have they ever ____?

etc.

– To answer any of these questions, use what you learned in the previous two sections:

Question Meaning Possible answers Meaning
Eṃōj ke aṃ ṃōñā? Are you finished eating? or Have you eaten? Aet, eṃōj aō ṃōñā Jaab, ejañin ṃōj aō ṃōñā Jaab, ij jañin ṃōñā Yes, I am finished eating No, I am not finished yet No, I haven’t eaten
Kwōnañin ke eọñōd? Have you ever fished? Aet, eṃōj aō eọñōd Jaab, ejañin ṃōj aō eọñōd Jaab, ij jañin eọñōd Yes, I have fished No, I have never fished No, I have never fished

– You can also just answer with ‘eṃōj,’ ‘ejañin,’ or ‘ij jañin’:

Question Meaning Possible answers Meaning
Eṃōj ke aṃ ṃōñā? Are you finished eating? or Have you eaten? Eṃōj Ejañin Ij jañin Yes (I am finished eating) No (I am not finished yet) No (I haven’t eaten)
Kwōnañin ke eọñōd? Have you ever fished? Eṃōj Ejañin ṃōj Ij jañin Yes (I have fished) No (I have never fished) No (I have never fished)

Dialogues

A: Kwōnañin ke pād ilo Amedka? A: Have you ever been to America?
B: Ij jañin pād ilo Amedka, ak eṃōj aō pād ilo Ebeye. B: I’ve never been to America, but I’ve been to Ebeye.
A: Eṃōj ke aṃ pād ilo outer island? A: Have you been on the outer islands?
B: Eṃōj.  Eṃōj aō jaṃbo ñan Arno. B: Yes.  I’ve taken a trip to Arno.
A: Kwaar ke tutu iar im alwōj wōd ko? A: Did you swim in the lagoon and look at the coral?
B: Iaar jab, kōnke imijak pako. B: I didn’t, because I’m afraid of sharks.
A: Eṃōj ke aṃ jerbal? A: Are you finished working?
B: Ejañin ṃōj. B: Not yet.
A: Kwōj ta? A: What are you doing?
B: Ña ij koṃṃane juon ekkatak ñan ilju. B: I’m making a lesson for tomorrow.
A: Ekwe.  Ne eṃōj, jenij kakkije im bwebwenato ippān doon. A: Okay.  When you’re done, we’ll relax and chat together.

Vocabulary

le informal word used at the end of a sentence when talking to a woman or girl Ex. Kwōj etal ñan ia le? = Where are you going, girl?
ḷe informal word used at the end of a sentence when talking to a man or boy Ex. Kwōj etal ñan ia ḷe? = Where are you going, man?
liṃa informal word used at the end of a sentence when talking to more than one woman or girl Ex. Iọkwe liṃa = Hi girls
ḷōṃa informal word used at the end of a sentence when talking to more than one man or boy Ex. Iọkwe ḷōṃa = Hi guys
peet (from English) bed
tiṃōṇ demon
ṃane hit, spank, kill
wūt flower, flower headdress
wōjke tree
bwiro preserved breadfruit (a common food)

Language Tip

le, ḷe, liṃa, and ḷōṃa

In the vocabulary above you saw the words ‘le,’ ‘ḷe,’ ‘liṃa,’ ‘ḷōṃa.’  These are used between people who are on friendly and informal terms with each other.  Use them in these circumstances and you will sound very Marshallese.  Use them in the wrong circumstances and the worst that is likely to happen is that people will laugh at you.

Lesson 33: Negative Perfect Past

This post is based on Practical Marshallese by Peter Rudiak-Gould, a freely distributed, full-length textbook for learning the native language of the Marshall Islands. It has been used since 2004 as the official language manual for all volunteers in the WorldTeach Marshall Islands program, and it has formed the basis of language classes for Americans at Kwajalein Atoll. The 102 short lessons describe the grammar of the language in practical and familiar terms, and a glossary presents 1500 useful words.


I haven’t eaten, you haven’t eaten

– Similar to what you learned in the last lesson, in Marshallese the following are all said in the same way:

            I am not finished eating

            I am not finished eating yet

            I haven’t eaten

            I haven’t eaten yet

            I have never eaten

To express this, you must say ‘It is not yet finished my eat,’ ‘It is not yet finished your eat,’ etc.  For ‘not yet’ use ‘jañin’:

Ejañin ṃōj aō ṃōñā                 = it-not yet/finished /my/eat = I am not finished eating or I have not eaten
Ejañin ṃōj aṃ ṃōñā                = it-not yet/finished /your(sing.)/eat = You(sing.) are not finished or You(sing.) have eaten
Ejañin ṃōj an ṃōñā                 = it-not yet/finished /his,her,its/eat = He, She, or It is not finished eating or He, She, or It has not eaten
Ejañin ṃōj an Colleen ṃōñā   = it-not yet/finished /her/Colleen/eat = Colleen is not finished eating or Colleen has not eaten
Ejañin ṃōj ad ṃōñā                 = it-not yet/finished /our(incl.)/eat = We(incl.) are not finished eating or We(incl.) have not eaten
Ejañin ṃōj am ṃōñā                = it-not yet/finished /our(excl.)/eat = We(excl.) are not finished eating or We(excl.) have not eaten
Ejañin ṃōj ami ṃōñā               = it-not yet/finished /your(plur.)/eat = You(plur.) are not finished eating or You(plur.) have not eaten
Ejañin ṃōj aer ṃōñā                = it-not yet /finished/their/eat = They are not finished eating or They have not eaten

– There is also another construction that means ‘I haven’t eaten,’ ‘I haven’t eaten yet,’ or ‘I have never eaten’ but not ‘I am not finished eating’:

Ij jañin ṃōñā                = I-PRES/not yet/eat = I haven’t eaten (yet)
Kwōj jañin ṃōñā          = you(sing.)-PRES/not yet/eat = You(sing.) haven’t eaten (yet)
Ej jañin ṃōñā               = he,she,it-PRES/not yet/eat = He, She, or It hasn’t eaten (yet)
Colleen ej jañin ṃōñā = Colleen/she-PRES/not yet/eat = Colleen hasn’t eaten (yet)
Jej jañin ṃōñā              = we(incl.)-PRES/not yet/eat = We(incl.) haven’t eaten (yet)
Kōmij jañin ṃōñā         = we(excl.)-PRES/not yet/eat = We(excl.) haven’t eaten (yet)
Koṃij jañin ṃōñā         = you(plur.)-PRES/not yet/eat = You(plur.) haven’t eaten (yet)
Rej jañin ṃōñā             = I-PRES/not yet/eat = They haven’t eaten (yet)

Vocabulary

doon each other
ippān doon together, with each other, to cooperate
jiṃaat (from English) or mālōtlōt smart
jukwa sugar, use sugar
kab and also
kajoor strong, powerful
kweet octopus
laḷ ground
ilaḷ on the ground
ṇaṃ (E: jokwajok) mosquito

Pronunciation Practice

‘Ọ’ is difficult for some English speakers to pronounce.  If you come from the East Coast of the United States, then you may already pronounce this vowel in English.  Say the words ‘cot’ and ‘caught.’  If you pronounce them differently, then you speak a dialect of English that has the ‘ọ’ sound.  It is the ‘au’ in ‘caught,’ and you can simply pronounce Marshallese ‘ọ’ this way.  However, if you pronounce ‘cot’ and ‘caught’ the same way, then you speak a dialect of English that does not have the ‘ọ’ sound, and you will need to learn to pronounce it.

To learn to pronounce ‘ọ,’ first say the ‘oa’ in English ‘boat.’  Hold the vowel sound and notice what your lips are doing.  They are scrunching together slightly to form a circle.  Now pronounce the ‘o’ in ‘lot.’  Hold the vowel sound and pucker your lips like you did with the ‘oa’ in ‘boat,’ and you have ‘ọ.’  It is just the ‘o’ in ‘lot’ with your lips rounded.

Here are some words to practice on:

lọjet ‘ocean’ kọọt ‘steal’ bọọk ‘box’ turọñ ‘spearfish’
iọkwe ‘love’ tọọl ‘towel’ bọọj ‘boss’ ennọ ‘tasty’
kọpe ‘coffee’ rọọl ‘leave’ deḷọñ ‘enter’ piọ ‘feel cold’

Lesson 32: Perfect Past

This post is based on Practical Marshallese by Peter Rudiak-Gould, a freely distributed, full-length textbook for learning the native language of the Marshall Islands. It has been used since 2004 as the official language manual for all volunteers in the WorldTeach Marshall Islands program, and it has formed the basis of language classes for Americans at Kwajalein Atoll. The 102 short lessons describe the grammar of the language in practical and familiar terms, and a glossary presents 1500 useful words.

I have eaten, you have eaten

– In Marshallese the following are expressed in the same way:

            I am finished eating

            I have eaten

            I already ate

            I have already eaten

To make sentences like this, say ‘It is finished my eat,’ ‘It is finished your eat,’ etc.:

Eṃōj aō ṃōñā               = it-finished/my/eat = I am finished eating or I have eaten or I already ate
Eṃōj aṃ ṃōñā              = it-finished/your(sing.)/eat = You(sing.) are finished eating or You(sing.) have eaten or You(sing.) already ate
Eṃōj an ṃōñā               = it-finished/his,her,its/eat = He, She, or It has finished eating or He, She, or It has eaten or He, She, or It already ate
Eṃōj an Colleen ṃōñā = it-finished/her/Colleen/eat = Colleen is finished eating or Colleen has eaten or Colleen already ate
Eṃōj ad ṃōñā               = it-finished/our(incl.)/eat = We(incl.) are finished eating or We(incl.) have eaten or We(incl.) already ate
Eṃōj am ṃōñā              = it-finished/our(excl.)/eat = We(excl.) are finished eating or We(excl.) have eaten or We(excl.) already ate
Eṃōj ami ṃōñā             = it-finished/your(plur.)/eat = You(plur.) are finished eating or You(plur.) have eaten or You(plur.) already ate
Eṃōj aer ṃōñā             = it-finished/their/eat = They are finished eating or They have eaten or They already ate

– If you want to emphasize that the thing has already happened, then you can add ‘kadede’ (‘beforehand, already,’) to a sentence like ‘Eṃōj aō ṃōñā’:

Eṃōj aō ṃōñā kadede = it-finished/my/eat/already = I already ate or I have already eaten

Vocabulary

uwaak answer (noun or verb), reply
wōd coral, coral reef, coral head
iakiu or baseball (from English) baseball
volleyball volleyball
basket basketball
outer island (from English) or aelōñ ko ilikin outer islands
bōd wrong, error, mistake, make a mistake, fault Ex. Ebōd = It is wrong Ex. Kwaar bōd = You were wrong/You made a mistake Ex. Aṃ bōd = It’s your fault
joḷọk bōd I’m sorry, to apologize
jiṃwe correct, right, straight
kōjām door, gate

Practical Marshallese

Lesson 31: Not yet and never

This post is based on Practical Marshallese by Peter Rudiak-Gould, a freely distributed, full-length textbook for learning the native language of the Marshall Islands. It has been used since 2004 as the official language manual for all volunteers in the WorldTeach Marshall Islands program, and it has formed the basis of language classes for Americans at Kwajalein Atoll. The 102 short lessons describe the grammar of the language in practical and familiar terms, and a glossary presents 1500 useful words.

Not yet and never

– Marshallese has a word ‘jañin’ (or ‘jāñin’) that means ‘not yet.’  It goes before the verb or adjective:

Eṃōj              = it-finished = It is finished
Ejañin ṃōj      = it-not yet/finished = It isn’t finished yet
Ij eọñōd          = I-PRES/fish = I am fishing
Ij jañin eọñōd = I-PRES/not yet/fish = I haven’t fished yet

– This leads to a very common phrase meaning ‘It hasn’t been decided yet,’ ‘We’re not sure yet,’ ‘I’m not sure yet’:

Ejañin alikkar  = it-not yet/clear = It hasn’t been decided yet or I’m/we’re not sure yet

For instance, if someone asks you when you are going back to America, and you have decided yet, say ‘ejañin alikkar.’

– ‘Jañin’ can also mean ‘never,’ but only in certain circumstances.  To see how to use ‘jañin’ as ‘never,’ and other ways to say ‘never,’ look at the following examples:

Iaar jañin eọñōd         = I-PAST/not yet/fish = I hadn’t fished yet or I never fished
Ij jañin eọñōd             = I-PRES/not yet/fish = I haven’t fished yet or I have never fished
Iban eọñōd                 = I-will not/fish = I will not fish or I will never fish
Aolep iien ij jab eọñōd = all/time/I-PRES/not/fish = Always I don’t fish = I never fish

–  With adjectives, you can also use ‘jaje’ or ‘ñak’ (‘don’t know’) to mean ‘never’:

Ijaje mijak = I-don’t know/afraid = I don’t know how to be afraid = I am never afraid
Eñak ṃōk = She-don’t know/tired = She doesn’t know how to be tired = She is never tired

As you can see, there is no general word for ‘never,’ but with the phrases above you can express ‘never’ in many ways.

Vocabulary

pinana (from English) banana
kain rot or kain rōt (E: kain tor) what kind?
tonaaj (from English) donut
jañ to cry, make a noise, be played on the radio
kōrkōr small outrigger canoe, paddled or with a sail
tipñōl larger outrigger canoe, with a sail
luuj (from English) lose
wiin (from English) win
māj eye, face, mask, snorkeling mask, glasses
tūrak (from English) truck, car

Pronunciation Practice

The two e’s

The letter ‘e’ in Marshallese actually stands for two different sounds.  To hear the difference between these sounds, have a Marshallese person say these words:

ne ‘leg’ āne ‘island’

Notice that the first ‘e’ sounds like the ‘ai’ in English ‘bait,’ but the ‘e’ in ‘āne’ sounds halfway in between ‘ai’ in English ‘bait’ and ‘ea’ in English ‘beat.’  In the Marshallese-English Dictionary, the second kind of ‘e’ is indicated in the phonetic transcription of a word by an ‘e’ with a hook under it, and the first kind of ‘e’ is indicated by an ‘e’ with no hook.

If you want to perfectly pronounce the kind of ‘e’ that is in ‘āne,’ start by pronouncing the ‘ai’ in English ‘bait,’ and then slowly turn it into the ‘ea’ in English ‘beat.’  If you stop halfway in between, you have the Marshallese ‘e’ in ‘āne.’  (Sometimes it is halfway between ‘bet’ and ‘bit’ instead.)  However, this sound is very close to the ‘ea’ in ‘beat’ or the ‘i’ in ‘bit’ so you can pronounce it that way as well.

Here are some common words with ‘e’ sorted by which sound it stands for:

Bait or Bet   Bait/Beat or Bet/Bit   Bait or Bet   Bait/Beat or Bet/Bit  
ne ‘leg’ āne ‘island’ meḷeḷe ‘understand’ pen ‘hard’
etal ‘go’ ek ‘fish’ jete ‘how many’ jokwe ‘live’
etke ‘why’ eṃ ‘house’ bwebwe ‘tuna’ bwebwe ‘stupid’
lale ‘look’ armej ‘person’     jaje ‘don’t know
men ‘thing’ mejki ‘sleepy’     eddeb ‘to husk’
jeḷā ‘know’ mej ‘dead’    

Practical Marshallese