Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Would you like a fork with your fries?

Another cultural tidbit I noticed in Senegal was that although they ate traditional dishes such as rice or couscous with meat, vegetables and sauce with their hands, something in the West we would generally use utensils to eat, they ate things such as french fries and pizza with a fork when we would just use our hands. Go figure…

Self Test - Can You Translate These Phrases? (A, 1-10)

These are from the book Junniy Leebuy Wolof by Mànsóor Xumma.

  1. Aat yaa ngi woy géwél yi.
  2. Ab jatang, loo bàcc bàcc mu xasawum saw.
  3. Ab loot, tàbbi na ba tàyyi bàyyi fa rew bu nyor.
  4. Ab sàmm a waral béy deewul.
  5. Ab ndóol, ku mu yàqal nyakk nga.
  6. Ag bóli, mbedd la; waaye kenn du ca wetal i béy.
  7. Alal du faj dee, gàcce lay faj.
  8. Alali golo, ca lex ba.
  9. Alali jàmbur, ba fa la sant.
  10. Alali jàmbur, ku ca banya kasara, leneen nga ca begg.

P.S. - I don’t have the answers for these…You’ll have to figure them out for yourself!

Keep it on the D.L.

Apparently in Senegalese culture they tend to keep some things secret such as trips and births until just before the time. I am told it is to “protect” the thing which is about to happen and at least for trips it is also so that people will not have time to burden you with things to take with you (to deliver to friends, family, etc.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

What’s Her/His name? Dialog with Breakdown

Starsky: Kii naka la tudd?
Hutch: Kii Vera Green la tudd.
Hutch: Kii vera la tudd.
Starski: Kii naka la sant?
Hutch: Kii Green la sant. / Vera Green la sant.

Kii naka la tudd?

What’s his/her name?
(literally: This person here, how is he/she called?)

naka — the equivalent of “what” in this case
tudd — verb: to be called

This question is answered either by giving the person’s first name, or the person’s first and last names:

Kii Vera la tudd.
Her name is Vera.
(This person here Vera is called.)

Kii Vera Green la tudd.
Her name is Vera Green.

Kii naka la sant?
What’s his/her family name?

sant — verb: to be called (family name)

This question is answered by giving the person’s family name only:

Kii Green la sant.
Her family name is Green.
(lit.: This person here, Green is called.)

Do not use kii if you already know first name.
Ex. (Vera) naka la sant?

Who is This? Dialog with Breakdown

Beavis: Kii kan la?
Butthead: Kii Tapha la.
Butthead: Kii Mel la.
Butthead: Kii Vera la.

(Kii) kan la?

Who is this person?
(literally: (This person) who is?)

kii — word usually accompanied by a gesture meaning this person (here)
kan? — who?

(Kii) Vera la.
This (person) is Vera.

I am = la — Croff la sant
you are = nga — Sarr nga sant
he/she is = le — Cole le sant

Simple Greeting Dialog with Breakdown

Bert: Asalaa maalekum.
Ernie: Maalekum salaam.
Bert: Nanga def?
Ernie: Mangi fii rekk.
Bert: Ana waa ker ga?
Ernie: Nunga fa.
Bert: Alhamdulilaay!

Asalaa maalekum
Malekum salaam

Greetings / Hello

from Arabic: Peace to you, and to you peace.

USE when entering or arriving at a place or when approaching an already established group.

Naka nga def?
Na nga def?

How are you doing?
(literally: How you do?)

na = naka — how
nga — you
def — verb: to do

An informal greeting. DON’T USE to initiate greetings with a person to whom you want to show respect.

Maa ngi fi rekk.

I am fine
(lit: I am here only.)

maa ngi — here I am
maa — presentative pronoun first person singular
fi — here
rekk — only

Ana waa ker ga?

How’s the family?

ana — how is / how are / where is / where are

waa ker ga — the people of the house, “the family”
waa — the people of / the inhabitants of
ker — house
ker gi — this house
ker ga — the house (distance)

Nu nga fa.

They are fine.
(lit: They are there.)

nu nga — they are
fa — there

nu ngi fi — they are here
nu nga fa — they are there


Thank God.
(from Arabic)

Some Pulaar Words 3

aaludere - kernel
aawasaagal - roguishness
bol - fish
cuurki - reek
durde - graze
duurde - wrestle
falanteere - window
fawde - put
irde - bury
jangde - education
jawdi - acquest
jokkere - joint
laana - xebec
leriinde - between
lohre - inaptitude
newre - palm
nuggaro - diffident
onon - you
ruudde - linger
suurkude - fume
teew - meat
tuumal - allegation
ubbude - inhume
wujjude - cheat
yuude - cry

Some Pulaar words 2

Mind Your Manners

It is customary in Senegal to greet anyone you come into contact with. If you come across a group of people, enter a dwelling or are meeting elders the Arabic greeting asalaam alaikum is appropriate. When greeting individuals the French bonjour or cava is good and alternately the Wolof nangadef works as well. It is also customary to shake hands when greeting someone. Also when entering a home shaking everyone’s hand, including the children, is common practice. Be sure to only use your right hand. There are some people, however, who will not shake hands with members of the opposite sex. It is also common practice to remove your shoes when entering homes so you may want to wear a pair that you can easily slip on and off. Most Senegalese wear flip-flops.

Text excerpt from the upcoming Janga Wolof produced Senegalese Phrasebook & Information Guide. Publish date TBA.

J’apprends le Wolof #3

Translated from J’apprends le Wolof by Jean-Leopold Diouf et Marina Yaguello. This is the introduction to the book.


1. Design Manual / Conception du manuel

This book is a method of learning wolof, a language foreign to francophones. It is intended for residents, the cooperating, businessmen and tourists. It could also be useful for teachers in national languages, or any other person wishing to have a better knowledge of the language wolof.

The method is especially designed for a learning guide. However, it is possible to use individually. In one case as in others, can not be overemphasized recommend a learner’s most total immersion in environments requiring a practice wolof.

To accommodate the manifold needs of learners, we chose themes as diverse as family relationships, professional, social, friendly, commercial, civil, etc.., Containing an elementary lexicon, but enough to face a different situations communication.

In addition, we sought to ensure a balance between learning wolof by a communicative approach and learning wolof by an analytical approach.

The points of grammar that may fall in the manual have been carefully selected and should allow the learner to acquire the basic structures of wolof. All these points are explained in the units or they appear.

The written exercises are planned at the end of each unit. Their number varies from one unit to another depending on the difficulty of the grammar has acquired.

All exercises should be made and, as many times as a learning experience need.

For each exercise, a model is given. The learner must study the structure therein is made, before formulating are shown next to each segment of the year. A system cache that the learner is confectionnera prevent him throwing a glance the answer before he made the effort necessary.

2. The place of wolof in Senegal / La place du wolof au Sénégal

The wolof is part of the language group called west-Atlantic. It is mainly spoken in Senegal and Gambia, but also in Mauritania.

There are, in Senegal, six languages that have received the status of national languages: wolof, Serer, Pulaar, the Mandingo, soninke and Diola.

These languages were officially selected for communication in the media, and education. Moreover, the French remains the official language.

Of the six national languages, wolof is most spoken. It is the language of ethnic wolof who figure 2,285,000 people, representing 40% of the population of Senegal. The traditional Wolof area extends from north to south, from the delta of the atlantic coast of the desert Ferlo.

But it is also wolof language vehicle. About 80% of the population on the practice throughout the territory and this, mainly in urban areas.

The advantage that the wolof had on other national languages can not be explained both by the number of native wolof or by their geographical distribution (Walo, Cayor, Diolof, Baol, Saloum) and by the fact that the first contacts s’effectuèrent colonial powers with the Wolof and made the area wolof the pole of attraction for other ethnic groups. In mid wolof, the day saw the first counters and, with them, groundnut basin or develop a flourishing trade, crowned by the installation of railway Dakar - St. Louis.

In brief remarks on the language wolof / Brèves remarques sur la langue wolof

The wolof, as many African languages, is a language classes nominal. These classes (eight in number two in the singular and plural) play a role comparable to that grammatical gender in the Indo-European languages. Each class is marked by a [index class] is by a consonant. This consonant serves as a base for training all determinants and substitutes name (defined and indefinite articles concerning, interrogative, indefinite). These determinants or substitutes therefore differ for each class, the initial consonant, désinence remaining the same.

The city of Dakar is a melting pot or just blend all ethnic groups in Senegal and even neighbouring countries: wolof it undergoes a simplification because it is talking more and more by non-native speakers for whom it is a second or a third language. Thus, in its manifold vehicular and urban, a distinction of class indices is not always respected. The class - b (most productive) tends to absorb the other. In particular, it is in this class that fit all the words and borrowing new words needed presenter asked whether a learner is likely to hear in the streets. We opted ultimately for some sort of compromise, which reflects fairly well through the use wolophones native urbanized. The class indices are complied except for the numeral benn (one), serving also indefinite article, which tends to be used alone, regardless of class.

The identification in space and in particular the opposition near / distant plays a very important role in language. Where a great variability of adverbs of place. The notion of near / distant also in nominal determination (and, as defined in article owns several forms).

The system can record divert even more francophones. The integrate personal pronouns mode and the appearance of the verb. So the pronoun that varies and not the basis of the word, which remains unchanged. In addition, there is no [time] Strictly speaking, the tracking time out from a context and situation of enunciation. The different conjugations (by varying the pronoun) are introduced gradually in the units. For an overview of the system, we see a grammatical annex at the end of volume.

J’apprends le Wolof #2

About the ACI (Baobab Center) Language Program

Africa Consultants International is a development-oriented consulting organization working in the fields of communication and training, primarily in Africa. Among its many activities, ACI offers courses in French, English and national languages (Wolof, Pulaar, Diola, Mandinka and Serer).

Courses range from intensive instruction (5 hours per day, five days a week) to less arduous schedules. Classes are organized based on requests, and class schedules are designed to respond to the specific professional needs of the students. From 1 to 6 students with comparable language levels can form a class. A limit of 6 students per class allows ACI instructors to provide greater individual attention and speaking practice for each participant.

Classes take place at ACI’s Baobab Training and Resource Center, a comfortable, homey setting conducive to serious study and friendly contact and communication. Emphasis is placed on oral-aural skills (speaking and comprehension) with reading and writing used as supports. Orientation to Africa and cross-cultural information and training are routinely integrated into the language program and more detailed orientations can be organized upon request.

The ACI Wolof Course is a one hundred hour introduction to the language for beginners. The course is divided into four 25 hour sessions.

Contact ACI:

Africa Consultants International
Baobab Training and Resource Center
509 SICAP Baobabs
B.P. 5270, Dakar
Telephone: 25.36.37
Fax: 24.07.41

Some Pulaar Words 2

aade - person
aan - you
asde - dig
baamuule - graveyard
dursitaade - recite
foonde - bush
fuunti - wile
gando - philosopher
haaldude - interview
halfude - own
jaggoowo - holder
jeetati - octa
joortaade - anticipate
kufne - hat
lamminde - acidify
neene - mother
saltude - ramify
seerde - secede
sohre - python
teere - current
tefde - calm
waylude - commute
wiide - say

Some Pulaar Words 1

Download The Janga Wolof E-Book

The Janga Wolof Book is now available for download for only $1.25.

When Arriving at the DKR International Airport

After arriving in Senegal, as you make your way out of the airport you will need to have your passport and yellow fever certificate ready to show to the security officials. After you have collected your luggage and made your way past the security officials and outside to the front of the airport you will find yourself surrounded by people asking if you would like to exchange money, get a taxi, help carrying luggage, a tour guide, etc. It is best that you politely refuse all these offers and walk confidently to one of the many taxis waiting at the curb. Under no circumstance let anybody grab your luggage even if they seem to be doing so just to help out, they will expect that you pay them for their service and under the rare circumstance may even steal your luggage. Also a lot of these people work together so if you let someone carry your luggage chances are he will take your baggage directly to his guy’s taxi and “negotiate” the fare on “your behalf”.

Text excerpt from the upcoming Janga Wolof produced Senegalese Phrasebook & Information Guide. Publish date TBA.

Janga Wolof Book Now Available

I have put together some of the more informative posts from this blog and organized them into a book which you can take with you and study away from the internet. You can purchase the book HERE. Thank you for your support.

J’apprends le Wolof #2

This post is the second in my weekly series of translating the book “J’apprends le Wolof” by Jean-Léopold Diouf & Marina Yaguello (published by Karthala) from French into English. For the original post click ICI. Following are the pages leading up to the introduction.

I’m learning wolof

© Editions Karthala, 1991
ISBN : 2-86537-287-1

Jean-Leopold Diouf and Marina Yaguello

I’m Learning Wolof

Damay Jàng Wolof (I’m Learning Wolof)

22-24, boulevard Arago
75013 Paris


Les mots et les femmes, Payot, 1978. (Words and women, Payot, 1978.)
Alice au pays du langage, Le Seuil, 1981. (Alice in language, Le Seuil, 1981.)
Les Fous du langage, Le Seuil, 1981. (Les Fous language, Le Seuil, 1981.)
Catalogue des idées reçues sur la langue, Le Seuil, 1988. (Catalogue of ideas about language, Le Seuil, 1988.)
Le sexe des mots, Belfond, 1989. (The words sex, Belfond, 1989.)
Histoire des lettres, Le Seuil, 1990. (History letters, Le Seuil, 1990.)
T’ar ta gueule à la récré !, Le Seuil, 1991. (T’ar your mouth to the playground!, Le Seuil, 1991.)
Grammaire exploratoire de l’anglais, Hachette, 1991. (Grammar exploratory English, Hachette, 1991.)
En écoutant parler la langue, Le Seuil, 1991. (Listening to speak the language, Le Seuil, 1991.)


We wish to thank all those who contributed to the achievement of this method of learning wolof. We are indebted in particular the Ministry of Cooperation french who kindly to finance the achievement.

Our thanks also go to Mr Jean-Charles Trorobas, an engineer with the language laboratory of the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences at the University of Dakar, for its technical collaboration, Ms. Martha Coly Diédhiou of Computing Center at the University of Dakar who served before the first manuscript, and the director of CLAD for his willingness unreservedly.

Janga Wolof Merch Now Available

Please visit our new online shop at & help support this blog. We have kept the prices as low as possible (right now we have only marked up each item $1!).

Janga Wolof Logo Long Sleeve T-Shirt

Some Pulaar Words

aa - well
baylo - jeweler
ciyam - leak
eda - buffalo
fasde - boil
ferde - exile
jaggude - seize
jakre - hollow
kohaljinta - inconvienient
lajal - deadline
maa - you
maayka - nonsense
natal - painting
paabi - frogs
soppande - bite
sowande - fold
teppe - feet
weytaade - relax

Before You Go To Senegal

Things you will need to enter Senegal;

Passport - You can either visit the websites below or your local post office to apply for a new passport or to renew an old one. It can take up to 6 weeks to recieve your passport, also passports must be valid for at least 3 months on entry, so keep that in mind when planning your trip. Canadian, U.K. & U.S. citizens do not need a visa for stays less than 3 months.


Vaccines & Medications - Visit a travel clinic or your health care provider to determine what you will need. You should allow up to 8 weeks before you travel to recieve all of your vaccinations and for them to take effect. You should also budget a few hundred dollars as it can get very expensive to take all the recommended vaccinations and medications. At the very least you should make sure all of your routine shots are up to date (measles, tetanus, etc.), get the yellow fever shot (it can be hard to enter Senegal without it) and pills for malaria. It is also a good idea to bring anti-diarrheal medicine. Visit the websites below for more information.

Centers for Disease Control
World Health Organization

J’apprends le Wolof / I’m Learning Wolof

I am in the process of translating the Wolof lesson book “J’apprends le Wolof” by Jean-Léopold Diouf & Marina Yaguello (published by Karthala) from French into English. I will try to post a page here every week. I am leaving for Senegal in a few weeks so I don’t know how often I will be able to post while I am gone. I will start here with the cover. Note: I am not a French speaker so many of my translations may not be perfect, however I am using the many materials I have at my disposal to make the best translations possible.

FROM THE BACK COVER: The wolof is a language spoken mainly in Senegal and Gambia, but also in Mauritania. This is one of the six languages used officially in Senegal for communication in the media and education.

About 40% of Senegalese speak wolof as their mother language and 40% use wolof as a lingua franca. Hence the importance for anyone who wants to know Senegal, whether resident, cooperating, businessman or tourist, to learn wolof.

The book may also be useful for teachers in national languages, which will find many exercises drafted on the basis of official spelling.

This method allows learning to acquire alone or with a guide a variety of wolof which reflects fairly well through the use wolophones native urbanized.

Jean-Leopold Diouf holds a Ph. D. in African linguistics. He is a researcher at the Center of Applied Linguistics of Dakar and professor of wolof at the Alliance Francaise.

Marina Yaguello is an aggregate Doctor of Letters and lecturer at the University of Paris VII. She has taught linguistics at the University of Dakar and is the author of numerous books.

men and societies

Cover: Photo Vivant Univers “Living Universe”

english n. wolof / french - A

english n. wolof / french


abandon v. baayi, wocca / abandonner
abdomen n. naxa / abdomen
ability n. mën, mun / capacité
ablaze v. taaka / feu
abnormal v. doyadi / anormal
above adv. kow, tiim / au-dessus
abroad adv. betimraw / à l’étranger
abscess n. taab / abcès
abundant adj. bari, las, naax, yomba / abondantes
accept v. nongu, nangu, taa / accepter
accommodate v. xajal, yaatal / tenir compte de
accompany v. aanda, gungeé / accompagner
accomplish v. def, jaloore, jeéku / accomplir
accuse v. jiiñ, laa, tam, tiiñal, tuumaal / accusent
accustom v. miin, tamm / habituer
ache v. metti, mettit / ache
achievement n. ngoóra / réalisation
acknowledge v. falé / reconnaître
acre n. waar / acre
across adv. jacarlow, jublu / parmi

Some Facts & Figures About Senegal

12,853,259 (July 2008 est.)

Wolof 43.3%, Pular 23.8%, Serer 14.7%, Jola 3.7%, Mandinka 3%, Soninke 1.1%, European and Lebanese 1%, other 9.4%

Muslim 94%, Christian 5% (mostly Roman Catholic), indigenous beliefs 1%

French (official), Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka

Tropical; hot, humid; rainy season (May to November) has strong southeast winds; dry season (December to April) dominated by hot, dry, harmattan wind.

Source: CIA - The World Factbook,

A Little About the Wolof Language

Wolof is a language spoken in Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania and to a lesser degree in other west African countries, and it is the native language of the ethnic group of the Wolof people. Like the neighboring language Fula, it belongs to the Atlantic branch of the Niger-Congo language family. Unlike most other languages of Sub-Sarahan Africa, Wolof is not a tonal language.

Wolof is the most widely spoken language in Senegal, spoken not only by members of the Wolof ethnic group but also by most other Senegalese. Wolof dialects may vary between countries (Senegal and the Gambia) and the rural and urban areas. “Dakar-Wolof“, for instance, is an urban mixture of Wolof, French, Arabic, and even a little English spoken in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

“Wolof” is the standard spelling, and is a term that may also refer to the Wolof ethnic group or to things originating from Wolof culture or tradition. As an aid to pronunciation, some older French publications use the spelling “Ouolof”; for the same reason, some English publications adopt the spelling “Wollof”, predominantly referring to Gambian Wolof. Prior to the 20th Century, the forms “Volof”, and “Olof” were used.

About 40 percent (approximately 3.2 million people) of Senegal’s population speak Wolof as their mother tongue. An additional 40 percent of the population speak Wolof as a second or acquired language. In the whole region from Dakar to Saint-Louis, and also west and southwest of Kaolack, Wolof is spoken by the vast majority of the people. Typically when various ethnic groups in Senegal come together in cities and towns, they speak Wolof. It is therefore spoken in almost every regional and departmental capital in Senegal. The official language of Senegal is French.

Source: Wikipedia,

General Greetings / Salutations Général (Dialog)

Omar: Salaamaaleekum. Peace be upon you.
Moodu: Maaleekum salaam. Peace return to you.
Omar: Jaama ngaam? Do you have peace?
Moodu: Jaama rek. Peace only. (I’m fine.)
Omar: Naka nga def? How are you?
Moodu: Maangi fi rek. I am here only. (I’m fine.)
Omar: Sa yaram jaama? Is your body in peace? (How is your health?)
Moodu: Jaama rek. Peace only.
Omar: Ana waa ker gi? Where are the people of the house? (How is your family?)
Moodu: Nunga fa. They are there. (They’re fine.)
Omar: Mbaa defunu dara. I hope nothing is wrong with them.
Moodu: Deedeet, defunu dara. No, nothing is wrong with them.
Omar: Naka ligeey bi? How is the work? (How is work?)
Moodu: Maangi si kowam ndanka, ndanka. I am on it slowly, slowly. (I’m taking it easy.)

French Vocabulary - L & M

Vocabulaire Français - L & M

law juridique
linguistics linguistique
literary littéraire
masculine masculin
mathematics mathématiques
medicine médecine
music musique

A Short History on Senegal

Archaeological findings throughout the area indicate that Senegal was inhabited in prehistoric times. Islam established itself in the Senegal River valley in the 11th century. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the area came under the influence of the Mandingo empires to the east; the Jolof Empire of Senegal also was founded during this time.

Various European powers - Portugal, the Netherlands, and England - competed for trade in the area from the 15th century onward, until in 1677, France ended up in possession of what had become an important slave trade departure point - the infamous island of Gorée next to modern Dakar.

In January 1959, Senegal and the French Sudan merged to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent on June 20, 1960. The Federation broke up on August 20, 1960. Senegal and Sudan (renamed the Republic of Mali) proclaimed independence. Léopold Senghor, internationally known poet, politician, and statesman, was elected Senegal’s first president in August 1960.

After the breakup of the Mali Federation, President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia governed together under a parliamentary system. In December 1962, their political rivalry led to an attempted coup by Prime Minister Dia. The coup was put down without bloodshed and Dia was arrested and imprisoned. Senegal adopted a new constitution that consolidated the President’s power. In 1980, President Senghor retired from politics, and handed power over to his handpicked successor, Abdou Diouf, in 1981.

Senegal joined with The Gambia to form the nominal confederation of Senegambia on February 1, 1982. However, the envisaged integration of the two countries was never carried out, and the union was dissolved in 1989. Despite peace talks, a southern separatist group in the Casamance region has clashed sporadically with government forces since 1982.

Abdou Diouf was president between 1981 and 2000. Diouf served four terms as President. In the presidential election of 2000, he was defeated in a free and fair election by opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade. Senegal experienced its second peaceful transition of power, and its first from one political party to another.

Senegal remains one of the most stable democracies in Africa. Senegal was ruled by a Socialist Party for 40 years until current President Abdoulaye Wade was elected in 2000. He was reelected in February 2007, but complaints of fraud led opposition parties to boycott June 2007 legislative polls.

Source: Wikipedia,

French Vocabulary - G, H & I

Vocabulaire Français - G, H & I

geography géographie
geology géologie
geometry géometrie
grammar grammaire
historical historique
interjection interjection
invariable invariable

French Vocabulary - E & F

Vocabulaire Français - E & F

economics économie
education éducation
electricity électricité
english anglais
especially surtout
euphemism euphémisme
familiar familier
feminine féminin
figurative figuré
finance finance
formal formel

Grocery List

I used French for the Wolof when I was not able to find a Wolof word. Please leave a comment if you know the appropriate Wolof word for the ones I missed…jërejëf!

bread mbuuru pain
cheese fromage fromage
red onion soble xonxa oignon rouge
cooking spray la cuisine de pulvérisation la cuisine de pulvérisation
tomato tamaate tomate
bananas le secteur de la banane le secteur de la banane
orange juice jus d’orange jus d’orange
potatoes pompitéer pommes de terre
ketchup sauce tomate sauce tomate
sausage yaapa saucisse
green onion soble werta oignon vert
bell peppers poobar poivron
eggs nen oeufs

French Vocabulary - B & C

Vocabulaire Français - B & C

biology biologie
botany botanique
british britannique
chemistry chimie
commerce commerce
computers informatique
conjunction conjonction
cooking cuisine

Sunday, June 22, 2008

French Vocabulary - A

Vocabulaire Français - A

abbreviations abréviations
adjective adjectif
adverb adverbe
agriculture agriculture
anatomy anatomie
and et
architecture architecture
astrology astrologie
astronomy astronomie
attributive devant le nom
auxiliary auxiliare
aviation aviation

French - Getting Around

A quelle heure part ... ? - What time does the ... leave?

le bateau - the boat

le bus - the bus

le bac - ferry

l'avion - the plane

le train - the train

le tramway - the tram

Le ... bus passe a quelle heure? - What time's the ... bus?

premier - first

dernier - last

prochain - next

Combien d'arrers jusqu'a ... ? - How many stops to ... ?

Est-ce que cette place est occupee? - Is this seat taken?

C'est ma place. - That's my seat.

Pouvez-vous me dire quand nous arrivons a ... ? - Can you tell me when we get to ... ?

Je veux descendre ... - I want to get off ...

a ... - at ...

ici - here


Hausa is the Chadic language with the largest number of speakers, spoken as a first language by about 24 million people, and as a second language by about 15 million more.

rain - ruwan sama

razor - reza

registered mail - wasik'a ta rajista

rent - yi hayar

repair - gyara

reservation - kama d'aki

restaurant - gidan cin abinci

return - koma

road - hanya

room - d'aki

French - Enviromental

l'environnement - the environment

biodegradable - biodegradable

conservation - conservation

deforestation - deforestation

jetable - disposable

secheresse - drought

ecosysteme - ecosystem

especes en voie de disparition - endangered species

chasse - hunting

hydro-electricite - hydroelectricity

irrigation - irrigation

energie nucleaire - nuclear energy

essais nucleaires - nuclear testing

couche d'ozone - the ozone layer

pesticides - pesticides

pollution - pollution

recyclable - recyclable

programme de recyclage - recycling program

dechets toxiques - toxic waste

approvisionnement en eau - water supply

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Ay Baatu Waxtaan

More time & directions…

Phrases To Practice / Phrases à la pratique

Ban waxtu moo jot? - What time is it?

Minwi jotna. - It is midnight.

Fukki waxtu ak ñaar jotna. - It is noon.

Naka laa fay demee? - How do I get there?

Ci wetu jumaa ji. - Next to the mosque.

Toppal yoon wi. - Follow this road.

Xam nga fan la? - Do you know where it is?

Kan ngay ñew? - When are we arriving?

A Words

Gambian Wolof…

aifaare - pagan
aik - climb
aikerty - lift/elevate
ailake - tomorrow
aina - mold
ainay - wish
alcarly - village leader
alfun - million
alheames - thursday
almet - match
almorre - cupboard
altineh - monday
am - have
amna - there is/is there
anndah - incense burner
antal - able
arba - lend
arbalanteh - share
arca - confront
arch - hang

Time & Directions

Midi Jotna. - It is noon.

Netti waxtu ci ngoon jotna. - It is three in the afternoon.

Jubelal ci biir dekk ba. - Keep going straight through the town.

Ci ñaari waxtu la nuy egg. - We are arriving at two o’clock.

Da ngay tallal ci kanam. - Straight ahead.

Naari waxtu ci suba jotna. - It is two in the morning.

Kan ngay dem? - When are we going?

Ci kanamu jumaa ji. - Across from the mosque.

Fukki waxtu teg na ñeent fukki i simili ak juroóm. - It is ten forty five.

Wolof Lim Ak Xaalis

Wolof Numbers & Money

In Senegal they use the franc CFA (Communauté financière d’Afrique). But the traditional unit of currency is the dërëm which is counted by fives. Usually when dealing with money most people will deal strictly with the French terms for simplicity. If Wolof is used the dërëm is implied if not specifically said. So in the example below junni is 5000, not 1000, even though dërëm has been left off.

teemeeri dërëm = 500 CFA
(100 x 5 = 500)

ñaari teemeeri dërëm = 1000 CFA
(2 x 100 x 5 = 1000)

ñetti teemeeri dërëm = 1500 CFA
(3 x 100 x 5 = 1500)

juróom benni teemeeri dërëm = 3000 CFA
(5 + 1 x 100 x 5 = 3000)

juróom ñetti teemeeri dërëm = 4000 CFA
(5 + 3 x 100 x 5 = 4000)

junni = 5000 CFA
(1000 x 5 = 5000)

I do not know if this is common or just happened to be the people I was around but instead of, for example, saying ‘fifteen hundred‘ as we might say in the USA for 1500, they would say ‘one thousand five hundred‘. Also CFA is pronounced like ‘see-uff-uh‘ almost like ‘safer‘ with an odd accent.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


The Diola people inhabit the Casamance region of Senegal, and also southwestern Gambia, where their name is spelt Jola. Their language is Diola or Jola, not to be confused with the Dioula or Dyola spoken in Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire. Diola society is segmented and very flexible, so several dialects have developed which may not be mutually intelligible between groups even though the area inhabited by the Diola is relatively small.

Hello/Welcome. - kah-sou-mai-kep
Greetings. (reply) - kah-sou-mai-kep
Goodbye. - ou-kah-to-rrah

Borrowed from Lonely Planet’s The Gambia & Senegal; 3rd Edition.

10 More Random Wolof Words

Courtesy of

  1. jula, , trader, peddler of foods, to trade
  2. teret, n , trading season
  3. daaj, , to nail (see pontu)
  4. digal, , to advise, caution, instruct
  5. jaaj, , large mound of cous in field
  6. garaw, , danger
  7. faas, , beard
  8. mbóótaay, n , to be last
  9. raakaaju, adj. , to get mad , be crazy
  10. gaanga, , wishing for s/o to go away

See original list.

Religious Terms 2

Words & phrases with religious significance starting with the letter B.

Many of these terms may actually be Arabic or Wolofized Arabic. Many Wolof speakers practice Islam which uses the Arabic language.

baakaar, bakaar - sin, evil
baawaan - religious ceremony to pray for rain
Baay Faal - a type of Mourit (Mouride) follower, characterized by long hair (dreadlocks), etc.
baraka - blessing
baraka Alla, barak’Allah fik - with God’s blessing, may the blessings of Allah be upon you (used to thank someone)
barke - blessing
barkeel - to benefit from a blessing
bataaaxal, bataxel - letter, circular letter (generally prophesying the future)
bayere - a charm for happiness; to be popular
biddaa - belief, superstition
billaay, billaxi - by God
bisimilaay, bisimilayi, bisimilaahi - in the name of God
bismillah ar rahman ar rahim - in Allah’s name most gracious most merciful
bootal - man in charge of newly circumcised boys
boroom daara - head of a religious school
bu soobee Yalla - if it pleases God

See Religious Terms 1.

Sample Dialog

Adopted from 101 Languages of the World. Please mouse over each word for a direct translation.

Mme Jóob: Naka suba ngi? Dégg nga Angale?
Good morning. Do you speak English?

M. Mbaye: Jéggël ma, déggu ma Angale.
I’m sorry, I do not speak English.

Mme Jóob: Lu ko yaq, tuuti Wolof rekk la dégg.
Unfortunately, I speak only a little Wolof.

M. Mbaye: Baax na. Xam naa li nga wax. Sa lammiñ setna lool.
That’s alright. I understand you. You speak very well.

Mme Jóob: Jëre-jëf.
Thank you.

M. Mbaye: Yendul ak jamm!
Have a nice day!

A note on the usage of ‘Mme’ and ‘M.’, Mme is the French abbreviation for Madame the English equivalent being Mrs., it is not followed by a period. M., is the French abbreviation for Monsieur the English equivalent being Mr., it is always followed by a period. Although I did not do it here last names usually have every letter capitalized when in print in Senegal. Although Mme/Madame and M./Monsieur is very common in Senegal you may want to use the Wolof equivalents which are Soxna si and Góor gi respectively.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

10 Random Wolof Words

Courtesy of

  1. lef, n , thing
  2. naju, adj. , be compressed
  3. téng, , tight
  4. baatale, verb , to leave a message with someone for somebody
  5. set, , clean
  6. goox, v , to hold liquid ones mouth
  7. delēne, , cluster of stars
  8. folé, , elastic
  9. loolu, dem adj. , that thing (over there)
  10. Angalteer, n , England

Travel Vocabulary IV

See Travel Vocabulary III


Here are a few things that you may come across if traveling to Senegal or the Gambia.

bazin - dyed fabrics that are beaten to a shine with wooden clubs

campement - could be loosely translated as 'hostel', 'inn' or 'lodge', or even 'motel'; it is not a camping ground (Senegal)

djembe - short, goat hide-covered drum

fromager - kapok tree; also known as silk-cotton tree (Senegal)

gasoil - diesel fuel

Inch' Allah - God willing, ie hopefully (Arabic, but used by Muslims in Africa)

marabout - Muslim holy man

paillote - shelter with thatched roof and walls; usually on the beach or around an open-air bar-restaurant (Senegal)

sai-sai - Wolof term for a womanizer; also used for youngsters smooth-talking women, usually with sexual but sometimes criminal intentions

telecentre - privately owned telephone bureau (Gambia)

Thanks to Lonely Planet’s The Gambia & Senegal; 3rd Edition.

Religious Terms

Words & phrases with religious significance starting with the letter A.

Many of these terms may actually be Arabic or Wolofized Arabic. Many Wolof speakers practice Islam which uses the Arabic language.

ajaratu - title given to a woman who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca
aji Makka - to go to Mecca
aj gi - the pilgrimage
Aji - title given to a woman who has made the pilgrimage
ajjana, aljana, arjana - heaven, paradise
allaaji, alxaaji - title of a man who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca
allaaxira - the next world
alla-akubaar, allahu-akbar - God is great
alxamdulillaa - praise be to God
alxuraan - the Koran
amiin - amen
astafurlaa - may God forgive, God help us. (an exclamation of astonishment)
atte Yalla la - it is the judgement of God, it is fate

Travel Vocabulary III

See Travel Vocabulary II


Here are a few things that you may come across if traveling to Senegal or the Gambia.

auberge - hostel or small hotel

balafon - wooden xylophone typically played by griots

calèche - horse-drawn cart used to carry goods and people, particularly in the rural regions of Senegal

dibiterie - grilled-meat stall

fête - festival (Senegal)

gargotte - basic eating house or stall (Senegal)

IMF - International Monetary Fund

kora - 21-string harp-lute

maison de passage - very basic place to sleep, often near bus stations; with a bed or mat on the floor and little else, and nearly always doubling as a brothel; also called chambres de passage

Ndiaga Ndiaye - white Mercedes bus, used as public transport; also called alham (Senegal)

pagne - length of cloth worn around the waist as a skirt (Senegal)

quartier - area

sabar - tall, thin, hourglass drum

taxi-brousse - bush taxi (Senegal)

village artisanal - craft market (Senegal)

zouk - style of music, originally from Guadeloupe, that mixes African and Latin-American rhythms

Thanks to Lonely Planet's The Gambia & Senegal; 3rd Edition.

Weather or not

The weather is … today.

  • cold sehda
  • cool sehda
  • hot tarnga

It’s going to rain.
Dafa werra tarw.

It’s …

  • raining tarw
  • drizzling wiswesal
  • thundering dainu
  • cloudy heene

Weights & Measures

Gambian dialect

foot - foot

gallon - gallon

gram - gram

kilogram - kilo

kilometer - kilo

liter - leebahre

meter - meter

mile - mile

ounce - ounce

pound - pound

yard - yard

hmmm…not much different than standard English, eh?

English > Français > Olaf

baby > bébé > néné
cow > vache > nag
east > est > penku
god > dieu > yaala
milk > lait > mééw
pain > douleur > miitē
truth > vérité > duuga
soap > savon > saabo

Culture Notes - Greetings

Extended greetings are an important part of social interaction and many doors will open for you if you are capable of exchanging simple greeting phrases in the local language. Even a few words make a big difference.

Most areas are Islamic, and upon entering someone’s home, announce your arrival with a confident ‘Salaam aleikum’ (peace be with you), and your presence will be acknowledged with ‘Aleikum salaam’ (and peace be with you).

This is followed by inquiries about your health, the health of your family, the state of your affairs and those of your children. You’re never expected to give an honest answer at this point. In Gambia things are always fine; in Senegal the response is always ‘Ça va’. Never mind the real troubles that might be plaguing you - these can be mentioned later in the conversation.

Although it’s not necessary for foreigners to go through the whole routine, it’s important to use greetings whenever possible. Even if you’re just changing money, negotiating a taxi fee or asking directions, precede your request with a simple. ‘Hello, how are you? Can you help me please?’, rather than plunging right in.

Borrowed from; The Gambia & Senegal, Lonely Planet, 3rd Edition, 2006

Wolof mots de vocabulaire

Wolof vocabulary words

bennen, benen - another
bennen u xarit am - another of his friends

doonte - if it were
doonte man … - if it were me …

garab g (garap) - tree; medicine
ci kow garab gi - up the tree

jappa - to seize, catch ; to suit
jappa biir - to become pregnant

lu - whatever
lu dul - unless

munga, munge, mungi - he is …
munga fa - he is over there (remote)

ñeppa - all
ñun ñeppa xam nañu - we all know them

raxas - to wash (clothes, utensils, etc.)
mu raxas leket bi be mu set - she washed the calabash until it was clean

suma - my
suma xaalis ak sa xaalis - my money and your money

tollo - to measure height
tollo ak … - to be the same size as …

waññi - to lower a price, reduce
waññi ko waay - please lower it

yobbu - to carry, to take away
soo demee, yobbaale ma - when you go, take me with you

In case of emergency…

Help! - Wóoy! (wohy)

Call an ambulance! - Wooyal ma ambilaans bi! (woh-yal ma am-bi-laans bee)
Call a doctor! - Wooyal ma doktoor! (woh-yal ma dok-tohr)
Call the police! - Wooyal ma alkaati! (woh-yal ma al-kaa-tee)

Travel Vocabulary II

See Travel Vocabulary I


Here are a few things that you may come across if traveling to Senegal or the Gambia.

alham - white Mercedes bus, also called N'Diaga N'Diaye in Dakar

beignet - simple deep-fried donut (Senegal)

calesh - horse-drawn taxi usually seating about three people behind the driver

demi-pension - half board (dinner, bed and breakfast) (Senegal)

essence - petrol (gas) for car (Senegal)

fanals - large lanterns; also the processions during which the lanterns are carried through the streets

gare routière - bus and bush-taxi station, (also called autogare and gare voiture) (Senegal)

hôtel de ville - town hall (Senegal)

in sha' Allah - God willing, ie, hopefully (Arabic, but used by Muslims in Africa)

lumo - weekly market, usually in border areas

mairie - town hall; mayor's office (Senegal)

paletuviers - mangroves (Senegal)

quatre-quatre - four-wheel-drive car (4WD or 4x4)

riz yollof - vegetables and/or meat cooked in a sauce of oil and tomatoes

Senegambia - the region of Senegal and Gambia

tampon hygiénique - tampon (also tampon periodique and serviette hygiénique) (Senegal)

yassa poulet - grilled chicken marinated in an onion-and-lemon sauce (Senegal)

Thanks to Lonely Planet's The Gambia & Senegal; 2nd Edition.

Basic French Numbers

Nombres francais de base































I have noticed when listening to Wolof speaking people they tend to use French numbers (or sometimes even English) rather than Wolof numbers.

Some Essential Wolof Phrases

“Expressions Ouolof Essentielles”

Na nga def. - Hello. (singular)
Na ngeen def. - Hello everybody. (plural)
Jaam nga fanane. - Good morning.
Jamm nga yendoo. - Good afternoon.
Fanaanal jaam. - Goodnight.
Ba beneen. - Goodbye.
Su la nexee. - Please.
Jai-rruh-jef. - Thank you.
Agsil. - You’re welcome. (singular)
Agsileen ak jaam. - You’re all welcome. (plural)
Baal ma. - Sorry./Pardon.
Wau. - Yes.
Deh-det. - No.
Jaam nga am? - Have you peace? (How are you?)
Jaam rek. - Peace only. (I’m fine.)
Yow nag? - And you?
Naka-nga sant? - What’s your first name?
Maa ngi tudd … . - My name is … .
Fan nga dahk? - Where do you live?
Fan nga joghe? - Where are you from? (singular)
Fan ngeen joghe? - Where are you all from? (plural)
Maa ngi joghe les USA. - I’m from the USA.
Deg nga Angale? - Do you speak English?
Deg nga Faranse? - Do you speak French?
Angale rekk laa degg. - I speak only English.
Degg naa tuuti Faranse. - I speak a little French.
Mahn deggumah Wolof. - I don’t speak Wolof.
Mahn deggumah Faranse. - I don’t speak French.
Degguma. - I don’t understand.
Dama bahggoon … . - I’d like … .
Fahn la … ? - Where is … ?
Soreh na? - Is it far?
Cha kanam. - Straight ahead.
Chammoon. - Left.
Ndeyjoor. - right.
Dugghal waay! - Get in!
Lii naata? - How much is this?
Seer na torob. - It’s too much.
May ma jaam! - Leave me alone!

Arabic/Islamic Phrases

Assalamu alaykum. - Peace be upon you.
Wa alaikumus salam. - And peace be upon you. (reply to above)
Allahu akbar. - Allah is greater. (takbir)
Al hamdu lilah wa shukru lillah. - Praise belongs to Allah and all thanks to Allah.
Bismillah ar rahman ar rahim. - In Allah’s name, most gracious, most merciful.
Insh’Allah. - If Allah wills. (referring to a future action)
Mash’Allah. - What Allah wishes. (indicates good omen)

Days of the Week / Bési Ayubés Bi

Wolof names for the days of the week are mostly adopted from Arabic.

As usual you can mouse over for the French translations as well.

Monday - Alteneh / Altinay / Altine [al-ti-ney]
Tuesday - Talarta / Talata / Talaata [ta-laa-ta]
Wednesday - Arlahrba / Alarba / Àllarba [al-lar-ba]
Thursday - Alheames / Alxamess / Alxames [al-kha-mes]
Friday - Arjuma / Ajuma / Àjjuma [aj-ju-ma]
Saturday - Gaaw / Gaawo / Gaawu [gaa-woo]
Sunday - Dibéér / Dibeer / Dibéer [dee-beyr]

Saturday may also be known as Aséér. (found this trans. in a Gambian source)

New Opposites List

New List Thanks To Tubaab bu jigeen
See The Original List & Comments Here “Opposites Attract”

beginning - ending (verb): door/tammbali - jeex/mujj

cheap - expensive: yomb - jafe

easy - difficult: jomb - jafe

friend - enemy: xarit - noon

happy - unhappy: beg - tiis

inside - outside: ci biir - ci biti

enter - get out: duggu - genn

left - right: cammoň - ndeyjoor

near - far: jege - sori

open - close (verb): ubbi - téjj

peace - war: jamm - xare

Random Vocab

These were taken from the Gambian Wolof - English Dictionary By David P. Gamble.

banxa - water lily
caxa - necklace
daay - bush fire, forest fire
kaala - turban
pat - a sore throat
pukkus - storage place, a retreat
raaf - to be destroyed, cease to exist
seey - to dissolve
tanna - to choose
waramba - gown

Notes on Orthography

What’s orthography? It is basically a spelling system. defines it as:

  1. The art or study of correct spelling according to established usage.
  2. The aspect of language study concerned with letters and their sequences in words.
  3. A method of representing a language or the sounds of language by written symbols; spelling.

There are groups such as the IPA (International Phonetic Association) and CLAD (Center of Applied Linguistics of Dakar) that have developed Latin based spelling systems for historically non-written languages such as Wolof. The IPA uses a system with the same acronym as their association called the International Phonetic Alphabet. And although I have repeatedly stated that there is no universal standardized system for the spelling of Wolof words, the system devised by CLAD is probably the most widely used (or at least very close variations of it) and in my opinion the easiest to follow. Below are some examples of the same Wolof word for ‘thank you’ using different orthographies:

jërëjëf (Standardized CLAD spelling)

djeredieuf (Common Francophone spelling)

jayraijayf (Used by Nyima Kantorek in her dictionary)

I have also seen it spelled; jai-rruh-jef, jere-jeff & je-re-jef among a variety of other renditions.

There is also a writing system that was developed for Wolof using the Arabic alphabet. This system is called Wolofal.