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.

Do you have?  How many do you have?

– To make questions with ‘have’ (like ‘do you have a pencil?’ or ‘does she have any sisters?’) just add ‘ke’ after ‘ewōr’ or ‘elōñ’:

Ewōr ke aṃ ___?               = or Elōñ ke aṃ ___? there is/?/your/___           = Do you have a ____?
Ewōr ke an   ___?              = or Elōñ ke an ___? there is/?/his,her,its/___ = Does he/she/it have a ___?
Ewōr ke an Emily ____?   = or Elōñ ke an Emily ____? there is/?/her/Emily/___ = Does Emily have a ____?

etc.

– You can do the same thing with ‘ebwe,’ ‘ebooḷ,’ ‘emaat,’ etc.

Ebooḷ ke aṃ brother?       = there are many/?/your/brother = Do you have many brothers?
Ebwe ke aer pinjeḷ?          = there is enough/?/their/pencil = Do they have enough pencils?
Emaat ke an Emily peen? = there is no more/?/’s/Emily/pen = Does Emily have no more pens? or Does Emily have any pens left?

– To answer a question like ‘Ewōr ke aṃ pinjeḷ?’ (‘Do you have a pencil?’) you can respond in full ‘Aet, ewōr aō pinjeḷ’ (‘Yes, I have a pencil’) or ‘Jaab, ejjeḷọk aō pinjeḷ’ (‘No, I don’t have a pencil’).  However, you can also just say ‘Ewōr’/‘Elōñ’ (‘Yes I do’) or ‘Ejjeḷọk’ (‘No I don’t’).

– To ask ‘How many ___ do you have?’, use ‘jete’ at the beginning of the sentence:

Jete aṃ sister? = how many/your/sister = How many sisters do you have?
Jete aer pinjeḷ? = how many/their/pencil = How many pencils do you have?

– This also allows you to say ‘How old are you?’:

Jete aṃ iiō?                 = how many/your/year = How old are you?
Jilñoul aō iiō                 = thirty/my/year = I’m thirty years old
Jete an Tamlino iiō ?   = how many/his/Tamlino/year = How old is Tamlino?
Jiljino an Tamlino iiō    = six/his/Tamlino/year = Tamlino is six years old

Dialogue

A: Ewōr ke aṃ brother? A: Do you have any brothers?
B: Juon aō brother. B: I have one brother.
A: Ak sister?  Jete aṃ sister? A: What about sisters?  How many sisters do you have?
B: Ejjeḷọk aō sister. B: I don’t have any sisters.
A: Warrar.  Eiiet aṃ brother im sister.  Jete an brother eo aṃ iiō? A: Wow.  You don’t have very many brothers and sisters.  How old is your brother?
B: Roñoul ralitōk an iiō kiiō. B: He is 28 now.
A: Ak kwe?  Jete aṃ iiō? A: What about you?  How old are you?
B: Roñoul jilu aō iiō. B: I’m twenty-three years old.
A: Ekōḷōk!  Kwōlukkuun dik. A: Wow!  You’re really young.

Vocabulary

waḷọk happen, occur, appear, rise (of the sun or the moon)
tulọk to dive, to dive down, to set (of the sun)
jipeeḷ (from English) spell, spelling
uno medicine, paint
bwe so-so Ex. Eṃṃan mour?  Ebwe = How’s it going?  So-so.
naip (from English) knife
kiil or kiili to close, to memorize
kilōk closed, memorized Ex. Ekilōk = It is closed
aḷ sun
ettoḷọk (E: sometimes tōtoḷọk) far away

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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