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


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

Published by Marco Mora-Huizar

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

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