Bambara 101

Bambara Peace Corps Course

Bambara Peace Corps CourseThis Bambara course was developed by the U.S. Peace Corps for its volunteers going to Mali. It can be useful as a primer for learning the basics of the Bambara language. You can listen and follow along to each lesson or download the whole course directly.

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Lesson 1 – The Alphabet


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Letter/Sound As in
a Ah-ha
b Book
c Chair
d Door
e Day
ε Met
f Foot
g Game
Ŋ Sing
h Hair
i Tea
j Jail
k Kit
l Lock
m Meat
n Net
ɲ Onion
o Soda
ɔ Long
p Put
r River
s See
Sh Shame
t Termite
u Shoe
w War
y Year
z Zebra

Lesson 2 – Vocabulary 1


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Bambara English
n I
i You (singular)
a He or she
an We
aw You (plural)
u They
Sɔgɔma The morning
Sɔgɔma/Sɔgɔmadafε In the morning
Tile Noon
Tilefε At noon
Wula The afternoon
Wulafε In the afternoon
Su The night
Sufε At night
Daraka Breakfast
Tilelafana Lunch
Surɔfana Dinner
Denbaya Family
Somɔgɔw Family (lit people of the house)
Muso Woman or wife
Musow Women
Man or husband
Cεw Men
Den Child
Denw Children
Ba Mother
Fa Father

Lesson 3 – Greetings


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Bambara English
Nba Reply to a greeting (used only by men)
Nse Reply to a greeting (used only by women)
I ni sɔgɔma Good morning
Nba, i ni sɔgɔma Good morning (males reply)
Nse, i ni sɔgɔma Good morning (females reply)
I ni wula Good afternoon
I ni su Good evening
I ni tile(n) Good afternoon (from noon until 2 PM)
I ka kεnε? Are you fine?
Tɔɔro tε No problems/trouble
Tɔɔro si tε No problems at all
I fa ka kεnε? Is your father fine?
Tɔɔrɔ t’a la He is fine
I ba ka kεnε? Is your mother fine?
Tɔɔrɔ t’a la She is fine
I denw ka kεnε? Are your children fine?
Tɔɔrɔ t’u la They are fine
Somɔgɔw ka kεnε? Is your family fine?
Tɔɔrɔ t’u la They are fine
Hεrε sira? Was the night peaceful?
Hεrε dɔrɔn Peace only
Hεrε tilenna? Was the day peaceful?
Hεrε dɔrɔn Peace only
Bob ka kεnε? Is Bob fine?
Tɔɔrɔ t’a la He is fine
Jennifer ni Mark ka kεnε? Are Jennifer and Mark fine?
Tɔɔrɔ t’u la They are fine
I bε di? How are you?
Somɔgɔw bε di? How is your family?
I bisimila! Welcome! (Singular)
Aw bisimila! Welcome! (Plural)
Saha! Thanks! (a reply to bisimila)

Lesson 4 – Numbers 1 to 20


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Bambara English
Kelen One
Fila Two
Saba Three
Naani Four
Duuru Five
Wɔɔrɔ Six
Wolonfila Seven
Segin Eight
Kɔnɔntɔn Nine
Tan Ten
Tan ni kelen Eleven
Tan ni fila Twelve
Tan ni saba Thirteen
Tan ni naani Fourteen
Tan ni duuru Fifteen
Tan ni wɔɔrɔ Sixteen
Tan ni wolonfila Seventeen
Tan ni segin Eighteen
Tan ni kɔnɔntɔn Nineteen
Mugan Twenty

Lesson 5 – Introductions


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Bambara English
N tɔgɔ Bubakar My name is Bubakar
N jamu Jalo My last name is Jalo
I tɔgɔ? What’s your name?
I jamu? What’s your last name?
N bε bɔ Mali la I am from Mali
N muso bε bɔ Mauritanie My wife is from Mauritania
I bε bɔ min? Where are you from?
I muso bε bɔ min? Where is your wife from?
A bε bɔ min? Where is she or he from?
A tɔgɔ Mark His name is Mark
A jamu Humphrey His last name is Humphrey
Mark tε bɔ Mali la, a bε bɔ Ameriki Mark is not from Mali. He is from America
I bε bɔ Ameriki wa? Are you from the America?
Ayi, n tε bɔ Ameriki No, I am not from the States.
I bε bɔ Mali la wa? Are you from Mali?
ɔwɔ, n bε bɔ Mali la Yes, I am from Mali
N ye karamɔgɔ ye I am a teacher
N muso tε karamɔgɔ ye My wife is not a teacher
Mark ye wolɔntεri ye Mark is a volunteer
A muso tε wolɔntεri ye His wife is not a volunteer
Mark muso ye kalanden ye Mark’s wife is a student

Lesson 6 – Goodbyes


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Bambara English
K’an b’u fo! Good-bye! (Lit we greet them)
U n’a mεn They will hear your greetings
K’an bεn! See you!
Ka tile hεrε caya Have a good day
Ka su hεrε caya Have a good night
Ka dugu ɲuman jε May we have a good night
K’an kelen kelen wuli May we have a good night
Amiina! Amen!
K’an bεn sɔgɔma See you in the morning
K’an bεn wulafε See you in the afternoon
K’an bεn tilefε See you around noon
K’an bεn sufε See you in the evening
K’an bεn sinin See you tomorrow
K’an bεn sɔɔni See you soon
K’an bεn kɔfε See you later

Lesson 7 – Basic Phrases


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Bambara English
A: I ni sɔgɔma Good morning!
B: Nse, I ni sɔgɔma Good morning!
A: I ka kεnε? Are you fine?
B: Tɔɔrɔ si tε No problems at all
A: Somɔgɔw bε di? How is your family?
B: Tɔɔrɔ t’u la They are fine
A: I bisimila! Welcome!
B: Saha! Thanks!
A: I tɔgɔ? What’s your name?
B: N tɔgɔ Mariam. E dun? My name is Mariam. And you?
A: N tɔgɔ Mamadu My name is Mamadu
B: I ye karamɔgɔ ye wa? Are you a teacher?
A: ɔwɔ, n ye “Corps de la Paix” karamɔgɔ ye Yes, I am a Peace Corps teacher
B: Foli don. N bε taa so I was just greeting. I am going home.
A: Ayiwa, k’an b’u fo Ok! Good-bye! (we greet them)
B: U n’a mεn They will hear your greetings
A: Ka tile hεrε caya May we have a good day
B: Amiina Amen

Lesson 8 – Vocabulary 2


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Bambara English
Tabali A table
Sεsi A chair
Sigilan A stool
Biki A pen
Kiriyon A pencil
Kaye A notebook
Liburu A book
Saki A bag
Lakεrε Chalk
Tabulo Chalk board
Asεti A plate
Kutu A spoon
Muru A knife
Furalan A broom
Dilan A bed
Birifini A blanket
Dara A bed sheet
Dεbεn A mat
Fini Clothes
Doloki A shirt
Kulusi Pants
Sabara Shoes
Nεgεso Bike
Nunεti Eye glasses
Ji Water
Kafe Coffee
Nɔnɔ Milk
Sukaro Sugar
Kɔkɔ Salt

Lesson 9 – Vocabulary 3


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Bambara English
So House
Kalanso Classroom
ɲεgεn Toilet
Gwabugu Kitchen
Dumunikεyɔrɔ Eating area/place
Gwa Straw roof that you sit under
Lakɔli School
Dɔgɔtɔrɔso Hospital
Sugu Market
Butiki Shop
Biro Office
Baji River
Kɔlɔn A well
Ponpu Pump
Nakɔ Garden
Foro Field
Baarakεyɔrɔ Working place
Misiri Mosque
Egilisi Church
Banki Bank
Tεrεn gari Train station
Abiyon jigin kεnε Airport
Oto gari Bus station
Posu Post office

Lesson 10 – Numbers 20 to 2,000


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Bambara English
Mugan Twenty
Mugan ni kelen Twenty-one
Mugan ni fila Twenty-two
Mugan ni saba Twenty-three
Mugan ni naani Twenty-four
Mugan ni duuru Twenty-five
Mugan ni wɔɔrɔ Twenty-six
Mugan ni wolonfila Twenty-seven
Mugan ni segin Twenty-eight
Mugan ni kɔnɔntɔn Twenty-nine
Bi saba Thirty
Bi saba ni kelen Thirty-one
Bi naani Forty
Bi duuru Fifty
Bi wɔɔrɔ Sixty
Bi wolonfila Seventy
Bi segin Eighty
Bi kɔnɔntɔn Ninety
kεmε One- hundred
Kεmε ni bi saba One hundred thirty
Kεmε ni bi duuru One hundred fifty
Kεmε fila Two hundred
Kεmε saba Three hundred
Kεmε naani Four hundred
Kεmε duuru Five hundred
kεmε wɔɔrɔ Six hundred
Wa kelen One thousand
Wa kelen ni kεmε fila ni bi duuru One thousand-two hundred and fifty
Wa fila Two thousand

Lesson 11 – Useful Expressions


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Bambara English
N sεgεnnen don I am tired
Sunɔgɔ bε n na I am sleepy
Kɔngɔ bε n na I am hungry
Kɔngɔ tε n na I am not hungry
Minɔgɔ bε n na I am thirsty
Minɔgɔ tε n na I am not thirsty
Funteni bε It’s hot
Funteni tε It’s not hot
Nεnε bε It’s cold
Nεnε tε It’s not cold
Hakεto Excuse me
Hakε t’i la You are excused
I bε taa min? Where are you going?
N bε taa so I am going home
N bε taa lakɔli la I am going to school
Mark bε taa biro la Mark is going to the office
A bε taa ɲεgεn na He or she is going to the toilet
N tε taa biro la I don’t go to the office
I bε Bamanakan fɔ? Do you speak Bambara?
ɔwɔ, n bε Bamanankan fɔ dɔɔni Yes, I speak Bambara a little bit
Mark tε Bamanankoan fɔ Mark doesn’t speak Bambara
N tε tubabukan fε I don’t like French
N tε kafe fε I don’t like coffee
Jennifer bε Bamanankan fε Jennifer likes Bambara
N bε kalankε I study
N bε dumunikε I eat
N bε baarakε I work
A tε kalankε He doesn’t study
A tε dumunikε He doesn’t eat
A tε baarakε He doesn’t work
N bε n ko I bathe
N tε n ko sisan I don’t bathe now
N b’a fε ka n lafiɲε I want to rest

Lesson 12 – Family


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Bambara English
Fa Father
Ba Mother
Bangebaw Parents
Den Child
Denw Children
Denbaya Family
N ka denbaya My family
Kɔrɔcε Elder brother
Kɔrɔmuso Elder sister
Dɔgɔcε Younger brother
Dɔgɔmuso Younger sister
Benkε Uncle
Tεnεmuso Aunt
Balima Sibling
Mɔkε Grand father
Mɔmuso Grand mother
Mɔden Grand child
Mark ye san mugan ni duuru ye Mark is twenty-five years old
N ye san bi saba ye I am thirty years old
I ye san joli ye? How old are you?
Mark sigilen bε Gao Mark is living in Gao
A sigilen tε New York He is not living in New York
Dɔgɔmuso fila bε n fε I have two younger sisters
Dɔgɔcε tε n fε I don’t have a younger brother
Kɔrɔmuso bε Suzan fε Suzan has an elder sister
Kɔrɔcε t’a fε She doesn’t have an elder brother

Lesson 13 – Days and Time


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Bambara English
Tεnεn Monday
Tarata Tuesday
Araba Wednesday
Alamisa Thursday
Juma Friday
Sibiri Saturday
Kari Sunday
Don go don Every day
Sɔgɔma o sɔgɔma Every morning
Wula o wula Every afternoon
Su o su Every night
Tεnεn o tεnεn Every Monday
Juma o juma Every Friday
Dɔgɔkun Week
Kalo Month
San Year
Dɔgɔkun o dɔgɔkun Every week
Kalo o kalo Every month
San o san Every year

Original Course Text

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