My Marshallese Vocabulary

September 12, 2011

  The biggest downside to Sky being in daycare is that we don't have a nanny.  This means that Sky isn't getting the regular exposure to the Marshallese language that we wanted for her and sadly, despite my best (and sometimes worst) efforts, I have yet to find a Marshallese language teacher.  I am pretty baffled as to why I've had such a hard time finding one, since I live in the Marshalls, but I think a big part of it is that I don't work with any Marshallese (there are 3 people in my department) so I don't have regular contact with many native speakers.  I have a very good language manual but Marshallese pronunciation doesn't always follow the written language and I learn best by hearing someone say something and then repeating it. 
  Before we went to Majuro to adopt Sky, we got a list of words from a friend who teaches on Santo (Ennibur) and we've gradually been building on it.  Here's what we know so far:

jahb: no
jahb jeebway: no touch
nana: bad
aynana: that's bad, it's bad
kway nana: you're bad (used very rarely)
babu: lie down
kigi: sleep
eedrak: drink
mongai: eat, food
enno: good, edible
awa in: time (eg: awa in mongai , awa in kigi)
tah: what
mwayo: home
draylon: inside, enter
nahbwejj: outside
yukaray: play
muhtuhm: friends
mejjahm: face/eye
ningning: baby
likatoo: pretty
lakatoo: handsome
etal: go
im: and
ibwen: with
jahb jang: no cry
jahb lemwayjj: no scream
jahb kororo: no talk
jewdok: get up
kia: now
emon: good
emon tata: great
aton: dirty
komol tata: thank you very much
lahlay: look, watch
sheejjit: sit
ijjin: here
laytok: give
raynin: today
eelayjju: tomorrow
tudu: swim, bathe
yokwe: hello
bar lo yoke: see you later
lo yoke illejju: see you tomorrow
ejj: it
ejj emon waht: everything's fine
kakeejay: chill out, relax
cudu: dog
coos: cat
bubu: grandma
mama: mama
baba: daddy
ejj etahm moor?: how are you?
emon, ah kway?:  I'm good, and you?
ebwe: so-so
ejjahng: sad
etam?:  What is your name?
eta im..: My name is...
jjuon: one
ruo: two
cheelu: three
emmen: four
lalem: five
jijuno: six
jimjuon: seven
ralitok: eight
ratimjuon: nine
jonguol: ten
etal ngan eea?:  Where are you going?
rej etal ngan mon wea: let's go to the store
mon wea: to buy
rej etal ngan...: let's go to the (eg: etal ngan school, let's go to school)
bohkatohk: bring it here
anmeen: left
anmohn: right
lowahn: in
kahtaan: between
yawn: on
lahl: down
luhlung: up
mohlok: forward
likalok: backward
ngay: if
komonemuhn: be gentle, be kind
jab kajangay: don't make him/her cry
ekatahk: learn/study
ejj ekatahk kajjeen marjel: I'm learning Marshallese
ayin: time to
ayin ekatahk English kia: It's time to study English now
morong: can/ possible
eebahn: now way/ impossible
ellamin ahn pa: how do you say...
kojjelay ka tee-en: I don't know
paramok pa: say it again
see-low: slow
mahkahj: fast
sibahng nga: help me
jahb inah bada: no problem
jahb kahgeel: behave
karrayo: clean up

* A note on pronunciation:  All the words above are pronounced with the American English letter sounds except the r's which are pronouced with a trill like a Spanish r and the jj which is said like the second g in "garage"  The "ng" is pronounced like "ing" without the i..

  We use most of these words every day with Sky and she knows what they mean and will respond properly.  I am really hoping to find a teacher soon so that I can teach her more of the language.  I'll keep you posted and add new words as we learn them.


  1. Just came across your blog a few days ago. I love it because:
    1.) You live in Kwaj. I long to live on Kwaj someday. I shall live vicariously thru your (and others' that I have found) posts
    2.) You have the exact same backdrop as my blog! (Hooray for Dandelions.)
    3.) KIDDO! I am a teacher and mommy and parent-educator and love all things kid-related. So fun to read about the joys of parenting.

    Thanks for letting others share in your adventures. :)

  2. Replies
    1. Marshallese doesn't have it's own word for family so they use a transliteration of the English word: bamily.

    2. bamile (bah·muh·leh)

  3. I just found your blog through your YouTube tutorial videos. I am a labor nurse in an area with a rapidly growing Marshallese population and would love to pick up a few words to help out my patients. Your videos have already proven invaluable, but I was hoping to contact you for help with a few other more specific terms I would like to learn. Things like "Push" as a command, "pregnant", "breathe", etc. Would it be possible to email you directly? Thank you so much!

  4. Hi there! I'd be happy to help. You can reach me at ambermbates(at)gmail(dot)com.

  5. This is an awesome guide! I'm hoping to become fluent in this language, as my fiance is marshallese and I want to be able to better communicate with my in-laws 😊


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