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)


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’

Published by Marco Mora-Huizar

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

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply