Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Some Suggestions for Webster

A major element of village living was to improve our fluency in Tok Pisin (PNG’s trade language). Our waspapa (host father) took this role very seriously. “No!” he would shout, interrupting another’s question, “You can’t ask them in English! You must use Tok Pisin!”

I could have taken a photo of all my paperwork. This is much prettier!
The other person would look at us sheepishly. We’d shrug. And soon we’d start again (with my waspapa standing guard, ready to squash any deviations…).

These past couple of weeks I’ve been delving back into Tok Pisin instruction as I’ve been preparing lectures and materials for the January POC course. Language learning is always an adventure!

Originally starting as a way for the Australian coffee managers to talk with their Papua New Guinean laborers, Tok Pisin is based on English, German, and other local languages and has a small vocabulary and limited grammar. It has now spread across the country as an effective trade language that allows the people from 830 different vernacular languages to communicate with each other. Tok Pisin only has about 2,000 words—which is very limited in comparison to a major language, such as English, Chinese, or German which each go upwards of 300,000! As a result, many of the words have multiple meanings, and the length of the sentences can increase dramatically.

John 3:16 in English: For God so loved that world that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever would believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 in Tok Pisin: God i gat wanpela Pikinini tasol i stap. Tasol God i laikim tumas olgeta manmeri bilong graun, olsem na em i givim dispela wanpela Pikinini long ol. Em i mekim olsem bilong olgeta manmeri i bilip long em ol i no ken lus. Nogat. Bai ol i kisim laip  i stap gut oltaim oltaim.

I’ve found Tok Pisin to be an expressive and fun language with a great many words that I think English would do well to incorporate. They (along with many others, I’m sure) have certainly crept into my language! As I was working on the curriculum and lectures for the upcoming course, I started making a list of my commonly-used words...
  • BagarapDefinition: Screwed up. Broken. Wrecked. (Letting the fire char your scones into black nothingness is a perfect time to shake your head sadly and sigh, “oh, bagarap.”)
  • Hap Definition: part (This is so useful because it is so vague. Things, people, places, time periods….it works for one and all.)
  • Laik bilong yuDefinition: Whatever you want to do; your preference. (Which movie do you want to watch? Laik bilong yu.)
  • MaskiDefinition: Forget it. Leave it. Nevermind. (Oh, it’s raining out. Maski.)
  • MaloloDefinition: Rest. (A lovely word perfectly acceptable to invoke at any time of the day, especially upon conclusion of a previous activity.)
  • Liklik hausDefinition: outhouse. Lit. “little house.” (Really, it’s much more pleasant sounding to my English ears to say “I need to go to the liklik haus”).
  • Tok plesDefinition: vernacular/indigenous language of the area. (Were the materials printed in tok ples?)
  • NogatDefinition: Nope. (I love how much stronger this rolls off the tongue with that lovely g and t. Do you have bananas today? Nogat. )
  • i go i go i goDefinition: To continue doing something in a similar manner that goes on and on and on. (We walked up a mountain, down the next one, up the next one…i go i go i go.)
  • Toksave tasol—Definition: Just an fyi… (I’m going out to the market now, toksave tasol)
  • Wanbel (vs. tubel)—Definition: in one accord/agreement vs. having two different, often conflicting, opinions. (Do I eat another cookie or not? I really feel tubel about it).
  • BungDefinition: to gather together; to meet. (Let’s bung at the Post Office.)
  • Em nauDefinition: Yes (with emphasis). That’s right. (You’re the house that had the bonfire! Em nau!)
  • A?Definition: Question marker (comes at the end of the sentence). (You're making bread today, a?)

Brief Pronunciation Guide
There are no silent letters. Consonants are said more forward (close to teeth). 'r' is a flap or trill.
A=father    O=boat        I=keep        E=ate    U=shoot       Au=house    Ai=tie