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.

Io̗kwe aolep! [Hello everyone!]

Em̗m̗an mour? [How are you?]

Elukkuun em̗m̗an. [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…]

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

N̄a ij juon kōrā. [I am a woman.]

Ij jokwe ilo… [I live in…]

Ij jerbal. [I work.]

Em̗m̗an ippa kōnono. [I like reading.]

Imijak m̗aj. [I am scared of snakes].

Idike m̗aj. [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 M̗ajeļ. [I’m learning the Marshallese language.]

Ij aikuj jipan̄ ilo aō katak Kajin M̗ajeļ. [I need help with my Marshallese.]

Em̗m̗an ippa Kajin M̗ajeļ. [I like the Marshallese language.]

Ikōn̗aan katak Kajin M̗ajeļ. [I want to learn Marshallese.]

Ikōn̗aan jelā Kajin M̗ajeļ juon raan. [I want to speak Marshallese one day.]

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

Ij l̗ōmn̗ak em̗m̗an armej in M̗ajeļ. [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 ippam̗? [Can I ask you something?]

Kwōmaron̄ ke jipan̄ eō? [Can you help me?]

Etan … ilo M̗ajeļ? [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 io̗kwe eok. [I love you.]

Etam̗? [What’s your name?]

Ejjel̗o̗k inepata. [No worries.]

Jab inepata. [Don’t worry about it.]

Ejjel̗o̗k jorrāān. [No problem.]

Jol̗o̗k aō bōd. [I’m sorry.]

Ejol̗o̗k am̗ 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.]

Kwōmaron̄ 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 mel̗el̗e. [I don’t understand.]

Eban. [It’s impossible.]

Ilukkuun m̗ōn̗ōn̗ō. [I am very happy.]

Kwōm̗ōn̗ōn̗ō ke? [Are you happy?]

Ijab būrom̗ōj. [I am not sad.]

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

Ilukkuun m̗ōk. [I’m really tired.]

Imejki. [I am sleepy.]

Iaar jab kiki. [I didn’t sleep.]

Iaar nan̄inmej. [I was ill.]

Iaar rijikuul. [I was a student.]

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

Ij l̗ōmn̗ak 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.

Kom̗m̗ooltata Tina! [Thank you very much Tina!]

Kom̗m̗ooltata kōn am̗ jipan̄. [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 – jeraam̗m̗an!


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