Tag Archives: senegal

Basic Wolof Phrases

See original list here: Some Essential Wolof Phrases
For help with pronunciation see: Pronunciation Guide

↓ scroll down for more resources ↓

Essentials | sólo

Wolof / Français
[Pulaar / Mandinka]


Salaam aleekum. / Bonjour.
sa·laam a·ley·kum / bon·zhoor
[P: No ngoolu daa. / M: I be ñaading.]

Mangi dem. / Au revoir.
maan·gee dem / o·rer·vwar
[P: Ñalleen e jamm. / M: Fo tuma doo.]

Bu la neexee. / S’il vous plaît.
boo la ney·khey / seel voo pley
[P: Njaafodaa. / M: Dukare.]

Thank you.
Jërejëf. / Merci.
je·re·jef / mair·see
[P: A jaaraamah. / M: I ning bara.]

You’re welcome.
Amul sólo. / Je vous en prie.
uh·mool so·lo / zher voo zom pree
[P: Enen ndendidum. / M: Mbee le dentaala.]

Waaw. / Oui.
wow / wee
[P: Eey. / M: Haa.]

Déedéet. / Non.
dey·deyt / non
[P: Alaa. / M: Hani.]

Sorry. (Excuse me.)
Baal ma. (Jéggël ma.) / Pardon. (Excusez-moi.)
baal ma (jey·guhl mah) / par·don (ek·skew·zay·mwa)
[P: Achanam hakke. (Yaafo.) / M: Hakko tuñe.]

Do you speak English?
Ndax dégg nga angale? / Parlez-vous anglais?
ndakh deg nguh an·ga·ley / par·ley·voo ong·ley
[P: Ada faama engale? / M: Ye angkale kango moyle?]

Do you understand? (Do you speak … ?)
Dégg nga? / Comprenez-vous?
deg nguh / kom·pre·ney·voo
[P: (Ada nana … ?) / M: (Ye … kango moyle?)]

I understand.
Dégg naa. / Je comprends.
deg na / zher kom·pron
[P: Mi faami. / M: Ngaa kalamuta le.]

I don’t understand.
Dégguma. / Je ne comprends pas.
deg·goo·ma / zher ner kom·pron pa
[P: Mi faamaani / M: Mma kalamuta.]

Wóoy! / Au secours!
wohy / o·skoor
[P: Ballal! / M: Nso orangzola!]

Continue reading Basic Wolof Phrases


Wolof Phrases: “am”

am – to be, exist, to have; a/an; imperative; or


Ndëmm amul.He said that witchcraft does not exist.

Am na ñetti doom.He has three children.

Am sa caabi!Take your key!

Dafa am xel-ñaar ci mbir mi, moo tax joxeegul tontam.He hesitated on the issue, which is why he has not yet given his answer. (am xel-ñaarhesitate)


Source: Dictionnaire wolof-français, Arame Fal.

Pulaar Phrases: Essentials

Hello. – No ngoolu daa.
Goodbye. – Ñalleen e jamm.
Please. – Njaafodaa.
Thank you. – A jaaraamah.
You’re welcome. – Enen ndendidum.
Yes. – Eey.
No. – Alaa.
Excuse me. – Yaafo.
Sorry. – Achanam hakke.
Help! – Ballal!

Wolof Vocabulary: Meat


beef – yarpe-nack
chicken – yarpe-ganarre
goat – yarpe-baiy
hamburger – hamburger
lamb – yarpe-harre
meat – yarpa
pork – yarpe-mbam
shrimp – cepa-cepa


Source: Wolof Dictionary & Phrasebook, Nyima Kantorek.

Wolof Grammar: Conjunctions


The coordinating conjunctions in English are: and, but, or, yet, for, nor & so.


In this post we will be dealing specifically with the and conjunction which in Wolof is ak/ag when connecting nouns and pronouns or te when connecting verbs and phrases.


Below are examples of ak in use:


ak kan? – and who?
man ak yow – me and you
ndey ak baay – mother and father
bile ak bale – this and that
suma xaalis ak sa xaalis – my money and your money


Ak also means with:


mu tase fa ak bukkihe encountered there a hyena
ak jamma – with peace, in peace
kaay ak ñun – come with us
pañe bi dafa fees ak dojthe basket is full of stones
dox na ñaar i fan ak fas am – he went for two days with his horse
mu rendi ko ak paaka – he cut its throat with a knife
kaay lekka ak ñun – come eat with us


When used with numbers ak is used like plus:


fukk ak benn – eleven
fukk ak ñaar – twelve
fukk ak ñett – thirteen


Source: Gambian Wolof – English Dictionary, David P. Gamble.

Wolof Religion: Islamic Terms


Asalaam alaikum.
May peace be with you. (greeting)

Malaikum salaam.
And with you be peace. (reply to above)

Allahu akbar.
God is greater. (than me, you, anything)

Praise God. (said to thank God)

In God’s name. (said before meals)

If God wills it. (refers to a future action)

What God wishes. (indicates a good omen)

World Bank IDA – Senegal: Nutrition and Education

• 84 percent gross primary school enrollment rate in 2008, up from 67 percent in 2002
• 24 percent of children under age five reached by an integrated package of community nutrition activities

The International Develepment Association, IDA, is the World Bank’s Fund for the Poorest. One of the world’s largest sources of aid, IDA provides support for health and education, infrastructure and agriculture, and economic and institutional development to the 79 poorest countries – 39 of them in Africa. These countries are home to 2.5 billion people, 1.5 billion of whom survive on $2 a day or less.


Senegalese Wrestling

Laamb – la lutte sénégalaise

Pro Wrestling, Senegal Style
Pro Wrestling, Senegal Style

Pro Wrestling, Senegal Style – NYTimes.com

Senegalese wrestling
Senegalese wrestling match at the stade Demba Diop in Dakar.

Senegalese wrestling (fr. Lutte sénégalaiseNjom in Serer languageLaamb in Wolof) is a type of Folk wrestling traditionally performed by the Serer people and now a national sport in Senegal and parts of The Gambia, and is part of a larger West African form of traditional wrestling (fr. Lutte Traditionnelle). The Senegalese form traditionally allows blows with the hands (frappe), the only of the West African traditions to do so. As a larger confederation and championship around Lutte Traditionnelle has developed since the 1990s, Senegalese fighters now practice both forms, called officially Lutte Traditionnelle sans frappe (for the international version) and Lutte Traditionnelle avec frappe for the striking version. Senegalese wrestling – Wikipedia

Laamb glossary:

laamb – traditional Senegalese wrestling. Laamb is the Wolof word for wrestling which is borrowed from Serer Fara-Lamb Siin (Fara of Mandinka origin whilst Lamb of Serer origin) the chief griot who used to beat the tam-tam of Sine called Lamb or Laamb in Serer. The lamb was part of the music accompaniment of wrestling in pre-colonial times as well as after Senegal’s independence. The Serer word for wrestling is njom which derives from the Serer word jom (heart or honour). In French it is called Lutte sénégalaise. 

gris-gris (pronounced gree-gree) – also spelled grigri, is a voodoo amulet originating in Africa which is believed to protect the wearer from evil or brings luck, and in some West African countries is used as a method of birth control. It consists of a small cloth bag, usually inscribed with verses from the Qur’an and containing a ritual number of small objects, worn on the person. Although the exact origins of the word are unknown, some historians trace the word back to the African word juju meaning fetish. An alternative theory is that the word originates with the French joujou meaning doll or play-thing.

mbër – Laamb wrestler.

bàkk – a type of dance performed before a match. (not sure if this is something that is still done or something that was done before it became a national sport)

More YouTube – Senegalese wrestling videos

Wolof Video w/English Subs – XALA


It is the dawn of Senegal’s independence from France, and as Dakar citizens celebrate in the streets we soon become aware that only faces have changed in the handover of power. White money still controls the government.

Wolof Phrases: At The Market

How [much/many]?
[Ñaata] la?

How much are you [selling] this for?
Ñaata ngay [jaaye] bii?

How much is it?
Ñaata lay [jar]? (lit. ‘how much is it [worth]’)

That’s [expensive]!
[Seer] na lóol! (lit. ‘very [expensive]’) 

I will [pay] 1000 CFA.
[Fey] naa  la ñaari teemeeri dërëm.

What did [you] say?
[Nga] ni?

[Lower] your price!
[Waññil]! (lit. ‘[reduce]’)

I’ll add [100 CFA] but no more.
Tekk naa ci [ñaar-fukk] du ma ci yokk dara.

I can’t add [any] more.
Du ma ci tekk [dara].

[Give] me the money.
[Indil] xaalis bi.

[How much] is that?
[Ñaata] la?

Pulaar Vocabulary: Anatomy

abdomen – réédu (ndu); abdominal – ko faati e  réédu ~ pain reedu muusooru.

back – keeci (ki); ɓaawo (ngo); caggal (ngal). ~ up wallude; heedande. I will back him up Ma mi wallu mo. talk behind someone’s ~ ñohde. come ~ artude; backache – kééci muusóówi I have a backache Mbeɗe wondi e keeci muusoowi; backbone – nooral (ngól).

cardiac – ko faati e ɓernde; cardiology – jangde ɓernde.

dental – ko faati e ñiiϒe/ñiire; dentist – doktoor ñiiϒe.

ear – nofru (ndu). I am all ears Mbeɗe heɗi maa.

face – yeeso (ngo). side of the ~ hanawere. make a ~ ŋooɓde. face to face kuccondiral (ngal).

gastric – ko faati é réédu; gastrology – jangde mbaadi e ñabbuuli réédu.

hand – jungo (ngo). from ~ to ~ jungo e jungo; hand v. – tottude; rókkude. Hand it over to me Heɓnam ɗum.

intestine – téktékól (ngól); intestinal – ko faati é téktékól.

jaw – golgolal (ngal); gabgal (ngal).

knee – hofru (ndu). Down on your knees Dicco; kneecap – tumude hófru.

leg – koyngal (ngal); cakutal (ngal). lower ~ korlal (ngal). Pull someone’s ~ fuuntude; gaajaade.

mouth – hunuko (ko). Open your mouth Muɓɓit hunuko maa; mouthful – wooɓre (nde); longere (nde).

nasal – ko faati e hinere.

ophthalmic (of the eye) – ko faati e gite/yitere; ophthalmologist – cafroowo gite.

penis – soolde (nde); kaake gorko.

rectum – ɓaawo (ngo).

shin – korlal (ngal).

teeth – ñiiϒe (ɗe). remove one’s ~ solde ñiiϒe mum; teethe – fuɗde ñiiϒe.

uvula – ɗakañe (o).

vagina – fii (o); sedere (nde); kóttu (ngu); melde (nde); vaginal – ko faati e kaake debbo.

waist – dadorde (nde); nadorde (nde); waistline – duhorde (nde); duhórgól (ngól); nadornde (nde).


Source: Pulaar-English Standard Dictionary, Dr. Mamadou Niang.

Wolof Vocabulary: Pronouns

I – maan
me – ma
my – suma
mine – suma
you – yow
your – seen
yours – seen
he – ñoom
she –  ñoom
it – ñoom
him – ñoom
her – ñoom
his – ñoom
hers – ñoom
its – ñoom
their – ñoom
theirs – ñoom

Wolof Grammar: Describing People and Things


Mouse over individual Wolof words for definitions.


Naka la mel?What is he/she/it like?

This question can refer to both physical and moral descriptions.


The term dafa is usually used to answer this question:

Dafa njool.He/she is tall.
Suma xarit bi dafa em.My friend is medium sized.
Kër gi dafa réy.The compound (home) is big.


For plurality you can use deñu:

Deñu gaata.They/we are short.


You can also substitute dafa with a relative pronoun:

Dafa njool./Ku njool la.He/she is tall./He is a tall person.


For deñu:

Deñu gaata./Ñu gaata leñu.They are short.


Source: Wollof Grammar Manual, Peace Corps, The Gambia.

Wolof – Religion and Expressive Culture

A short document on the Wolof culture. I think this might apply more to rural regions as this is not exactly my experience in Senegal, which was primarily in urban areas, although there were definitely elements. A nice plus is that it gives us a handful of new words to add to our Wolof vocabulary.

Wolof – Religion and Expressive Culture


jinn – malevolent spirits (Arabic, similar to ‘demons’)
taalibé – a disciple (usually young boys in the service of a marabout)
seriñ (marabout) – a religious leader
mnqaddam – a type of marabout
yélimaan – imam (a Muslim leader, like a priest or a preacher)
jabarkat – shaman; sorcerer
lu gakat – a shaman who cures snakebite victims
ndëpukat – usually a female, who performs the ndëp ceremony to cure the mentally ill
botai mbar – man in charge of newly circumcised boys
Korité – the feast at the end of Ramadan
Tabaski – the feast of the sacrifice of sheep (from the Biblical story of Abraham)
nggentée – naming ceremony
xalam – a type of guitar

Film en langue Wolof (English subtitles) avec Kadi Jolie


A film in the Wolof language. With good humor, an aunt gives her teenage niece heart advice on men and their predatory instincts … Idea: Aram Dieye, 16 (Senegal) / Directed by: Idrissa Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso). A film collection SCENARIOS dAfric (www.globaldialogues.org). Wolof with English subtitles version.

Wolof Phrases


Move cursor over words for translations.


Gànnaar lañuy jënde dàkkaande ji di ko jaaysi fii.

Ils achètent la gomme en Mauritanie pour la revendre ici.

They buy gum in Mauritania for resale here.


Bul naagu, dara sotteegul.

Il ne faut pas te montrer trop assuré, rien n’est encore acquis définitivement.

Do not be too assured, nothing is for granted. (Do not show yourself too assured, nothing is for granted.)


Tànn-béer ja war naa guddee tas.

La soirée dansante a dû se terminer tard.

The dance had ended late.


Sources: Dictionnaire wolof-français, par Arame Fal, Rosine Santos et Jean Léonce Doneux; Gambian Wolof-English Dictionary, David P. Gamble; Firicat.com

Pulaar: Numbers

  1. one – go-o
  2. two – didi
  3. three – tati
  4. four – nayi
  5. five – joyi
  6. six – jeego
  7. seven – jeedidi
  8. eight – jeetati
  9. nine – jeenayi
  10. ten – sappo
  11. eleven – sappoygoo
  12. twelve – sappoydidi

source: Lonely Planet, The Gambia & Senegal

Bocande R.I.P.

Former Senegal star Bocande dies

DAKAR, Senegal, May 8 – Former Senegal international striker Jules-Francois Bocande died on Monday at the age of 54, the Senegalese Football Federation (FSF) announced.

Bocande had been unwell for several months after suffering a stroke and died following a surgical procedure, according to the Senegalese Press Agency (APS).
He enjoyed his greatest success as a player with Metz, where he was crowned top scorer after netting 25 goals in France’s Ligue 1 championship in the 1985-86 season.
Bocande also played for Paris Saint-Germain, Nice and Lens in France and participated in three Africa Cups of Nations with his country, whom he captained and then went on to coach during the 1990s.
“I’m totally devastated,” said FSF president Augustin Senghor.
“It’s an enormous loss for Senegalese football. We knew that he was suffering. Bocande revived Senegalese football. He gave everything to Senegalese football through his talent and his commitment.”

Wolof Phrases: Language Difficulties


Do you speak English? 
Ndax dégg nga angale?

Do you understand?
Dégg nga?

   I understand.
   Dégg naa.

   I don’t understand.

Could you please … ?
Ndax mën nga … su la neexee?

   repeat that
   ko waxaat

   speak more slowly
   wax ndànk

   write it down
   ko bind



Source: Lonely Planet Africa Phrasebook

Pulaar: Vocabulary

aplenty adj. keewdum; ko heewi.
bind v. jokkondirde; habbude.
casque n. kaske.
dilate v. yuufde; yaajde.
environment n. sara; saraaji.

anande v. be jealous of.
bonnitde v. denigrate; vilify; debase; spoil again. (from bonande – damage; mess; waste; tragedy; havoc; destruction.  Dum ko bonande It is  a waste.
cuutirgal – instrument for lifting or pulling out.
deedol – a cut. (from deedaade v. cut oneself accidentally.)
endu – breast; bosom; pap; womb. daccude ~ wean. endi pl.

Entries from Dr. Mamadou Niang’s Pulaar Standard Dictionary.

Wolof Grammar: Definite Article

An article (abbreviated art.) is a word that combines with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. Articles specify the grammatical definiteness of the noun, in some languages extending to volume or numerical scope. The articles in the English language are ‘the’ and ‘a/an’, and (in some contexts) ‘some’. – Wikipedia

In this post we will be dealing with the definite article. In English the definite article is ‘the’. In Wolof the definite article changes depending on the word type as well as the relation of the noun to the speaker. Definite articles indicate something specific or familiar to the listener. For example, if I was to say “the dog”, you would understand that I was talking about a particular dog. If I was to say “a dog” it could mean any dog.

In Wolof, the initial letter of the definite article varies:

bunta bi  –  the door
ganaar gi  –  the fowl
jigeen ji  –  the woman
nit ki  –  the person
nda li  –  the water pot
muus mi  –  the cat
suuf si  –  the earth
ween wi  –  the breast

Also note that the def. art. always follows the noun rather than precede it as in English.

The plural form of each def. art. is yi, with the exception of ki which is ñi.

xale yi  –  the children

Other than the plural form, there are three forms of the def. art. -i indicates nearness to the speaker, -a indicates distance from the speaker and -u is a relative form.

xale bi  –  the child (right here)
xale ba  –  the child (over there)

xale bu bon  –  the bad child (the child who is bad)

The -i form is also sort of the default form. Use this form when unsure which form to use. Also, bi, is the most common def. art. Use this one when the def. art. is not known. You can also sometimes get away with using the def. art. whose first letter matches the first letter of the noun if there is one, for example, gennax gi.

These rules generally apply across the board but some regions, or even some individual speakers, may switch them around.

The following list is a description of each definite article and when they are used. The list is ordered in frequency of use from the most common to the least common.


  • found with nearly all nouns beginning with b, except for the names of trees, which use g-.
  • most nouns relating to persons, except for nit ki and terms of relationship which use j-.
  • most words borrowed from French, English and Mandinka, etc.
  • the names of fruits.
  • many parts of the body.
  • where a verbal root and a noun have the same form the article is most commonly bi.


  • used with many words beginning with g and k and all tree names.
  • if a word ends in ŋ there is a tendency to follow it with g-.


  • used with many words beginning with j.
  • most words borrowed from Arabic.
  • many words involving kinship.


  • found with some words beginning with m and some beginning with p. The latter were probably nasalized mp in old Wolof.
  • used primarily where the initial consonant is nasalized, mb, etc.
  • a number of liquids have the article m-.


  • found with words beginning with a vowel, y, w and x.
  • most insects have the w- article.


  • used with only a few words beginning with l but commonly with words beginning with nd, ng and c.


  • used with fewer words beginning with s than might be expected.
  • powdery substances usually have the article s-.
  • s- is also a diminutive form, the initial consonant of the noun being changed – nd, ng, etc.


  • rarely used except for nit ki.

In some cases the article changes the definition of the word.

ndaw si  –  the girlfriend
ndaw li  –  the messenger

doom ji  –  the child
doom bi  –  the fruit

The contents of this post is from my personal notes as well as a considerable portion from the research of anthropologist David P. Gamble.


Movement to End Female Circumcisions

A movement in the African nation of Senegal is having a major impact in ending female genital cutting. A group called Tostan, which means “breakthrough” in Wolof, Senegal’s dominant language, is building change without the billions of dollars that have poured into other global health issues. The group, which has gotten support from more than 5,000 villages in the country, is creating African-style education programs to warn against the dangers of the practice. Female circumcisions are viewed as a rite of passage, but some girls die from hemorrhaging due to botched attempts. The Senegalese Parliament banned the practice more than a decade ago, and the government has been very supportive of Tostan.

Read it at New York Times

October 17, 2011 12:38 PM

Janga Laaka English to Wolof & French Dictionary


I have just uploaded the Janga Laaka Wolof/English Dictionary. It’s available for a minimal charge. Why am I charging for this? Well, because I have invested a lot of time and energy into this project and like everyone else I have to make a living! Don’t fret though, all the contents of this book will be available on this blog for FREE. The charge for the download is for the convience of owning your own personal copy that you can take with you anywhere regardless of internet availability. You can also print it out and have your own personal hardcopy to take with you even when you don’t have a computer or a smartphone handy.

PLEASE NOTE: This is a ROUGH DRAFT version !!! So, therefore there may be a few errors. Why am I offerring a rough version instead of a finished product? Because, due to lack of time and funding I don’t see me completing this project anytime soon, and since I’ve gotten many, many requests for this product I’ve decided to go ahead and share what I have so far. If after reading this you’ve decided to go ahead and download anyway then I thank you very much for your purchase!

Follow this link to download:



Vendredi Française (French Friday); Vocabulary


The purpose of French Friday is to expand your language capabilities while in West Africa (specifically Senegal). Many Wolof speakers can also understand French and sometimes using French to get your point across is easier than using Wolof since it’s a language closer to our own.


  • attelage – coupling, hitch, team, harness, yoke
  • calandre – radiator grill, calendar, mangle
  • citadin/citadine – city dweller, town, city, urban
  • collectionner – to collect
  • crasse – grime, filth, crass
  • défaillance – blackout, weakness, fault, failure
  • enchère – bid
  • entendre – to hear, to understand, to mean
  • faune – wildlife, fauna, set, crowd
  • file – line


Source: Collins French Concise Dictionary 5th Edition. (www.collinslanguage.com)


Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Wolof w/Breakdown


Doomi aadama yépp danuy juddu, yam ci tawfeex ci sag ak sañ-sañ. Nekk na it ku xam dëgg te ànd na ak xelam, te war naa jëflante ak nawleen, te teg ko ci wàllu mbokk. (listen to audio)

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.


doom – child, doll, fruit, tablet (of medicine), ashes
doom i aadama – human being; doom i Aadama yi – human beings
Aadama – Adam (Ar.), a name given to a twin the other being Hawa (Eve)
yépp/yéppa – all
danuy/dañu – they
juddu – to be born
yam – ?
ci – to, in, at, a bit, some
tawfeex – ?
sag – honor, personality, charm
ak (ag) – and, with (used with nouns and pronouns)
sañsañ – to be authorized, to dare, to stop up (note: the sources I used only had ‘sañ‘ as a single word, not doubled, so uncertain if that changes the definition)
nekk/nekka/neka – to be at a place; ku nekka – everyone
na – he/she has, sign of optative, like, how (naka)
it – also
ku – article, relative form, or interrogative
xam – to know
dëgg/dégga – to hear, understand
te – to be stubborn, and, (as a suffix indicates repition of action)
ànd – together?
xelam – (to have?) intelligence, mind (my source only has ‘xel‘. I’m guessing the suffix ‘-am‘ indicates possession)
war – to mount (a horse, etc.), ought to, to have to
naa – I have
jëflante/jeflante – reciprocal, relationship (jéf/jëf – action, act, deed)
nawleen – (closest I could find was ‘naw‘ which means ‘to esteem highly’ & ‘breath’/’nawle‘ – person of the same rank, rival – ‘leen‘ is a plural form of ‘you’ so I’m guessing this is a compound word)
teg/tek – saddle; tega – to put down; teggin – politeness, courtesy; tegoo – to support
ko – him, it
wàllu (walla?) – share, part; (wollu?) – to save, help
mbokk/mbokka – relative, to be related


Sources: Omniglot.com, David P. Gamble dictionary, Firicat.com


‘Lonely Planet Phrasebooks Africa’ Book Review

Africa Phrasebook
Africa Phrasebook

This book should be available at your local bookstore. Travel and outdoor stores also often carry Lonely Planet titles. If you prefer to do all your book shopping online then Amazon or the Lonely Planet website should be your best bets.

I’m a fan of Lonely Planet publications. In my opinion they are the best. Their products are visually appealing and packed with information in a very easy to find format. They use a very simple pronunciation key to aid in the pronunciation of every word in the book.

The only problems I have with this book is that the Wolof section is rather small (as are all the sections) but what they do have is very good. Much of the Wolof used is actually Wolofized French and not traditional Wolof…which is fine considering this is not a “lesson book” but a book designed for easy communication for travellers. The book also includes sections for French & Arabic among several other African languages.


Sample entry from book:

I need a doctor (who speaks English).   Dama soxla doktoor (bu dégg angale).   da•ma sokh•la dok•tohr (boo deg an•ga•le)



  • Pronunciation
  • Introduction
  • Language Difficulties
  • Time, dates & numbers
  • Border Crossing
  • Tickets
  • Transport
  • Directions
  • Accommodation
  • Banking & Communications
  • Tours
  • Shopping
  • Making Conversation
  • Eating Out
  • Emergencies
  • Medical Needs
  • Dictionary

At the Restaurant (Ci Restoraan)


Wolof does not have a natural way to say “please”, but the phrases given here are all polite ways of asking for help or placing your order.


I am hungry – Da maa xiif [da maa – I am, xiif – hungry]
I am thirsty – Da maa mar [mar – thirsty]

Excuse me… – Baal ma
Where is the nearest restaurant? – Fan moo am restoraan? [fan – where, am – indefinite article]
Where is the toilet/restroom? – Fan mooy seen wanaag? [seen – your, wanag/wanok – washing place/toilet]

Thank you – Jërëjëf


Phrases from ‘Say It In Wolof’ by A. Gueye, word definitions from dictionary by D.P. Gamble.


Languages of Senegal: Hassaniyya


Hassaniyya (Klem El Bithan) is the variety of Arabic originally spoken by the Beni Hassan Bedouin tribes, who extend their authority over most of Mauritania and the Western Sahara between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. It has almost completely replaced the Berber languages spoken in this region. Though clearly a western dialect, Hassaniya is relatively distant from other North African variants of Arabic. Its geographical location exposed it to influence from Zenaga and Wolof. There are several dialects of Hassaniya. The primary differences among them are phonetic. Today Hassaniya is spoken by inhabitants of Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Senegal and the Western Sahara. – Wikipedia



Some of these terms may be familiar to some of us as many of these are also used by Wolof speakers but perhaps pronounced a bit differently.


Isselaamu aleykum – Peace be upon you
We aleykum isselaam – And on you, too
Ish haal issbaah – Good morning
Ish haal limgiil – Good afternoon
Ish haal limbaat – Good evening
Eyaak ilkhayr? – Are you in peace?
Ilkhayr ilhamdulillaah – Peace only
Ish haalak? – How are you?
Lebaas meshaallaah – I am fine
Ish haal usrtak? – How is the family?
Lebaas liihum – They are fine
Ish haal ishshaqle? – How is the work?
Lebaas meshaallaah – It is fine
Ish haalak ma ilvetre? – How are you with tiredness?
Lebaas meshaallaah – I am fine
Ish haal Soukeyna? – How is Soukeyna?
Soukeyna lebaas liihe – Soukeyna is fine
Ish haal ishaashrtak? – How are your children?
Lebaas liihum – They are fine
Merhbe! – Welcome!
Shukran! – Thank you!


From the Peace Corps. Go to: Hassaniya_Language_Lessons.pdf for more (PDF).


Languages of Senegal: Pulaar

Pulaar is a dialect of Fula, a major African language both in its geographical distribution and number of speakers. Fula is spoken in Western, Eastern and Central Africa by over 25 million speakers. In addition to Africa, major concentrations of Fula speakers can be found in Europe and America. At the African Language Conference held in 1979 in Michigan, Fula was not only ranked high following the priority criteria utilized (i.e. -number of speakers; -political, cultural and social importance; -importance for US national interests) but it was also included in Group A Languages (Highest Priority). – Dr. Mamadou Niang

The Pulaar dialect is not uniform and some sources cite three different subvarieties; Fuutankoore, Jeerinkoore & Southern Pulaar.

  • fanaa – midday
  • liggude – hang up; hang. Liggu wutte maa. Hang your gown.
  • naafki – armpit. Naafki ma ina sicci. Your underarm smells badly. naafde pl.
  • sayeede – be rabid. rawaandu sayaandu a rabid dog
  • talde – cut a big piece of raw meat (v.)/big piece of raw meat (n.)
Definitions from Hippocrene Standard Pulaar-English Dictionary by Dr. Mamadou Niang. Available at HippocreneBooks.com A very nicely laid out dictionary however as far as I can tell the specific subvariety of Pulaar is not specified.

‘Say It In Wolof!’ Phrasebook Review

Say It In Wolof!‘ by Ababacar Gueye. Translated by Sue Hall.

BSDA No. 8531150404 3rd Edition (English) – Also available in French. ©2005

As far as I know it is not available online or anywhere outside of Senegal. It might be possible to special order it from the contact info below:

Lakki Reew Mi Project 1
568 Av. Abebe Bikila Grd Dakar. SN.
Mobile phone: 571.59.92
Email: lakkireewmib@yahoo.fr

My review:

It’s a very short book but has a lot of useful phrases for everyday life in Dakar. The one minor flaw of this book is that there are a few typos. There is even an omission of a letter in the pronunciation section – there’s a description of how to pronounce the letter but where the letter should be is blank.

Sample phrase from book:

Three. How much is that? Ñett. Ñaata la?

Book contents:

  • Introduction
  • Pronouncing and writing certain sounds
  • Greetings and basic chit-chat
  • Numbers
  • Money
  • Negotiating prices
  • Taxis
  • Restaurant
  • Family
  • Times of day
  • Telling the time
  • Remarks
  • Thanks
Wolof Phrasebook
Say It In Wolof! by Ababacar Gueye

All About Senegalese Money

In Senegal they use the franc CFA. But the traditional unit of currency is the dërëm which is counted by fives. Usually when dealing with money most people will deal strictly with the French terms for simplicity. If Wolof is used the dërëm is implied if not specifically said. So for example junni is 5000, not 1000, even though dërëm has been left off. The generic Wolof term for money is xaalis.

BASIC EXCHANGE RATES – This is just for a general idea, exchange rates fluctuate constantly, with the exception of the euro which has a fixed rate of 655.957 CFA to 1 euro.

Use www.xe.com for up to date currency exchange rates.

What is the exchange rate? Quel est le taux de change?

CONVERTING DËRËM TO CFA – When talking money, the number ñaari teemeeri (200) is the same as ñaari teemeeri dërëm (1000 CFA). To get the CFA equivalent of dërëm, take the number of dërëm and multiply it by 5, for example, teemeeri dërëm – 100 dërëm or 100 x 5, is 500 CFA.

Sometimes CFA is written as FCFA or just F.

A comma is often used to indicate decimals. For example – 1,5 is the same as 1.5.
Also, a period is often used to indicate thousands. For example – 10.000 is the same as 10,000.

Common French terms for money:
l’argent means money, bills/notes are called les billets or les factures and change/coinage is called pièces de monnaie.

What is the price? Quel est le prix?
How much does it cost? Combien est-ce là?

Text excerpt from the upcoming Janga Wolof produced Senegalese Phrasebook & Information Guide. Publish date TBA.

Going to Senegal?

Customs & Duties – Some items are not allowed into the country without proper clearance by Senegalese customs officials. Although the list includes computers and cameras it is unlikely that you won’t be allowed in the country or that your items will be confiscated if you have them. If you are concerned about anything you may wish to bring you should contact the Senegal Embassy in your country or visit the Senegal Tourism Authority’s official website.

Senegal Embassy, Canada +1 613 238 6392
Senegal Embassy, UK +44 (0)20 7937 7237
Senegal Embassy, USA +1 202 234 0540
Senegal Tourism Authority www.senegal-tourism.com

Text excerpt from the upcoming Janga Wolof produced Senegalese Phrasebook & Information Guide. Publish date TBA.

Would you like a fork with your fries?

Another cultural tidbit I noticed in Senegal was that although they ate traditional dishes such as rice or couscous with meat, vegetables and sauce with their hands, something in the West we would generally use utensils to eat, they ate things such as french fries and pizza with a fork when we would just use our hands. Go figure…

Mind Your Manners

It is customary in Senegal to greet anyone you come into contact with. If you come across a group of people, enter a dwelling or are meeting elders the Arabic greeting asalaam alaikum is appropriate. When greeting individuals the French bonjour or cava is good and alternately the Wolof nangadef works as well. It is also customary to shake hands when greeting someone. Also when entering a home shaking everyone’s hand, including the children, is common practice. Be sure to only use your right hand. There are some people, however, who will not shake hands with members of the opposite sex. It is also common practice to remove your shoes when entering homes so you may want to wear a pair that you can easily slip on and off. Most Senegalese wear flip-flops.

Text excerpt from the upcoming Janga Wolof produced Senegalese Phrasebook & Information Guide. Publish date TBA.

Keep it on the D.L.

Apparently in Senegalese culture they tend to keep some things secret such as trips and births until just before the time. I am told it is to “protect” the thing which is about to happen and at least for trips it is also so that people will not have time to burden you with things to take with you (to deliver to friends, family, etc.)

About the ACI (Baobab Center) Language Program

Africa Consultants International is a development-oriented consulting organization working in the fields of communication and training, primarily in Africa. Among its many activities, ACI offers courses in French, English and national languages (Wolof, Pulaar, Diola, Mandinka and Serer).

Courses range from intensive instruction (5 hours per day, five days a week) to less arduous schedules. Classes are organized based on requests, and class schedules are designed to respond to the specific professional needs of the students. From 1 to 6 students with comparable language levels can form a class. A limit of 6 students per class allows ACI instructors to provide greater individual attention and speaking practice for each participant.

Classes take place at ACI’s Baobab Training and Resource Center, a comfortable, homey setting conducive to serious study and friendly contact and communication. Emphasis is placed on oral-aural skills (speaking and comprehension) with reading and writing used as supports. Orientation to Africa and cross-cultural information and training are routinely integrated into the language program and more detailed orientations can be organized upon request.

The ACI Wolof Course is a one hundred hour introduction to the language for beginners. The course is divided into four 25 hour sessions.

Contact ACI:

Africa Consultants International
Baobab Training and Resource Center
509 SICAP Baobabs
B.P. 5270, Dakar
Telephone: 25.36.37
Fax: 24.07.41


When Arriving at the DKR International Airport

After arriving in Senegal, as you make your way out of the airport you will need to have your passport and yellow fever certificate ready to show to the security officials. After you have collected your luggage and made your way past the security officials and outside to the front of the airport you will find yourself surrounded by people asking if you would like to exchange money, get a taxi, help carrying luggage, a tour guide, etc. It is best that you politely refuse all these offers and walk confidently to one of the many taxis waiting at the curb. Under no circumstance let anybody grab your luggage even if they seem to be doing so just to help out, they will expect that you pay them for their service and under the rare circumstance may even steal your luggage. Also a lot of these people work together so if you let someone carry your luggage chances are he will take your baggage directly to his guy’s taxi and “negotiate” the fare on “your behalf”.

Text excerpt from the upcoming Janga Wolof produced Senegalese Phrasebook & Information Guide. Publish date TBA.

Before You Go To Senegal

Things you will need to enter Senegal;

Passport – You can either visit the websites below or your local post office to apply for a new passport or to renew an old one. It can take up to 6 weeks to recieve your passport, also passports must be valid for at least 3 months on entry, so keep that in mind when planning your trip. Canadian, U.K. & U.S. citizens do not need a visa for stays less than 3 months.

Canada www.ppt.gc.ca
U.K. www.ips.gov.uk
U.S.A. travel.state.gov

Vaccines & Medications – Visit a travel clinic or your health care provider to determine what you will need. You should allow up to 8 weeks before you travel to recieve all of your vaccinations and for them to take effect. You should also budget a few hundred dollars as it can get very expensive to take all the recommended vaccinations and medications. At the very least you should make sure all of your routine shots are up to date (measles, tetanus, etc.), get the yellow fever shot (it can be hard to enter Senegal without it) and pills for malaria. It is also a good idea to bring anti-diarrheal medicine. Visit the websites below for more information.

Centers for Disease Control www.cdc.gov
World Health Organization www.who.int

Some Facts & Figures About Senegal

12,853,259 (July 2008 est.)

Wolof 43.3%, Pular 23.8%, Serer 14.7%, Jola 3.7%, Mandinka 3%, Soninke 1.1%, European and Lebanese 1%, other 9.4%

Muslim 94%, Christian 5% (mostly Roman Catholic), indigenous beliefs 1%

French (official), Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka

Tropical; hot, humid; rainy season (May to November) has strong southeast winds; dry season (December to April) dominated by hot, dry, harmattan wind.

Source: CIA – The World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sg.html

Visit the New SenegalOnline!

Translated from the site:

The site senePortal.com facelift: new design, new structure
dynamic new content. We hope that this fine tool will enable members
and the public to communicate better, drawing on news of Senegal.
There is still some adjustments to make (potential bugs recalcitrant)
and above all a good part of the contents of the old site to “repatriate” on this new
platform. We have also opened a special discussion on the forum,
or you can send us your comments and suggestions.

We invite you now to become a member to make a full use
Site: managing your member page, your blog, participation in the forum …
Everyone can participate in the life of the site. On the forum of course, but also in writing
news, sending photos to the gallery, pointing out events, proposing
videos and links. If you were already on seneportal.com member, no need
you again, your account has been transferred.

Do not hesitate to give us your comments by mail
senegalonline@gmail.com or on the forum.

A Little About the Wolof Language

Wolof is a language spoken in Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania and to a lesser degree in other west African countries, and it is the native language of the ethnic group of the Wolof people. Like the neighboring language Fula, it belongs to the Atlantic branch of the Niger-Congo language family. Unlike most other languages of Sub-Sarahan Africa, Wolof is not a tonal language.

Wolof is the most widely spoken language in Senegal, spoken not only by members of the Wolof ethnic group but also by most other Senegalese. Wolof dialects may vary between countries (Senegal and the Gambia) and the rural and urban areas. “Dakar-Wolof“, for instance, is an urban mixture of Wolof, French, Arabic, and even a little English spoken in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

“Wolof” is the standard spelling, and is a term that may also refer to the Wolof ethnic group or to things originating from Wolof culture or tradition. As an aid to pronunciation, some older French publications use the spelling “Ouolof”; for the same reason, some English publications adopt the spelling “Wollof”, predominantly referring to Gambian Wolof. Prior to the 20th Century, the forms “Volof”, and “Olof” were used.

About 40 percent (approximately 3.2 million people) of Senegal’s population speak Wolof as their mother tongue. An additional 40 percent of the population speak Wolof as a second or acquired language. In the whole region from Dakar to Saint-Louis, and also west and southwest of Kaolack, Wolof is spoken by the vast majority of the people. Typically when various ethnic groups in Senegal come together in cities and towns, they speak Wolof. It is therefore spoken in almost every regional and departmental capital in Senegal. The official language of Senegal is French.

Source: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolof_language

A Short History on Senegal

Archaeological findings throughout the area indicate that Senegal was inhabited in prehistoric times. Islam established itself in the Senegal River valley in the 11th century. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the area came under the influence of the Mandingo empires to the east; the Jolof Empire of Senegal also was founded during this time.

Various European powers – Portugal, the Netherlands, and England – competed for trade in the area from the 15th century onward, until in 1677, France ended up in possession of what had become an important slave trade departure point – the infamous island of Gorée next to modern Dakar.

In January 1959, Senegal and the French Sudan merged to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent on June 20, 1960. The Federation broke up on August 20, 1960. Senegal and Sudan (renamed the Republic of Mali) proclaimed independence. Léopold Senghor, internationally known poet, politician, and statesman, was elected Senegal’s first president in August 1960.

After the breakup of the Mali Federation, President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia governed together under a parliamentary system. In December 1962, their political rivalry led to an attempted coup by Prime Minister Dia. The coup was put down without bloodshed and Dia was arrested and imprisoned. Senegal adopted a new constitution that consolidated the President’s power. In 1980, President Senghor retired from politics, and handed power over to his handpicked successor, Abdou Diouf, in 1981.

Senegal joined with The Gambia to form the nominal confederation of Senegambia on February 1, 1982. However, the envisaged integration of the two countries was never carried out, and the union was dissolved in 1989. Despite peace talks, a southern separatist group in the Casamance region has clashed sporadically with government forces since 1982.

Abdou Diouf was president between 1981 and 2000. Diouf served four terms as President. In the presidential election of 2000, he was defeated in a free and fair election by opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade. Senegal experienced its second peaceful transition of power, and its first from one political party to another.

Senegal remains one of the most stable democracies in Africa. Senegal was ruled by a Socialist Party for 40 years until current President Abdoulaye Wade was elected in 2000. He was reelected in February 2007, but complaints of fraud led opposition parties to boycott June 2007 legislative polls.

Source: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Senegal

Senegal Independence Day

Senegal gained partial independence from France today in 1960 with complete independence achieved upon the dissolution of the Mali Federation on August 20th of the same year.

Brief video of Independence Day in Senegal…

Wolof Lim Ak Xaalis

Wolof Numbers & Money

In Senegal they use the franc CFA (Communauté financière d’Afrique). But the traditional unit of currency is the dërëm which is counted by fives. Usually when dealing with money most people will deal strictly with the French terms for simplicity. If Wolof is used the dërëm is implied if not specifically said. So in the example below junni is 5000, not 1000, even though dërëm has been left off.

teemeeri dërëm = 500 CFA
(100 x 5 = 500)

ñaari teemeeri dërëm = 1000 CFA
(2 x 100 x 5 = 1000)

ñetti teemeeri dërëm = 1500 CFA
(3 x 100 x 5 = 1500)

juróom benni teemeeri dërëm = 3000 CFA
(5 + 1 x 100 x 5 = 3000)

juróom ñetti teemeeri dërëm = 4000 CFA
(5 + 3 x 100 x 5 = 4000)

junni = 5000 CFA
(1000 x 5 = 5000)

I do not know if this is common or just happened to be the people I was around but instead of, for example, saying ‘fifteen hundred‘ as we might say in the USA for 1500, they would say ‘one thousand five hundred‘. Also CFA is pronounced like ‘see-uff-uh‘ almost like ‘safer‘ with an odd accent.

Travel Vocabulary IV

See Travel Vocabulary III


Here are a few things that you may come across if traveling to Senegal or the Gambia.

bazin – dyed fabrics that are beaten to a shine with wooden clubs

campement – could be loosely translated as ‘hostel’, ‘inn’ or ‘lodge’, or even ‘motel’; it is not a camping ground (Senegal)

djembe – short, goat hide-covered drum

fromager – kapok tree; also known as silk-cotton tree (Senegal)

gasoil – diesel fuel

Inch’ Allah – God willing, ie hopefully (Arabic, but used by Muslims in Africa)

marabout – Muslim holy man

paillote – shelter with thatched roof and walls; usually on the beach or around an open-air bar-restaurant (Senegal)

sai-sai – Wolof term for a womanizer; also used for youngsters smooth-talking women, usually with sexual but sometimes criminal intentions

telecentre – privately owned telephone bureau (Gambia)

Thanks to Lonely Planet’s The Gambia & Senegal; 3rd Edition.

Guest Post: ‘Toubab Cuts It All Off’ by Katie Krueger

Toubab Cuts It All Off

by Katie Krueger

One day, the Senegalese heat made me desperate to find ways to cool
down. Impulsively, I walked into the nearest Salon de Coiffure and
asked for a haircut and shampoo. As I was getting my hair washed, I
remembered what Richard, my stylist back home, used to say: “Katie,
we’re not just cutting off your hair; we are cutting style and
elegance into your hair.”

The Senegalese stylist sat me down in front of the mirror and we went
through the familiar dialogue.

“How much do you want cut off?”

“About two inches, I really want it layered…”

“Here?” she asked, tapping with the scissors on the bunch of hair
fisted in her grip.

Since she had not combed it out, parted it down the middle or
sectioned if off, I was sure this was just our planning session.

“Yes. I like it best when it sort of comes behind…”

CHOMP. I watched stunned as clumps of my hair, ragged-edged and
uneven, fell to the floor.

The looks of bewilderment that she threw towards my head made it clear
to me that my new coiffeuse had never cut a white woman’s hair before.
It was to late to change the situation, so I just sat back and watched
in amusement, as each chop seemed to both confuse and fascinate her.
When she got to the back of my head, she looked at me through the
mirror and her eyes waved the white flag of surrender. I glanced over
my head of uneven tufts and patches of hair and decided to cut my

I thanked and paid her and ran to my friend’s house, where we spent
the afternoon trying to cut back in the style and elegance that had
been swept away at the Salon de Coiffure.


Please visit the author’s website at www.katiekrueger.com/blog.

Travel Vocabulary III

See Travel Vocabulary II


Here are a few things that you may come across if traveling to Senegal or the Gambia.

auberge – hostel or small hotel

balafon – wooden xylophone typically played by griots

calèche – horse-drawn cart used to carry goods and people, particularly in the rural regions of Senegal

dibiterie – grilled-meat stall

fête – festival (Senegal)

gargotte – basic eating house or stall (Senegal)

IMF – International Monetary Fund

kora – 21-string harp-lute

maison de passage – very basic place to sleep, often near bus stations; with a bed or mat on the floor and little else, and nearly always doubling as a brothel; also called chambres de passage

Ndiaga Ndiaye – white Mercedes bus, used as public transport; also called alham (Senegal)

pagne – length of cloth worn around the waist as a skirt (Senegal)

quartier – area

sabar – tall, thin, hourglass drum

taxi-brousse – bush taxi (Senegal)

village artisanal – craft market (Senegal)

zouk – style of music, originally from Guadeloupe, that mixes African and Latin-American rhythms

Thanks to Lonely Planet’s The Gambia & Senegal; 3rd Edition.

Culture Notes – Greetings

Extended greetings are an important part of social interaction and many doors will open for you if you are capable of exchanging simple greeting phrases in the local language. Even a few words make a big difference.

Most areas are Islamic, and upon entering someone’s home, announce your arrival with a confident ‘Salaam aleikum’ (peace be with you), and your presence will be acknowledged with ‘Aleikum salaam’ (and peace be with you).

This is followed by inquiries about your health, the health of your family, the state of your affairs and those of your children. You’re never expected to give an honest answer at this point. In Gambia things are always fine; in Senegal the response is always ‘Ça va’. Never mind the real troubles that might be plaguing you – these can be mentioned later in the conversation.

Although it’s not necessary for foreigners to go through the whole routine, it’s important to use greetings whenever possible. Even if you’re just changing money, negotiating a taxi fee or asking directions, precede your request with a simple. ‘Hello, how are you? Can you help me please?’, rather than plunging right in.

Borrowed from; The Gambia & Senegal, Lonely Planet, 3rd Edition, 2006

Travel Vocabulary II

See Travel Vocabulary I


Here are a few things that you may come across if traveling to Senegal or the Gambia.

alham – white Mercedes bus, also called N’Diaga N’Diaye in Dakar

beignet – simple deep-fried donut (Senegal)

calesh – horse-drawn taxi usually seating about three people behind the driver

demi-pension – half board (dinner, bed and breakfast) (Senegal)

essence – petrol (gas) for car (Senegal)

fanals – large lanterns; also the processions during which the lanterns are carried through the streets

gare routière – bus and bush-taxi station, (also called autogare and gare voiture) (Senegal)

hôtel de ville – town hall (Senegal)

in sha’ Allah – God willing, ie, hopefully (Arabic, but used by Muslims in Africa)

lumo – weekly market, usually in border areas

mairie – town hall; mayor’s office (Senegal)

paletuviers – mangroves (Senegal)

quatre-quatre – four-wheel-drive car (4WD or 4×4)

riz yollof – vegetables and/or meat cooked in a sauce of oil and tomatoes

Senegambia – the region of Senegal and Gambia

tampon hygiénique – tampon (also tampon periodique and serviette hygiénique) (Senegal)

yassa poulet – grilled chicken marinated in an onion-and-lemon sauce (Senegal)

Thanks to Lonely Planet’s The Gambia & Senegal; 2nd Edition.

Happy Tabaski

Today is the Muslim holiday Tabaski. In most Muslim countries it is called Eid al-Adha but in much of West Africa it is called Tabaski. Tabaski is the commemoration of the Biblical patriarch Abraham’s (Ibrahim in Arabic) willingness to sacrifice his son as commanded by God. On Tabaski a sheep (or a goat) is slaughtered as a symbolic gesture of the ram that God substituted for Abraham’s son.

Youssou N’dour & Super Etoile performing “Tabaski” in the studio.

Below is a slide show of a Tabaski preparation and celebration in Dakar, Senegal (warning: a few of the pictures are of the slaughter so if you are squeamish to that sort of thing be aware!)

Some Mandinka

The Mandinka language, sometimes referred to as Mandingo, is a Mandé language spoken by millions of Mandinka people in Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea-Bissau; it is the main language of The Gambia. It belongs to the Manding branch of Mandé, and is thus fairly similar to Bambara and Maninka or Malinké. It is a tonal language with two tones: low and high.

baadaa – beach

daa – price

kambaanoo – boy

londoo – education

mansaaloo – proverb

hidiki – hiccup

saatee – village

taabuloo – table

Try this fun Mandinka Word Search.

A Couple Slang Words…

Sai Sai –

“That little crafty one.” (Euphemism given to AIDS in the poor suburbs of Dakar, Senegal.) Also means bad person, “playa”, pimp, crooked business person, etc. Used for men & women. Can be like an insult or badge of pride.

Bin Bins –

A string of beads worn on an elastic string. Senegalese girls typically wear them just beneath the top of their pants or skirts, or sometimes just above. It is considered flirtatious, or even slightly erotic to show one’s bin-bins, particularly to a guy. And if a guy gives a girl a set of bin-bins, it’s pretty clear what that means!

Travel Vocabulary

Here are a few things that you may come across if traveling to Senegal or the Gambia.

afra – grilled meat, or grilled meat stall (Gambia)

benechin – rice baked in a thick sauce of fish and vegetables (Gambia)

cadeau – gift, tip, bribe or a hand-out (Senegal)

dash – bribe (noun); also used as a verb ‘You dash me something …’ (Gambia)

Ecowas – Economic Community of West African States

factory – fortified slaving station

garage – bus and bush-taxi station (Gambia)

harmattan – the light winds from the north which carry tiny particles of sand from the desert, causing skies to become hazy from December to February

IMF – International Monetary Fund

latcheri – pounded millet

mafé – thick brown groundnut sauce

ndeup – ceremonies where people with a mental illness are treated and healed (Senegal)

occasion – lift (noun), or place in a car or bus (often shortened to occas) (Senegal)

palava – meeting place

Quran – Islamic holy book (also called Koran)

Ramsar – an international convention primarily concerned with the conservation of wetland habitats and associated wildlife

salon du thé – tea shop (Senegal)

tampon – stamp (eg, in passport) (Senegal)

ventilé – room with a fan (Senegal)

Thanks to Lonely Planet’s The Gambia & Senegal; 2nd Edition.