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Bambara phrasebook

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Bambara, or Bamanankan is a language in West Africa, mostly in Mali, where it is mother tongue of the Bambara people (30% of the population), and where 80% of the population can communicate in the language. Bambara will also be useful in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Gambia. Together with Dioulé and Malinké it belongs to the Mandekan dialect family, which itself part of the Mande group, which is a Niger-Congo language subgroup.

The language is heavily influenced by French, and even the slightest knowledge of French will make it easier to remember words, and if you don't remember a word you can try to use the French word.


Pronunciation guide

Vowels

like 'a' in "father"
like 'e' in "prey"
ε 
like 'e' in "met"
like 'i' in "police"
like 'o' in "so"
ɔ 
like 'ough' in "bought"
like 'u' in "clue"


There are also long vowels:

  • aa
  • ee
  • εε
  • ii
  • oo
  • ɔɔ
  • uu


and nasal vowels:

  • an
  • en
  • εn
  • in
  • on
  • ɔn
  • un


Consonants

like 'j' in "jay"
ɲ 
like 'ny' in "canyon"
ŋ 
like 'nw'
like 'ch' in "chair"
like 'g' in "get"
like 'h' in "hard"
like 'ss' in "pass" or 'sh' in "shake" (varies by region)

Blends

sh 
like 'sh' in "shore"

Phrase list

Basics

Hello (any time of day) 
i ni ce
How are you? (Are you well?) (to one person
i ka kεnε wa?
How are you? (Are you well?) (to more than one person
Aw ka kεnε?
Fine, thank you. 
kεnε, tɔɔrɔ te, ko tε, tana tε
What is your first name? 
i tɔgɔ?
What is your last name? 
i jamu?
My name is ______ . 
ne tɔgɔ ___
Thank you. 
i ni ce
You're welcome. 
basi tε (literally 'no problem')
Yes. 
awɔɔ
No. 
ayi
Excuse me. (getting attention / begging pardon
(aw ye) hakε to!
I'm sorry. 
a yafa n ma
Goodbye 
k'an bεn
Goodbye (informal
n taara
I can't speak name of language [well]. 
N te se "name of language" la kosebe
I don't speak Bambara very well, but I understand a little 
Ne tε se bamanankan na kosεbε, nka ne b'a men dɔɔnin dɔɔnin.
Do you speak English? 
i bε angilekan men wa?
Is there someone here who speaks English? 
Mogo'in do bε yan, o bε angilekan men?
Help! 
N deme!
Look out! 
I farati!
Good morning. 
aw ni sɔgɔma (several persons around), i ni sɔgɔma (1 person)
Good afternoon 
aw ni tile, i ni tile
Good evening. 
aw ni wula, i ni wula
Good night. 
aw ni su, i ni su
Good night (to sleep
ka su hεεrε
I don't understand. 
n m'a faamu
Where is the toilet? 
nyegan bε min wa?

Problems

Leave me alone. 
N bila sa!
Don't touch me! 
I kana magan n na!
I'll call the police. 
N be na gendarme wele.
Police! 
Police!
Stop! Thief! 
A mine! Zon don!
I need your help. 
N mago be i ka deme na.
It's an emergency. 
It's an emergency.
I'm lost. 
N tununen don.
I lost my bag. 
N ka saki tununa.
I lost my wallet. 
N ka wari tununa.
I'm sick. 
Bana be na.
I've been injured. 
N joki na
I need a doctor. 
N mago be dogotoro la.
Can I use your phone? 
N be be se ka weleli ke ni i ka telephone ye wa?

Numbers

kelen
fila
saba
naani
duurun
wooro
wolonfla
segi
kononto
10 
tan
11 
tan ni kelen
12 
tan ni fla
13 
tan ni saba
14 
tan ni naani
15 
tan ni duurun
16 
tan ni wooro
17 
tan ni wolonfla
18 
tan ni segi
19 
tan ni kononto
20 
mugan
21 
mugan ni kelen
22 
mugan ni fla
23 
mugan ni saaba
30 
bi saba
40 
bi naani
50 
bi duurun
60 
bi wooro
70 
bi wolonfla
80 
bi segi
90 
bi kononto
100 
keme
200 
keme fla
300 
keme saba
1000 
wa (baa) kelen
2000 
wa fla
3451 
wa saba ani keme naani ani biduru ani kelen
1,000,000 
million kelen
1,000,000,000 
milliard kelen
number _____ (train, bus, etc.
half 
tilance
a lot 
caman
a few 
do / doonin

Time

now 
sisan
later 
kofe
before 
nyè
morning 
sɔɔgɔɔma
afternoon 
tilé
evening 
wula
night 
su

Clock time

one o'clock AM 
une heure waati or negue kan nye kelin
two o'clock AM 
deux heure waatior
noon 
midi waati
one o'clock PM 
treize heure waati
two o'clock PM 
quatorze heure waati
midnight 
minuit waati

Prayer times

sunrise 
fajiri waati
approx 2 pm 
lansera waati
approx 4 pm 
sunset
fitiri waati
nightfall
safo waati

Duration

_____ minute(s) 
minuti _____
_____ hour(s) 
heuri _____
_____ day(s) 
don _____
_____ week(s) 
dɔɔgɔɔkun _____
_____ month(s) 
kalo _____
_____ year(s) 
san _____

Days

today 
bi
yesterday 
kunu
tomorrow 
sini
this week 
dogukun in na
last week 
dogukun temena
next week 
dogukun nata / wèrè
Sunday 
kari-don
Monday 
nténé-don
Tuesday 
tarata-don
Wednesday 
araba-don
Thursday 
alamisa-don
Friday 
(gé)juma-don
Saturday 
sibiri-don

Months

January 
Zanwuyé (kalo)
February 
Feburuyé (kalo)
March 
Marsi (kalo)
April 
Awirili (kalo)
May 
Mè (kalo)
June 
Zuwen (kalo)
July 
Zuluyé (kalo)
August 
Uti (kalo)
September 
Sètamburu (kalo)
October 
Oktɔɔburu (kalo)
November 
Nɔɔwanburu (kalo)
December 
Desanburu (kalo)

Writing time and date

The month is always stated first in a date, then the day of the month. For example, January 25, 2008 would be "janvier kalo tile mugan ni duru san baa fila ni segi". A literal translation would be "January month day twenty-five year two thousand and eight." When written with digits, the French tradition of day, month, year is generally followed.

Colors

black 
finman
white 
jèman
gray 
red 
bilenman
blue 
buluman
yellow 
nèrèmugunan
green 
binkeneman
orange 
siramuguman
purple 
brown 
sikoloman

Transportation

Bus and train

How much is a ticket to _____? 
Ka taa ____ ye joli ye?
One ticket to _____, please. 
Billetti kelen ka taa ____.
Where does this train/bus go? 
Mobili / train nin be taa min?
Where is the train/bus to _____? 
Mobili / train min be taa _____ be soro min?
Does this train/bus stop in _____? 
Mobili /train nin be jo _____ wa?
When does the train/bus for _____ leave? 
Mobili / train min be taa _____ waati jumen?
When will this train/bus arrive in _____? 
Mobili / train nin be se _____ waati jumen?

Directions

How do I get to _____ ? 
____ be soro fan jumen fe?
...the train station? 
gare de train
...the bus station? 
autogare
...the airport? 
aeroport
...downtown? 
dugukono
...the youth hostel? 
siyoro / hotel
...the _____ hotel? 
siyoro / hotel
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate? 
Ameriki / Canadien / Australien / Anglezi ambassade / jamanasigiyoro
Where are there a lot of... 
_____ caman be soro min?
...hotels? 
hotel
...restaurants? 
dumuniyorow
...bars? 
dolominyorow
...sites to see? 
Can you show me on the map? 
I be se ka yira n na carti la wa?
street 
sira
Turn left. 
kaa fara numanbolo fe
Turn right. 
kaa fara kinibolo fe
left 
numanbolo (nose hand)
right 
kinibolo (rice hand)
straight ahead 
nyefe
towards the _____ 
_____ fan fe
past the _____ 
_____ ko
before the _____ 
_____ nye
Watch for the _____. 
_____ nyini
intersection 
north 
saheli / kokodugu fe (sahel / salt land way)
south 
worodugu fe (kola land way)
east 
seli fe (prayer way)
west 
tilebin fe (sunset way)
uphill 
san fe
downhill 
duguma fe

Taxi

Taxi! 
Taxi!
Take me to _____, please. 
N b'a fe ka taa _____ (la).
How much does it cost to get to _____? 
Ka taa _____ (la) ye joli ye?
Take me there, please. 
An ka taa yen.

Lodging

Do you have any rooms available? 
Siyoro be wa?
How much is a room for one person/two people? 
Siyoro kelenta / filata ye joli ye?
Does the room come with... 
_____ be soro siyoro la wa?
...bedsheets? 
...couverture?
...a bathroom? 
...tualet / nyegen?
...a telephone? 
...telephone?
...a TV? 
...television?
May I see the room first? 
N be se ka siyoro laje folo wa?
Do you have anything quieter? 
Siyoro do be soro min ...here ka ca nin ye wa?
...bigger? 
...ka bon nin ye wa?
...cleaner? 
...ka sani nin ye wa?
...cheaper? 
...da ka nogon nin ye wa?
OK, I'll take it. 
A ka nyi, n b'a ta.
I will stay for _____ night(s). 
N be na su ____ ke yan.
Can you suggest another hotel? 
Hotel were be soro? I be se ka n bila o sira la?
Do you have a safe? 
Coffru be wa?
...lockers? 
...lockers?
Is breakfast/supper included? 
Daraka / surofana b'a la wa?
What time is breakfast/supper? 
Daraka / surofana be dun waati jumen?
Please clean my room. 
N ka siyoro furan.
Can you wake me at _____? 
I be se kan n lawuli _____ heuri la wa?
I want to check out. 
N b'a fe ka wari sara ka taa.

Money

Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian/British currency? 
N be se k'a sara ni Ameriki / Australien / Canadien / Anglezi wari ye wa?
Do you accept credit cards? 
N be se ka sara ni carti ye wa?
Can you change money for me? 
I be se ka wari falen n ye wa?
Where can I get money changed? 
Wari be falen min?
Can you change a traveler's check for me? 
I be se ka sheki falen wa?
Where can I get a traveler's check changed? 
Sheki nin be falen min?
What is the exchange rate? 
A falen ye joli ye?
How much for one _____? 
_____ kelen kelen ye joli ye?
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)? 
Machine d'argent / warimachine be soro min?

Eating

A table for one person/two people, please. 
Can I look at the menu, please? 
N be se ka menu laje wa, sa?
Can I look in the kitchen? 
N be se ka gwa laje wa?
Is there a house specialty? 
Is there a local specialty? 
I'm a vegetarian. 
n te sogo dun
I don't eat pork. 
n te lesogo dun
I don't eat beef. 
n te misisogo dun
Can you make it "lite", please? (less oil/butter/lard
aw kana tulu caman k'a la [don't put a lot of oil on it]
fixed-price meal 
à la carte 
breakfast 
daraka
lunch 
tilela fana, tilerɔ
tea (meal
supper 
sula fana, surɔfana
I want _____. 
ne bε _____ fε
I want a dish containing _____. 
N be dumuni min fe, ____ b'o la.
chicken 
shεsogo
beef 
mishisogo
fish 
jègè
ham 
lesogo
soda 
buasan
sausage 
cheese 
fromagi
eggs 
shεfan
salad, lettuce 
salati
(fresh) vegetable 
nako fen (garden things)
(fresh) fruit 
yiri den (tree children)
bread 
buru, nbuuru
toast 
noodles 
macaroni (yes, just like english, but applies to nearly all pasta)
rice 
malo (uncooked), kini (cooked)
mais 
kaba
orange 
lemru-ba, lenburuba
lemon, lime 
lenburu
pineapple 
jabibi
banana 
namasa
plantain 
baranda, loko
guava 
buyaki
papaya 
manje
peanut 
tiga
beans 
sho
May I have a glass of _____? 
May I have a cup of _____? 
May I have a bottle of _____? 
... galama ...
coffee 
kafe, kafe-ji
tea (drink
te
_____ juice 
____ ji
(bubbly) water 
water 
ji
milk 
nɔnɔ
beer 
bieri
alcohol 
dolo
red/white wine 
May I have some _____? 
ne be se ka ____ soro wa?
salt 
kɔkɔ
black pepper 
butter 
Excuse me, waiter? (getting attention of server)
terike!
I'm finished. 
n fara (I'm full)
It was delicious. 
a djarra, aw ni gwa
Please clear the plates. 
aw ka assiettiw ta.
The check, please. 
aw ka na ni addition ye.

Bars

Do you serve alcohol? 
eska dolo be wa?
Is there table service? 
Is there table service?
A beer/two beers, please. 
castel bilibili ba, castel bilibiliba fila, sil vous plais.
A glass of red/white wine, please. 
A glass of red/white wine, please.
A pint, please. 
A pint, please.
A bottle, please. 
A bottle, please.
_____ (hard liquor) and _____ (mixer), please. 
_____ and _____, please.
whiskey 
whiskey
vodka 
vodka
rum 
rum
water 
water
club soda 
club soda
tonic water 
tonic water
orange juice 
orange juice
Coke (soda
Coke
Do you have any bar snacks? 
Do you have any bar snacks?
One more, please. 
One more, please.
Another round, please. 
Another round, please.
When is closing time? 
When is closing time?

Shopping

Do you have this in my size? 
Do you have this in my size?
How much is this? 
Nin ye joli ye?
That's too expensive. 
abadika, A ka cha. Do bo a la [cheaper please]
Would you take _____? 
Would you take _____?
expensive 
ka galan (literally - too heavy)
cheap 
ma galan (literally - not heavy)
I can't afford it. 
wardi ne be n'bolo. (literally - the money is not in my hand)
I don't want it. 
N t'a fe. [note: once you have made an offer you are obligated to purchase]
You're cheating me. 
Namara ka cha.
I'm not interested. 
I'm not interested. (..)
OK, I'll take it. 
Ayiwa, n be fe k'a san.
Can I have a bag? 
mahnah be wa? (literally - do you have plastic)
Do you ship (overseas)? 
Do you ship (overseas)?
I need... 
...toothpaste. 
...pahtay de dent. (French)
...a toothbrush. 
...brassay de dent (French)
...tampons. 
...tampons.
...soap. 
...safine.
...shampoo. 
...shampoo.
...pain reliever. (e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen
...Kungaloo Keesay. (literally head-seed)or Kungaloo furu
...cold medicine. 
...moora fooroo.
...stomach medicine. 
...kono baara fooroo.
...a razor. 
...lamu. (French)
...an umbrella. 
...para pluie. (French)
...sunblock lotion. 
...sunblock lotion.
...a postcard. 
...a postcard.
...postage stamps. 
...tambaru. (French)
...batteries. 
...pilew.
...writing paper. 
...papieri ka seben.
...a pen. 
...biki.
...English-language books. 
...anglakan livuru.
...English-language magazines. 
...English-language magazines.
...an English-language newspaper. 
...an English-language newspaper.
...an English-English dictionary. 
...anglikan dickshow.

Driving

I want to rent a car. 
I want to rent a car.
Can I get insurance? 
Can I get insurance?
stop (on a street sign
stop
one way 
one way
yield 
yield
no parking 
no parking
speed limit 
speed limit
gas (petrol) station 
gas station
petrol 
petrol
diesel 
diesel

Authority

I haven't done anything wrong. 
I haven't done anything wrong.
It was a misunderstanding. 
It was a misunderstanding.
Where are you taking me? 
Where are you taking me?
Am I under arrest? 
Am I under arrest?
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen. 
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen.
I want to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate. 
I need to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate.
I want to talk to a lawyer. 
I want to talk to a lawyer.
Can I just pay a fine now? 
Can I just pay a fine now?

Learning more

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


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