western African language
Phrasebooks > Bambara phrasebook

Bambara or Bamanankan (ߓߡߊߣߊ߲ߞߊ߲) is a language in West Africa, mostly in Mali, where it is mother tongue of the Bambara people (30% of the population), and where 80% of the population can communicate in the language. Bambara will also be useful in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Gambia. Together with Dioulé and Malinké it belongs to the Mandekan dialect family, which itself part of the Mande group, which is a Niger-Congo language subgroup.

The language is heavily influenced by French, and even the slightest knowledge of French will make it easier to remember words. If you don't remember a word you can try to use the French word.

Pronunciation guideEdit

VowelsEdit

a
like 'a' in "father"
e
like 'e' in "prey"
ε
like 'e' in "met"
i
like 'i' in "police"
o
like 'o' in "so"
ɔ
like 'ough' in "bought"
u
like 'u' in "clue"

There are also long vowels:

  • aa
  • ee
  • εε
  • ii
  • oo
  • ɔɔ
  • uu

and nasal vowels:

  • an
  • en
  • εn
  • in
  • on
  • ɔn
  • un

ConsonantsEdit

j
like 'j' in "jay"
ɲ
like 'ny' in "canyon"
ŋ
like 'nw'
c
like 'ch' in "chair"
g
like 'g' in "get"
h
like 'h' in "hard"
s
like 'ss' in "pass" or 'sh' in "shake" (varies by region)

BlendsEdit

sh
like 'sh' in "shore"

Phrase listEdit

BasicsEdit

Hello (any time of day)
i ni ce
How are you? (Are you well?) (to one person)
i ka kεnε wa?
How are you? (Are you well?) (to more than one person)
Aw ka kεnε (wa)?
Fine, thank you.
kεnε, tɔɔrɔ te, ko tε, tana tε
What is your first name?
i tɔgɔ?
What is your last name?
i jamu?
My name is ______ .
ne tɔgɔ ___
Thank you.
i ni ce
You're welcome.
basi tε (literally 'no problem')
Yes.
awɔ
No.
ayi
Excuse me. (getting attention / begging pardon)
(aw ye) hakε to!
I'm sorry.
a yafa n ma
Goodbye
k'an bεn
Goodbye (informal)
n taara
I can't speak Bambara very well.
Ne tε se bamanankan na kosεbε
I don't speak Bambara very well, but I understand a little
Ne tε se bamanankan na kosεbε, nka ne b'a men dɔɔnin dɔɔnin.
Do you speak English?
i bε angilekan men wa?
Is there someone here who speaks English?
Mogo do min bε angilekan men be yan, wa?
Help!
N deme!
Look out!
I farati!
Good morning.
aw ni sɔgɔma (several persons around), i ni sɔgɔma (1 person)
Good afternoon
aw ni tile, i ni tile
Good evening.
aw ni wula, i ni wula
Good night.
aw ni su, i ni su
Good night (to sleep)
ka su hεεrε
I don't understand.
n m'a faamu
Where is the toilet?
ɲεgεn bε min?

ProblemsEdit

Leave me alone.
N bila sa!
Don't touch me!
I kana magan n na!
I'll call the police.
N bε polisiw wele.
Police!
Police!
Stop! Thief!
A yi zon (or son) minE)
I need your help.
N mago bε i ka deme na.
It's an emergency.
koo teliman do.
I'm lost.
N tununen don.
I lost my bag.
N ka saki tununa.
I lost my wallet.
N ka wari tununa.
I'm sick.
Bana bε na.
I've been injured.
N joki na
I need a doctor.
N mago bε dogotoro la.
Can I use your phone?
N bε se ka weleli kε ni i ka telephone ye wa?

NumbersEdit

1
kelen
2
fila
3
saba
4
naani
5
duurun
6
wooro
7
wolonfla
8
segi
9
kononto
10
tan
11
tan ni kelen
12
tan ni fla
13
tan ni saba
14
tan ni naani
15
tan ni duurun
16
tan ni wooro
17
tan ni wolonfla
18
tan ni segi
19
tan ni kononto
20
mugan
21
mugan ni kelen
22
mugan ni fla
23
mugan ni saaba
30
bi saba
40
bi naani
50
bi duurun
60
bi wooro
70
bi wolonfla
80
bi segi
90
bi kononto
100
keme
200
keme fla
300
keme saba
1000
wa (baa) kelen
2000
wa fla
3451
wa saba ani keme naani ani biduru ani kelen
1,000,000
million kelen
1,000,000,000
milliard kelen
number _____ (train, bus, etc.)
half
tilance
a lot
caman
a few
do / doonin

TimeEdit

now
sisan
right this instant
sisan sisan
later
kofe
soon
sɔɔni
before
ɲyε
morning
sɔgɔma
afternoon
tilé
evening
wula
night
su

Clock timeEdit

one o'clock AM
une heure waati or nεgε kan &0626ε kelen
two o'clock AM
deux heure waati or
noon
midi waati
one o'clock PM
treize heure waati
two o'clock PM
quatorze heure waati
midnight
minuit waati

Prayer timesEdit

sunrise
fajiri waati
approx 2 pm
selifana waati
approx 4 pm
lansara waati
sunset
fitiri waati
nightfall
safo waati

DurationEdit

_____ minute(s)
minuti _____
_____ hour(s)
heuri _____
_____ day(s)
don _____
_____ week(s)
dɔgɔkun _____
_____ month(s)
kalo _____
_____ year(s)
san _____

DaysEdit

today
bi
yesterday
kunu
the day before yesterday
kuna sini
tomorrow
sini
the day after tomorrow
sinin kene
this week
dogukun nin na
last week
dogukun temena
next week
dogukun nata / wεrε
Sunday
kari-don
Monday
nténé-don
Tuesday
tarata-don
Wednesday
araba-don
Thursday
alamisa-don
Friday
(gé)juma-don
Saturday
sibiri-don

MonthsEdit

January
Zanwuyé (kalo)
February
Feburuyé (kalo)
March
Marsi (kalo)
April
Awirili (kalo)
May
Mε(kalo)
June
Zuwen (kalo)
July
Zuluyé (kalo)
August
Uti (kalo)
September
Sεtamburu (kalo)
October
Oktɔburu (kalo)
November
Nɔwanburu (kalo)
December
Desanburu (kalo)

Writing time and dateEdit

The month is always stated first in a date, then the day of the month. For example, January 25, 2008 would be "janvier kalo tile mugan ni duru san baa fila ni segi". A literal translation would be "January month day twenty-five year two thousand and eight." When written with digits, the French tradition of day, month, year is generally followed.

ColorsEdit

black
finman
white
jεman
gray
red
bilenman
blue
buluman
yellow
nεrεmuguman
green
binkeneman
orange
siramuguman
purple
brown
sikoloman

TransportationEdit

Bus and trainEdit

How much is a ticket to _____?
Ka taa ____ ye joli ye?
One ticket to _____, please.
Billetti kelen ka taa ____.
Where does this train/bus go?
Mobili / train nin bε taa min?
Where is the train/bus to _____?
Mobili / train min bε taa _____ bε sɔrɔ min?
Does this train/bus stop in _____?
Mobili /train nin bε jo _____ wa?
When does the train/bus for _____ leave?
Mobili / train min bε taa _____ waati jumen?
When will this train/bus arrive in _____?
Mobili / train nin bε se _____ waati jumen?

DirectionsEdit

How do I get to _____ ?
____ bε sɔrɔ fan jumεn fε?
...the train station?
gare de train
...the bus station?
autogare
...the airport?
aeroport
...downtown?
dugukono
...the youth hostel?
siyɔrɔ / hotel
...the _____ hotel?
siyɔrɔ / hotel
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate?
Ameriki / Canadien / Australien / Anglezi ambassade / jamanasigiyoro
Where are there a lot of...
_____ caman bε sɔrɔ min?
...hotels?
hotel
...restaurants?
dumuniyorow
...bars?
dɔlɔminyɔrɔw
...sites to see?
Can you show me on the map?
I bε se ka jira n na carti la wa?
street
sira
Turn left.
kaa fara numanbolo fε
Turn right.
kaa fara kinibolo fε
left
numanbolo (nose hand)
right
kinibolo (rice hand)
straight ahead
ɲε fε
towards the _____
_____ fan fε
past the _____
_____ kɔ fε
before the _____
_____ ɲε
Watch for the _____.
_____ ɲini
intersection
north
saheli / kokodugu fε (sahel / salt land way)
south
worodugu fε (kola land way)
east
seli fε (prayer way)
west
tilebin fε (sunset way)
uphill
san fε
downhill
duguma fε

TaxiEdit

Taxi!
Taxi!
Take me to _____, please.
N b'a fe ka taa _____ (la).
How much does it cost to get to _____?
Ka taa _____ (la) ye joli ye?
Take me there, please.
An ka taa yen.

LodgingEdit

Do you have any rooms available?
Siyɔrɔ bε wa?
How much is a room for one person/two people?
Siyɔrɔ kelenta / filata ye joli ye?
Does the room come with...
_____ bε sɔrɔ siyɔrɔ la wa?
...bedsheets?
...couverture?
...a bathroom?
...tualet / nyegen?
...a telephone?
...telephone?
...a TV?
...television?
May I see the room first?
N bε se ka Siyɔrɔ laje folo wa?
Do you have anything quieter?
Siyɔrɔ do bε sɔrɔ min ...hεrε ka ca nin ye wa?
...bigger?
...ka bon nin ye wa?
...cleaner?
...ka sani nin ye wa?
...cheaper?
...da ka nogon nin ye wa?
OK, I'll take it.
A ka nyi, n b'a ta.
I will stay for _____ night(s).
N bε na su ____ kε yan.
Can you suggest another hotel?
Hotel were bε sɔrɔ? I bε se ka n bila o sira la?
Do you have a safe?
Coffru bε wa?
...lockers?
...lockers?
Is breakfast/supper included?
Daraka / surofana b'a la wa?
What time is breakfast/supper?
Daraka / surofana bε dun waati jumen?
Please clean my room.
N ka siyoro furan.
Can you wake me at _____?
I bε se kan n lawuli _____ heuri la wa?
I want to check out.
N b'a fe ka wari sara ka taa.

MoneyEdit

Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian/British currency?
N bε se k'a sara ni Ameriki / Australien / Canadien / Anglezi wari ye wa?
Do you accept credit cards?
N bε se ka sara ni carti ye wa?
Can you change money for me?
I bε se ka wari falen n ye wa?
Where can I get money changed?
Wari bε falen min?
Can you change a traveler's check for me?
I bε se ka sheki falen wa?
Where can I get a traveler's check changed?
Sheki nin bε falen min?
What is the exchange rate?
A falen ye joli ye?
How much for one _____?
_____ kelen kelen ye joli ye?
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)?
Machine d'argent / warimachine bε sɔrɔ? min?

EatingEdit

A table for one person/two people, please.
Can I look at the menu, please?
N bε se ka menu laje wa, sa?
Can I look in the kitchen?
N bε se ka gwa laje wa?
Is there a house specialty?
Is there a local specialty?
I'm a vegetarian.
n te sogo dun
I don't eat pork.
n te lesogo dun
I don't eat beef.
n te misisogo dun
Can you make it "lite", please? (less oil/butter/lard)
aw kana tulu caman k'a la [don't put a lot of oil on it]
fixed-price meal
à la carte
breakfast
daraka
lunch
tilela fana, tilerɔ
tea (meal)
supper
sula fana, surɔfana
I want _____.
ne bε _____ fε
I want a dish containing _____.
N bε dumuni min fe, ____ b'o la.
chicken
shεsogo
beef
mishisogo
fish
jεgε
ham
lesogo
soda
buasan
sausage
cheese
fromagi
eggs
shεfan
salad, lettuce
saladi
(fresh) vegetable
nako fen (garden things)
(fresh) fruit
yiri den (tree children)
bread
buru, nbuuru
toast
noodles
macaroni (yes, just like English, but applies to nearly all pasta)
rice
malo (uncooked), kini (cooked)
mais
kaba
orange
lemru-ba, lenburuba
lemon, lime
lenburu
pineapple
jabibi
banana
namasa
plantain
baranda, loko
guava
buyaki
papaya
manje
mango
mangoro
peanut
tiga
beans
sho
May I have a glass of _____?
May I have a cup of _____?
May I have a bottle of _____?
... galama ...
coffee
kafe, kafe-ji
tea (drink)
te
_____ juice
____ ji
(bubbly) water
water
ji
milk
nɔnɔ
beer
bieri
alcohol
dolo
red/white wine
May I have some _____?
ne bε se ka ____ soro wa?
salt
kɔkɔ
black pepper
butter
Excuse me, waiter? (getting attention of server)
terike!
I'm finished.
n fara (I'm full)
It was delicious.
a djarra, aw ni gwa
Please clear the plates.
aw ka assiettiw ta.
The check, please.
aw ka na ni addition ye.

BarsEdit

Do you serve alcohol?
eska dolo bε wa?
Is there table service?
Is there table service?
A beer/two beers, please.
castel bilibili ba, castel bilibiliba fila, sil vous plais.
A glass of red/white wine, please.
A glass of red/white wine, please.
A pint, please.
A pint, please.
A bottle, please.
A bottle, please.
_____ (hard liquor) and _____ (mixer), please.
_____ and _____, please.
whiskey
whiskey
vodka
vodka
rum
rum
water
water
club soda
club soda
tonic water
tonic water
orange juice
orange juice
Coke (soda)
Coke
Do you have any bar snacks?
Do you have any bar snacks?
One more, please.
One more, please.
Another round, please.
Another round, please.
When is closing time?
When is closing time?

ShoppingEdit

Do you have this in my size?
Do you have this in my size?
How much is this?
Nin ye joli ye?
That's too expensive.
abadika, O ka cha. Do bo a la [cheaper please]
Would you take _____?
Would you take _____?
expensive
ka gelen (literally - too hard)
cheap
ma gelen (literally - not hard)
I can't afford it.
wardi tε n'bolo. (literally - the money is not in my hand)
I don't want it.
N t'a fε. [note: once you have made an offer you are obligated to purchase]
You're cheating me.
Namara ka cha.
I'm not interested.
N ma se a ma.
OK, I'll take it.
Awo, n ba taa. or Awo, n bε fε k'a san. (literally - I want to buy it)
Can I have a bag?
mahnah bε wa? (literally - do you have plastic)
Do you ship (overseas)?
Do you ship (overseas)?
I need...
N'mago be ______ la
...toothpaste.
...pahtay de dent. (French)
...a toothbrush.
...brassay de dent (French)
...tampons.
...tampons.
...soap.
...safine.
...shampoo.
...shampoo.
...pain reliever. (e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen)
...Kungaloo fura Keesay. (literally head-seed)or Kungaloo fura
...cold medicine.
...moora fooroo.
...stomach medicine.
...kono baara fooroo.
...a razor.
...lamu. (French)
...an umbrella.
...para pluie. (French)
...sunblock lotion.
...sunblock lotion.
...a postcard.
...a postcard.
...postage stamps.
...tambaru. (French)
...batteries.
...pilew.
...writing paper.
...papieri ka seben.
...a pen.
...biki.
...English-language books.
...anglakan livuru.
...English-language magazines.
...English-language magazines.
...an English-language newspaper.
...an English-language newspaper.
...an English-English dictionary.
...anglikan dickshow.

DrivingEdit

I want to rent a car.
N be feka mobili cinga
Can I get insurance?
Can I get insurance?
stop (on a street sign)
a to
one way
sira kelen
yield
yield
no parking
jo yoro te yan
speed limit
teliya hake
gas (petrol) station
gas station
petrol
petrol
diesel
diesel

AuthorityEdit

I haven't done anything wrong.
N ma foi ke
It was a misunderstanding.
An ma nyogon famu
Where are you taking me?
Aw be n taa fo min?
Am I under arrest?
Aw bena n mina wa?
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen.
Ne be bo Ameriki/Australi/Angaleter/Canada
I want to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate.
I need to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate.
I want to talk to a lawyer.
I want to talk to a lawyer.
Can I just pay a fine now?
Can I just pay a fine now?

Learning moreEdit

This Bambara phrasebook is a usable article. It explains pronunciation and the bare essentials of travel communication. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.