Learning even a few words of a people's native language can go a long way toward showing your good will, respect, and desire to learn. It can mean a great deal to people, especially those who speak a relatively small language that few foreigners learn. It also makes possible verbal interactions with segments of the local population, such as women or the elderly, who aren't educated in the colonial language or English. Plus, it's fun!
Most Tandana volunteer programs include very basic language lessons to help you interact and show your interest in local culture. Don't worry about making mistakes! People appreciate the fact that you're trying, and if you do mess up, it's an opportunity to laugh, share a joke, and become closer to local people. We've put an introduction to Kichwa and Spanish (for those of you going to Ecuador) and Tommo So (for those of you going to Mali) on this website, so that you can study before you go, review after your trip, or just for those who are interested. Enjoy!
As in many Latin American countries, the most commonly spoken language in Ecuador is Spanish. With that being said, each country has its own local slang and pronunciations that make it's Spanish unique. Ecuador is no exception and has a wonderful variety of slang words and idioms that when said can give you away as speaking the Ecuadorian way. This list is by no means comprehensive but is a great start to get to know how the language is used. Beginners will find this useful as they start learning the language and even fluent Spanish speakers who are not from Ecuador have much to learn! Remember to have fun! Also, be sure to check out our page about speaking Kichwa, the indigenous language spoken by many people in highland Ecuador.
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Ways to say “Thank You” and "You're Welcome"
Gracias - Thank You
Dios le pague - May God pay it (back to you)
De nada - You're welcome
Hola - Hello
Buenos días - Good morning
Buenas tardes - Good afternoon
Buenas noches - Good evening / Good night
¿Cómo te va? - How's it going? (informal)
¿Cómo le va? - How's it going? (formal)
¿Cómo estás? - How are you? (informal)
¿Qué tal? - What's up? or How's it going?
¿Qué más? - What's up? What's going on?
¿Cómo has pasado? -
How have you been? (informal)
¿Cómo ha pasado? -
How have you been? (formal)
¿Cómo amaneciste? - How did you sleep? Literally, how did you wake up? (informal)
¿Cómo amaneció? - How did you sleep? Literally, how did you wake up? (formal)
Bien - Well
Mal - Bad
Normal - Normal
Aqui no más - Fine
Muy bien - Very well
¿Cómo te llamas? - What's your name? (informal)
¿Cómo se llama? - What's your name? (formal)
Me llamo Margarita -
My name is Margarita.
¿Cuántos años tienes? -
How old are you? (informal)
¿Cuántos años tiene? -
How old are you? (formal)
Tengo 27 años - I'm 27 years old.
¿Adónde te vas? - Where are you going? (informal)
¿Adónde se va? - Where are you going? (formal)
¿Para dónde? -
Where are you headed? (Literally, for where? Often used simply as greeting or conversation starter…)
¿De dónde eres? -
Where are you from? (informal)
¿De dónde es? -
Where are you from? (formal)
Soy de Ecuador - I'm from Ecuador
De Estados Unidos - From the USA
Bienvenido(a)(s) - Welcome (according to who / how many people are being welcomed)
Mamá (Madre) - Mom (Mamá is more common than Madre)
Papá (Padre) - Dad (Papá is more common than Padre)
Otavaleño Kichwa is part of the Quechua family of languages, evolved from the Quechua spread by the Incas throughout the Andes. For more information, and to hear some of the fascinating differences and similarities among these languages, visit The Sounds of the Andean Languages. Varieties of Kichwa differ throughout the Ecuadorian highlands and in the Amazonian region where it is spoken. As the bilingual education movement gained strength, leaders decided to standardize spelling throughout Ecuador (Kichwa Unificado, Shukyachiska Kichwa) in order to facilitate the making of educational materials and strengthen the unity of the movement. Hence the spelling Kichwa, rather than Quichua, which was usually preferred before.
In the communities where we work, Kichwa is often mixed with Spanish, and the majority of people are bilingual. Mestizos in the communities often speak only Spanish, with a bit of Kichwa mixed in. Elders and young children sometimes speak only Kichwa, with some common Spanish words mixed in. There are also some Spanish phrases that have been transformed in Kichwa, such as "Dios le pague" (God pay you), which has become "Yusul pagui", "pagui", and "pai" in Kichwa usage. Indigenous cultural leaders and students sometimes speak a pure Kichwa, but most older community members speak a version with numerous Spanish influences. Speaking a few words of Kichwa when you arrive in one of the communities where we work will impress people and show them that you value their language and culture. If you are inspired to move beyond these basics, visit Kichwa.net.
Greetings, Goodbyes, and Basic Questions
Ali punlla Good morning
Ali chishi Good afternoon
Ali tuta Good evening
Kaya kaman See you tomorrow
Ashta kashkaman See you later (ashta is Spanish "hasta")
Shuk punlla kaman See you another day
Imanalla? How are you? (abbreviated form)
Alilla Good (just fine)
Ima shutitak kanki? What is your name?
Ñuka shutika _____mi kan. My name is ____.
Maymantatak kanki? Where are you from?
Estados Unidosmantami kani. I am from the United States.
Mashna watatak charinki? How old are you?
Ñukaka ____watata chorine. I am ____ years old.
Maymantak rinki? Where are you going?
Otavalomanmi rini. I'm going to Otavalo.
Wasimanmi rini. I'm going home.
Yachana wasimanmi rini. I'm going to school.
Hawamanmi rini. I'm going up.
Yupaychani I thank you (this is offical Kichwa. Yusul pagui, pagui, and pai are often used).
Ali shamushka kapaychik Welcome
Tayta Father, Mr., Sir
Mama Mother, Mrs., Ma'am
Useful commands and words (especially for our healthcare work)
shamupay please come
hapipay please take it
tyaripay please sit down
shuyapay please wait
pityapay please go up
karaway give it to me
Pronouns and verb conjugations
Kana To Be
Kan you (singular) or Kikin familiar you (singular)
Pay he or she
Kankuna you plural
All verbs are regular in Kichwa.
Rurana To Do
Rina To Go
Munana To Want
Puñuna To Sleep
Mikuna To Eat
Charina To Have
Yachana To Know
Shamuna To Come
Kawsana To Live
Wañuna To Die
Pukllana To Play
Some particles and examples
Kichwa uses a system of particles, which are attached to the ends of words, to indicate part of speech, to serve as prepositions, or otherwise to change the meaning.
-ka emphasis, indicates subject of sentence
Nuka shutika Juanchomi kan. My name is Juancho.
-ta indicates direct object
Yakuta munani. I want water.
Paypak shutika Tamyami kan. Her name is Tamya.
-man to (preposition)
Wasimanmi rinchik. We're going home.
-manta from (preposition)
Ñukaka Agualongomantami Panecilloman rini. I'm going from Agualongo to Panecillo.
-tak makes a question
Maymantatak kanki? Where are you from?
-pi in (preposition)
Payka wasipimi kan. She is in the house.
-kuna plural (it is not always necessary to use the particle if it's obvious from context that it's plural)
Wawakunaka piñashkami kan. The children are angry.
Dogon is a family of about 20 languages, spoken by the Dogon people of the Mopti Region of Mali. Languages and dialects differ widely from commune to commune, though some are mutually intelligible and others bear significant resemblances to one another. Some languages include Donno So, Tommo So, Toro So, Dogolu Dum, Jamsay, Mombo, Tengu-Kan, and many others. We focus on Tommo So, because it is the language of Wadouba Commune, where the majority of our work takes place. Other than greetings, the rudimentary basics of Tommo So seem to be fairly well understood by speakers of Donno So (in and around Bandiagara), and Toro So (Sangha, and the eastern escarpment villages). It is not understood in Yarou Plateau or Kori-Maounde.
On this page, we use our own (rather uninformed) spelling for ease of understanding by the nonlinguist. Hopefully, by listening to the audio pronunciations, you'll get the idea. Knowing even a few phrases will make you popular in Wadouba!
Greetings As in most Malian languages, greetings are very important and lengthy in Tommo So. It is important to ask multiple questions and respond with questions to someone who has greeted you. Different greetings are used at different times of day.
Aga yame Morning greetings (Let's go into the morning)
Awoh Acknowledgement (Indeed) U yaa? Are you in peace?
Yaa In peace
Anawumbe yaa? Is your family in peace?
Denemo Afternoon greetings (We are going into afternoon)
Awoh Acknowledgement (Indeed) U denawuh? Are you in peace?
Denawuh In peace
Anawumbe denawuh? Is your family in peace?
These can be used at any time of day. They are often added to those above and used interchangeably.
U jimile? Are you without sickness?
Jimile Without sickness (Conjugated for first person singular)
Anawumbe djanoui? Is your family in peace?
Djanoui In peace
Jimine (Conjugated for third person plural)
Greetings, Goodbyes, and Thanks These can be used at any time of day, and they can be used individually (i.e., they do not have to be part of a long sequence).
U li kal li! [I salute] You and the work (to one person) or Eh li kal li! [I salute] You and the work (to multiple people) or Kalpo I salute the work
Awoh Acknowledgement (Indeed)
Ambou djele! Welcome (God grant you welcome)
Awoh Acknowledgement (Indeed)
Guine do Be at home (welcome)
Daniye Sit down or Dombelen Sit down
Pinadi segueremo See you later
Bai yaga segueremo See you another day
Birepo Thank you (for the deed or work)
Birepo bali You're welcome
Dolopo Thank you (for the gift)
Dolopo bali. You're welcome
Gana Thank you
Gana bali. You're welcome
U yaba gwai? Where are you from (where did you leave)?
Mi amerikki gawk. I'm from America.
Bui uwo yangene gede? What's your name?
Bui mmo ____ gede. My name is _____.
U anagudu ange yes? How old are you?
Mi anagudu ____ yeses. I am ____ years old
U yabai yawdew? Where are you going?
Mi damakolo yaden. I'm going in town. Mi guine yaden. I'm going home. Mi ibe yaden. I'm going to market.
Nje kandew? What are you doing?
Kide kama kanilen Nothing Bire bireksen Working Domu domieksen Waiting Toyn toynieksen Writing Digen kanaksen Talking (making conversation) Djangu djangaksen Studying
Mbegew? Do you like it?
Eh, mbegen. Yes, I like it. Ai, mbelen. No, I don't like it.
Namagew? Do you want it?
Eh, namagem. Yes, I want it. Ai, namalam. No, I don't want it.
Pamkanew? Do you understand (particular words)?
Eh, pamkenen. Yes, I understand. Ai, pamkanalin. No, I don't understand.
Dogo So egedew? Do you understand Dogon language?
Galeh galeh egeden. Litle by little, I understand.
Esele Not nice
Jon A lot
Mene A little
Blessings and Expressions
Amba sie kana May God make it go great
Djan li do Safe travels (arrive with peace)
Amba yesie obo May God give us the future (used when parting until another day)
Amba yogo baitara May God give us tomorrow (used when parting until the next day)
Amba ku elel obo May God give you happiness (a sweet head)
Amba djan li eme denemo May God let us go into the afternoon with peace
Amba din sie obo May God give you a good day (used when parting in the morning)
Amba djanli eme segueremo May God let us meet again in peace
Amba miene sugondo Bon apetit (May God let it go down smoothly)
Amina Amen (response to all blessings)
Amba birepo Thanks be to God
Amba ire kana May god heal you
Ire go ma? Are you better (healthier)?
Eh, ire go Yes, I'm better (healthier).
Amba sagu, u sagu. We count on God and we count on you.
Amba nan sagu. We count on God.
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