Whenever you learn a foreign language, there comes a time when you should finally put your knowledge to use. It’s never easy and always stressful, because you are painfully aware that you are most certainly going to make mistakes. Despite this, you know – you just know – you have to try. So today, I am trying.

Iọkwe aolep! [Hello everyone!]

Eṃṃan mour? [How are you?]

Elukkuun eṃṃan. [I’m doing great.]

Let’s start with me, myself, and I. Here are some basic, non-interesting, and non-important facts I would like to share.

Eta in… [My name is…]

Jilñoul ruo aō iiō. [I’m 32 years old.]

Ña ij juon kōrā. [I am a woman.]

Ij jokwe ilo… [I live in…]

Ij jerbal. [I work.]

Eṃṃan ippa kōnono. [I like reading.]

Imijak ṃaj. [I am scared of snakes].

Idike ṃaj. [I hate snakes.]

Jilu nejū kuuj. [I have three cats.]

That’s basically all I’m able to say about myself at this moment in time. Not a lot; I admit. But I can look at this in another way. One year ago I could only say “Eta in…” So I guess I have made progress.

Ok, and here’s something about the Marshall Islands, the Marshallese people, and the Marshallese language.

Ij katak Kajin Ṃajeḷ. [I’m learning the Marshallese language.]

Ij aikuj jipañ ilo aō Kajin Ṃajeḷ. [I need help with my Marshallese.]

Eṃṃan ippa Kajin Ṃajeḷ. [I like the Marshallese language.]

Ikōṇaan katak Kajin Ṃajeḷ. [I want to learn Marshallese.]

Ikōṇaan jelā Kajin Ṃajeḷ juon raan. [I want to speak Marshallese one day.]

Inaaj jelā Kajin Ṃajeḷ juon raan. [I will know Marshallese one day.]

Ij ḷōmṇak eṃṃan armej in Ṃajeḷ. [I think Marshallese people are nice.]

And now three questions I use very often (far too often I’d even say). You’ll understand why the minute you read them.

Imaron̄ ke kajitōk juon men ippaṃ? [Can I ask you something?]

Kwōmaroñ ke jipañ eō? [Can you help me?]

Etan … ilo Ṃajeḷ? [How do you say … in Marshallese?]

Of course, there are also some other phrases I know as well as sentences I am now able to make.

Eraelep kiiō. [It is afternoon now.]

Ij iọkwe eok. [I love you.]

Etaṃ? [What’s your name?]

Ejjeḷọk inepata. [No worries.]

Jab inepata. [Don’t worry about it.]

Ejjeḷọk jorrāān. [No problem.]

Joḷọk aō bōd. [I’m sorry.]

Ejoḷọk aṃ bōd. [You are forgiven.]

Jab keroro! [Be quiet!]

Jete awa? [What time is it?]

Raan in ta in? [What day is today?]

Ej jab jerbal. [It’s doesn’t work.]

Kwōmaroñ ke katakin eō? [Can you teach me?] (I learnt it from Kathy Jetnij-Kijiner’s poem “Spoken Marshallese Lesson Nine”)

Ewōr bwijin aō kajitōk. [I have many questions.]

Ijab lukkuun jelā. [I’m not sure.]

Ijaje. [I don’t know.]

Ijab meḷeḷe. [I don’t understand.]

Eban. [It’s impossible.]

Ilukkuun ṃōṇōṇō. [I am very happy.]

Kwōṃōṇōṇō ke? [Are you happy?]

Ijab būroṃōj. [I am not sad.]

Ikwōle im imaro. [I am hungry and I am thirsty.]

Ilukkuun ṃōk. [I’m really tired.]

Imejki. [I am sleepy.]

Iaar jab kiki. [I didn’t sleep.]

Iaar nañinmej. [I was ill.]

Iaar rijikuul. [I was a student.]

Inaaj ṃōñā juon ek. [I will eat one fish.]

Ij ḷōmṇak inaaj etal. [I think I will go.]

Not bad for a beginner, huh? If you find any mistakes, feel free to let me know about them. But I’ll be honest here and tell you that some of the above sentences (only some of them) have been checked and corrected by a lovely Marshallese lady, who has been my private tutor for the past year and whom I cannot thank enough for her endless help. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t know half of the things I know now.

Koṃṃooltata Tina! [Thank you very much Tina!]

Koṃṃooltata kōn aṃ jipañ. [Thank you very much for your help.]

I am aware that I’ve been repeating myself, but I really am proud of what I’ve managed to achieve so far. Learning Marshallese is nothing like learning French, Spanish, or German. You are on your own – with no help in the form of available resources or teachers. I don’t live in the Marshall Islands, so for me the Marshallese language is a challenge. That is why I am going to celebrate even the tiniest success. So let me congratulate myself one more time – jeraaṃṃan!


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