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, you have, I don’t have, you don’t have

– The way to say ‘I have,’ ‘you have,’ etc. in Marshallese is very different from English.  There is no word for ‘have.’  Instead of saying ‘I have a pencil,’ you say ‘there is my pencil.’  Instead of saying ‘I don’t have a pencil’ you say ‘there is no my pencil.’  Use the words from Lesson 26 for ‘there is’ (‘ewōr’ or ‘elōñ’) and ‘there is no’ (‘ejjeḷọk’):

‘Have’

Ewōr aō  __   or Elōñ aō __    = there is/my/__              = I have a ____
Ewōr aṃ __   or Elōñ aṃ __   = there is/your(sing.)/__ = You (singular) have a ____
Ewōr an  __   or Elōñ an __    = there is/his,her,its/__   = He, She, or It has a ____
Ewōr an Marcy __                  = or Elōñ an Marcy__ there is/her/Marcy/__  = Marcy has a ____
Ewōr ad  __   or Elōñ ad __     = there is/our(incl.)/__    = We (inclusive) have a ____
Ewōr am  __  or Elōñ am __    = there is/our(excl.)/__    = We (exclusive) have a ____
Ewōr ami __  or Elōñ ami __   = there is/your(plur.)/__  = You (plural) have a ____
Ewōr aer __   or Elōñ aer __   = there is/their/__            = They have a _____

‘Don’t Have’

Ejjeḷọk aō __              = there is no/my/__               = I don’t have a __
Ejjeḷọk aṃ __             =   there is no/your(sing.)/__   = You (singular) don’t have a __
Ejjeḷọk an __              = there is no/his,her,its/__     = He, She, or It doesn’t have a__
Ejjeḷọk an Marcy __   = there is no/her/Marcy/__    = Marcy doesn’t have a __
Ejjeḷọk ad __              = there is no/our(incl.)/__      = We (inclusive) don’t have a __
Ejjeḷọk am __             = there is no/our(excl.)/__      = We (exclusive) don’t have a __
Ejjeḷọk ami __            = there is no/your(plur.)/__    = You (plural) don’t have a __
Ejjeḷọk aer __             = there is no/their/__               = They don’t have a __

– To say ‘I will have a ___’ use ‘enaaj wōr/lōñ’ instead of ‘ewōr/elōñ.’  To say ‘I had a ___’ use ‘eaar wōr/lōñ’ or ‘ekar wōr/lōñ’ instead of ‘ewōr/elōñ.’  To say ‘I won’t have a ___’ use ‘enaaj ejjeḷọk’ instead of ‘ejjeḷọk’  To say ‘I didn’t have a ___’ use ‘eaar ejjeḷọk’ or ‘ekar ejjeḷọk’ instead of ‘ejjeḷọk.’

– You might notice that people say ‘I have,’ ‘You have,’ ‘Do you have?’ etc. in different ways when they are talking about food, drinks, vehicles, and many other things.  If you want to know about this now, look at Lessons 66-80.

Vocabulary

likatu beautiful woman, beautiful (of women only)
ḷakatu good-looking man, good-looking (of men only)
ijin here
ijo there, over there
ijōṇe there (near you)
ijjuweo there (far away)
ie there (in the sense of, ‘the place we are talking about’) ex. A: Iaar etal ñan Mejit  = I went to Mejit       B: Kwaar ta ie?           = What did you do there?
āinwōt juon the same, never mind, it doesn’t matter
baru crab
jako gone, missing, lost, disappeared
dān water, any liquid
dānnin ni coconut juice
wiiken (from English) weekend

Language Tip

Interjections

Marshallese has a variety of ‘interjections’ (like ‘wow!’, ‘darn!’ etc. in English).  Using them in the right situations, but not too liberally, will make you sound much more Marshallese.  Here are some of the most common ones and their meanings:

ōrrōr / ōrrōrōr / ōllōl / ōllōlōl / edded / eddeded = annoyance, frustration

ōrōr = ‘oops’

ūkūk = annoyance

alo / aluo = telling someone that what they’re doing is annoying and unacceptable

warrar / warrarar = when you are surprised and impressed

ekōḷōk / wau (from English) = amazement, ‘wow’

āāāāā (like the ‘a’ in ‘pat,’ but harsh and nasal) = getting the attention of a child in order to scold him or her

io = surprise when something sudden and unexpected happens

sssss = shooing away animals

ooooo = ‘oh,’ ‘I see,’ ‘that’s interesting’ (when someone tells you something)

ooo, iōp! = giving the signal for everyone to start something at the same time

Practical Marshallese

Published by Marco Mora-Huizar

I am a Spanish and Marshallese translator. Iaar katak Kajin Majol ilo Enid, Oklahoma. marcomh.com

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