Mongolian 101

Mongolian Peace Corps Course

Mongolian Peace Corps CourseСайн байна уу?! This Mongolian course was developed by the U.S. Peace Corps for its volunteers going to Mongolia. It can be useful as a primer for learning the basics of the Mongolian language. You can listen and follow along to each lesson or download the whole course directly.

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Lesson 1 – Introduction to Mongolian


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Mongolian is the primary language of Mongolia. By origin, Mongolian is one of the languages in the Mongol group from the Altaic family, a language family which includes Turkish, Manchurian-Tungus, Japanese, and Korean.

Modern Mongolian, based on the Khalkh dialect, developed following the Mongolian People’s Revolution in 1921. The introduction of a new alphabet in the 1940s developed along with a new stage in Mongolia’s national literary language. Mongolians still use two types of writing: the classical script and the Cyrillic alphabet. The classical Mongolian alphabet, which is written vertically, is a unique script used by speakers of all the various dialects for about a thousand years. In spite of increasing interest in using only the classical alphabet, along with the decision by Parliament to use it for official papers, the majority of Mongolian people use the Cyrillic alphabet, which was adopted in the early 1940s.

The Mongolian language is classified as agglutinative (from the Latin ‘agglutinate’-‘to stick on’). The most important characteristics of agglutination are:

1. The word stem doesn’t change; instead, grammatical changes are made by adding (or sticking on) suffixes to the word stem.

2. Every suffix and case ending expresses only one grammatical meaning. Mongolian does not have prepositions. A lot of English prepositions are expressed in Mongolian with a case. The cases demonstrate the kind of relationship the two words have.

Other characteristic features of the language are:

1. Word order of a sentence. Subjects and objects precede verbs. Verbs are often located at the end of a sentence: Subject – object - verb

2. Genders are based on vowels (masculine, feminine, or neutral). Vowel harmony is the main law of vowels.

3. The absence of subject/verb agreement and plurals (in most cases). It’s common to drop the subject if it’s implied. For example:
 - What did do yesterday? Instead of ‘What did you do yesterday?’
 - Read some books, washed clothes and cleaned my house. Instead of I read some books, washed clothes and cleaned my house.

4. Compared with Indo-European languages, nouns that act as verbs are much more prevalent than normal nouns.

5. Shift of stress. Stress in Mongolian usually falls on the first syllable of a word.

Lesson 2 – Mongolian Alphabet


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The Mongolian alphabet is comprised of 35 letters.
Number Printed Cursive English Sound English Word
1 Аа Аа Like ‘a short a’ father
2 Бб Бб b bird
3 Вв Вв v vase
4 Гг* Гг g (ck) get
5 Дд Дд d day
6 Ее Ее y yeah (ye)
7 Ёё Ёё yo yo-yo
8 Жж Жж j jeans
9 Зз* Зз dz zoo
10 Ии Ии e city / easy
11 Й Й    
12 Ы Ы    
13 Кк Кк k kilo
14 Лл* Лл l (lateral-fricative) law
15 Мм Мм m modern
16 Нн Нн n (ng) name – hang
17 Оо* Оо o (open) law
18 Өө* Өө o (closed) tone
19 Пп Пп p park
20 Рр* Рр r (rolled) rather
21 Сс Сс s sing
22 Тт Тт t tall
23 Уу* Уу u (open) old
24 Үү* Үү u (closed) soup
25 Фф Фф f photo
26 Хх* Хх h (hindi) loch (Scottish) / horn
27 Цц Цц ts Its
28 Чч Чч ch cheese
29 Шш Шш sh Short
30 Щщ Щщ shch English channel
31 Ээ Ээ e gate
32 Юю Юю yu you
33 Яя Яя ya yacht
34 Ъ Ъ hard sign  
35 Ь Ь soft sign

Lesson 3 – Phonetic Drills


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1. Listen to the alphabet as many times as you need. 

2. Listen and repeat the alphabet below. There are some letters which are written the same as in English, but pronounced differently. 

A [ah] B [ve] H [en] P [er] 
X [heh] E [ye] C [es] У [oi] 

3. Listen to the sounds of the alphabet and repeat them. Some letters have similar pronunciation to each other. 

Ж [dze] З [ze] Ц [tse] Ч [che] Ш [sh] C [es] 
X [heh] Г [g] К [ka] Д [de] Т [te] 
Б [be] В [ve] П [pe] Ф [f] 
О [o] Ө [ồ] У [h] Ү [ữ] 
А [ah] Э [a] И [ea] 

4. Short and long vowels are very important and they change the meaning of a word. 

Ав - аав нүх - нүүх сэр - сээр 
to take - father hole - to move wake - backbone 

xол - xоол ул - уул өр - өөр 
far - meal sole - mountain debts - different, else 

5. Listen to the words and repeat them. 

America / American - Америк England / English - Англи 
Asia / Asian - Ази Europe / European - Европ 
Mongolia /Mongolian - Монгол Russia / Russian - Орос 
China /Chinese - Хятад Florida - Флорида Dollar - Доллар Tugrik* - төгрөг

Lesson 4 – Greetings and Goodbye


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Dialogue 1

The following greetings should be used between people meeting for the first time, seeing each other for the first time in a day, or in an official situation.
English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – Hello, How are you? – Sain bainuu? – Сайн байна уу?
B: – Good. How are you? – Sain. Sain bainuu? – Сайн. Сайн байна уу?
A: – Good. – Sain. – Сайн.

Dialogue 2

The following greetings are used frequently by young people and between friends.
English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – Hello? How are you? –  Sainuu? –  Сайн уу?
B: – Good. How are you? –  Sain. Sainuu? –  Сайн. Сайн уу?
A: – Good. –  Sain. –  Сайн.

Dialogue 3

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – Hello, How are you? –  Sain bainuu? –  Сайн байна уу?
B: – Hi, How are you? –  Sain. Sain bainuu? –  Сайн. Сайн байна уу?
A: – Good. What’s new? –  Sain. Sonin yu bain? –  Сайн. Сонин юу байна?
B: – Nothing much. –  Yumgui taivan. –  Юмгүй, тайван.
A: – Bye. See you later. –  Bayartai. Daraa uulzii. –  Баяртай. Дараа уулзъя.
B: – See you later. –  Daraa uulzii. –  Дараа уулзъя.

Dialogue 4

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – Hello, How are you? –  Sainuu? –  Сайн уу?
B: – Hi, How are you? –  Sain. Sainuu? –  Сайн. Сайн уу?
A: – Good. How’s your life? –  Sain. Amidral yamar bain? –  Сайн. Амьдрал ямар байна?
B: – It is OK. –  Dajgui. –  Дажгүй.

Dialogue 5

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – How are you? –  Yu bain? –  Юу байна?
B: – I am fine. –  Taivan. –  Tайван.
А: – How’s your work? –  Ajil yamar baina? –  Ажил ямар байна?
B: – So so. –  Yahavdee. –  Яахав дээ.
A: – How’s your life? –  Amidral yamar baina? –  Амьдрал ямар байна?
B: – It is very good. –  Mash sain. –  Маш сайн.
A: – Goodbye! –  Bayartai. –  Баяртай.
B: – Bye! –  Bayartai. –  Баяртай.
Culture note: When Americans first meet each other, they say “Nice to meet you.” Mongolians don’t say anything like this at the beginning of a conversation.

Lesson 5 – Polite Conversation


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Dialogue 1

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – Thank you. – Bayarllaa. – Баярлалаа.
B: – You are welcome. – Zugair zugair. – Зүгээр зүгээр.

Dialogue 2

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – I’m sorry. / Excuse me. –  Uuchlaarai. –  Уучлаарай.
B: – No problem. –  Zugair zugair. –  Зүгээр зүгээр.

Dialogue 3

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – Are you George? –  Che George munu? –  Чи Жорж мөн үү?
B: – Yes, I am. –  Tiim. Be George –  Тийм, би Жорж.

Dialogue 4

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – Are you American? –  Che Amerikuu? –  Чи Америк уу?
B: – No, I am not. –  Ugui, Be Amerik bish. –  Үгүй, Америk биш.

Lesson 6 – Personal Conversation


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Dialogue 1

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – What’s your name? – Tanii* ner hen(g) be? – Таны нэр хэн бэ?
B: – My name is Sean. –  Minii ner Shon. –  Миний нэр Шон.
A: – Where did you come from? –  Ta haanaas irsen be? –  Та хаанаас ирсэн бэ?
B: – I am from America. –  Be Amerikaas irsen. –  Би Америкаас ирсэн.

Dialogue 2

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – What’s your name? –  Taniig hen(g) gedeg wei? –  Таныг хэн гэдэг вэ?
B: – My name is Sean. –  Namaig Shon gedeg. –  Намайг Шон гэдэг.
I am American. –  Be Amerik (hun). –  Би Америк (хүн).
I am not Mongolian. –  Be Mongol (hun) bish. –  Би Монгол (хүн) биш.

Dialogue 3

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – How old are you? –  Ta heden(g) nastai wei? –  Та хэдэн настай вэ?
B: – I am 25 years old. –  Be khorin tavan nastai. –  Би хорин таван настай.
A: – What do you do? –  Ta yu hiideg wei? –  Та юу хийдэг вэ?
B: – I’m an English teacher. –  Be angl helnii bagsh. –  Би Англи хэлний багш.
I am a PC Volunteer. –  Be enkh taivnii korpsiin sain durin ajiltan. –  Би Энх тайвын корпусын сайн дурын ажилтан.
Tаны, таныг, та /tanii, taniig, ta/ - is addressed to someone who is older than you.

When Mongolians first meet foreigners, they typically ask many questions out of curiosity.

Some of these questions may seem very personal. For example, they may ask your age or if you are married. To Americans, these types of questions may seem very forward initially, but they are quite common for Mongolians.

Lesson 7 – Questions About Language


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Dialogue 1

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – Do you speak English? Che** angliar yaridag uu? Чи англиaр ярьдаг уу?
B: – I know English well. Be angel hel sain medne. Би англи хэл сайн мэднэ.
A: – Do you know Mongolian? Che** mongol hel medhuu? Чи монгол хэл мэдэх үү?
B: – I know a little Mongolian. Be mongol hel jaahan medne. Би монгол хэл жаахан мэднэ.

Dialogue 2

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – How do you say it in Mongolia Uuniig mongoloor uy geh wei? Үүнийг монголоор юу гэх вэ?
B: – I’m sorry. Uuchlaarai. Уучлаарай.
I don’t know Mongolian. Be Mongol hel medehgui. Би монгол хэл мэдэхгүй.

Dialogue 3

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – Do you understand? Che oilgoj bainuu? Чи ойлгож байна уу?
B: – I’m sorry. I don’t understand. Ohclaarai. Be oilgohgui bain. Уучлаарай. Би ойлгохгүй байна.
I’m a foreigner. Be gadaad hun. Би гадаад хүн.
Note: Чиний, чамайг, чи /chenii, chamaig, che/ -is addressed to someone who is younger than you.

Lesson 8 – Asking Questions


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English Mongolian Mongolian
What? Yu? Юу?
What is this? En yu wei? Энэ юу вэ?
What is that? Ter yu wei? Тэр юу вэ?
Who? Hen(g)? Хэн?
Who is he/she? Ter hen(g) be? Тэр хэн бэ?
Where? Haan? Хаана?
Where is ………………? … haan baidag wei? …. xаана байдаг вэ?
Where is the post office? Shohdan haan baidag wei? Шуудан хаана байдаг вэ?
To where? (go to ) Haashaa? (yavah) Хаашаа? (явах)
From where? (come from) Haanaas? (ireh) Хаанаас? (ирэх)
When? Hezee? Хэзээ?
Why? Yagaad? Яагаад?
How? Yaj? Яаж?
How much ? / How many? Heden(g)? Хэдэн?
How much does it cost? En yamar unetei wei? Энэ ямар үнэтэй вэ?
How much is it? En hed ve? Энэ хэд вэ?

Lesson 9 – Can/May I


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Dialogue 1

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – May I come in? Orj bolhuu? Орж болох уу?
B: – Yes, you may Bolo*n. Болно.
A: – I have a question. Nadad asuult bain. Нада асуулт байна.

Dialogue 2

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – Can you help me? Nadad tuslan u? Надад туслана уу?
B: – Sure Za, tegii. За, тэгье.

Dialogue 3

English Mongolian Mongolian
A: – Can you help me? Nadad tuslahgui yu? Надад туслахгүй юу?
B: – No. I’m sorry. I can’t. Uuchlaarai. Chadahguine. Уучлаарай. Чадахгүй нь.
Note: The word ‘can’ has different meanings depending on context.

Lesson 10 – Food Preferences


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English Mongolian Mongolian
It is very tasty. En ih amttai. Энэ их амттай.
Are you hungry? Che ulsej bainuu? Чи өлсөж байна уу?
I’m hungry. Be ulsej bain. Би өлсөж байна.
I’m not hungry. Be ulsuugui bain. Би өлсөөгүй байна.
I’m full. Be tsadsen. Би цадсан.
Are you thirsty? Che tsangaj bainuu? Чи цангаж байна уу?
I’m thirsty. Be tsangaj bain. Би цангаж байна.
I’m not thirsty. Be tsangaagui bain. Би цангаагүй байна.
What would you like to eat? Che yu idmeer bain? Чи юу идмээр байна?
I’d like rice. Be boudaa idmeer bain. Би будаа идмээр байна.
I like to eat rice. Be boudaa idekh durtai. Би будаа идэх дуртай.
I don’t like to eat fat. Be uukh idekh durgui. Би өөх идэх дургүй.
What would you like to drink? Che yu uumaar baina? Чи юу уумаар байна?
I’d like to drink water. Be us ohmeer bain. Би ус уумаар байна.
I like to drink water. Be us ohkh durtai. Би ус уух дуртай.
I don’t like to drink coffee. Be koffee oukh durgui. Би кофе уух дургүй.

Lesson 11 – Expressing Your Feelings


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English Mongolian Mongolian
I’m happy. Be bayartai bain. Би баяртай байна.
I’m sad. Be setgel tavgui bain. Би сэтгэл тавгүй байна.
I’m tired. Be yadarch bain. Би ядарч байна.
I’m sick. Be uvchtei baine. Би өвчтэй байна.
I’m cold. Be daarch bain. Би даарч байна.
I’m hot. Be haluutsaj bain. Би халууцаж байна.
It’s cold. Huiten bain. Хүйтэн байна.
It’s hot. Haluun bain. Халуун байна.
It’s nice. Saikhan bain. Сайхан байна.
What would you like? Che yamaar bain? Чи яамаар байна?
I want to sleep. Be ontmaar bain. Би унтмаар байна.
I want to relax. Be amermaar bain. Би амармаар байна.
I want to buy this. Be uuniig avmaar bain. Би үүнийг авмаар байна.
I want to buy fruit. Be jims avmaar bain. Би жимс авмаар байна.
I don’t want that. Be khusekhgui bain. Би хүсэхгүй байна.
I need paper. Nadad tsaas heregtei baina. Надад цаас хэрэгтэй байна.
I need to study. Be davtah heregtei. Би давтах хэрэгтэй.
Really? Tiim uu? Тийм үү?
That’s Interesting! Sonin yum aa! Сонин юм аа!
That’s strange! Hachin yum aa! Хачин юм аа!

Lesson 12 – Emergency and Safety


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English Mongolian Mongolian
I am not feeling well. Minii bie saingui bain. Миний бие сайнгүй байна.
I need a doctor. Nadad emch heregtei. Надад эмч хэрэгтэй.
I need to call to Peace Corps. Be enkh-taivnii korps ruu yarih heregtei. Би Энх тайвны корпус руу ярих хэрэгтэй.
What is the Peace Corps phone number? Enkh-taivnii korpsiin ytas hed ve? Энх тайвны корпусийн Утас хэд вэ?
It’s an emergency! Ene bol yaraltai Энэ бол яаралтай
Help! Tuslaaray! Туслаарай!
Please call the police for me! Tsagdaa duudaarai! Цагдаа дуудаарай!
Please help me! Nadad tuslaaray! Надад туслаарай!
Stop it! Bolioch! Болиоч!
Get away! Holdooch! Холдооч!

Lesson 13 – Vocabulary


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Personal Pronouns

English Mongolian Mongolian
I be би
You (older than you) ta та
You (younger than you) che чи
He/she ter тэр
We bid бид
You (plural) ta nar та нар
They ted nar тэд

Weekdays

English Mongolian Mongolian
Monday neg deh uder (lit:the first day) Нэг дэх өдөр
Tuesday hoyer deh uder (lit:the second day) Хоёр дахь өдөр
Wednesday guraw deh uder (lit:the third day) Гурав дахь өдөр
Thursday durew deh uder (lit:the fourth day Дөрөв дэх өдөр
Friday taw deh uder (lit:the fifth day) Тав дахь өдөр
Saturday hagas sain uder (lit:half good day) Хагас сайн өдөр
Sunday buten sain uder (lit:whole good day) Бүтэн сайн өдөр
Tomorrow Margaash Маргааш
Today Unoodor Өнөөдөр
Yesterday Uchigdor Өчигдөр

Food

English Mongolian Mongolian
Bread talkh талх
Meat makh мах
Rice boudaa будаа
Egg undug өндөг
Vegetables Khunsnii nogoo Хүнсний ногоо
Potato tumis төмс
Carrot lowan лууван
Tomato pomidor помидор
Cabbage baitsaa байцаа
Fruits Jims Жимс
Apple alim алим
Orange apelsin апельсин
Banana banan банан
Grape usan udzem усан үзэм
Drinks Uukh um Уух юм
Soda/Coke undaa ундаа
Tea tsai цай
Coffee coffee кофе

Places

English Mongolian Mongolian
Peace Corps Enh taivnii korps Энх тайвны корпус
bank bank банк
shop delguur дэлгүүр
restaurant restran ресторан
cafeteria guanz гуанз
school surguuli сургууль
post office shuudan шуудан
internet internet интернет
toilet/restroom jorlon/noil жорлон/нойл

Family Members

English Mongolian Mongolian
father aaw аав
mother eej ээж
older brother аh ах
older sister egch эгч
younger brother (eregtei) due (эрэгтэй) дүү
younger sister (emegtei) due (эмэгтэй) дүү
grandpa uwuh өвөө
grandma emee эмээ

Lesson 14 – Numbers


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Number Mongolian Mongolian
1 neg нэг
2 hoyor хоёр
3 gurav гурав
4 dorov дөрөв
5 tav тав
6 zurgaa зургаа
7 doloo долоо
8 naim найм
9 eus ес
10 arav арав
10 arav арав
20 hori хорь
30 guch гуч
40 duch дөч
50 tayv тавь
60 jar жар
70 dal дал
80 naya ная
90 yer ер
100 (neg) zuu нэг зуу
1,000 (neg) myanga нэг мянга
1,000,000 (neg) saya нэг сая

More Numbers

Number Mongolian
11 arven neg
22 horin hoyor
33 guchin gurav
44 duchin dorov
55 tayvin tav
66 jaren zurgaa
77 dalen doloo
88 nayan naim
99 yeren eus
100 dollars (neg) zuun dollar
5000 tugriks tavan myangan tugrik

Lesson 15 – Dialogues


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Dialogue 1

English Mongolian
A: – What food do you like? A: – Che yamar hoolond durtai wei?
B: – I like vegetables. How about you? B: – Be nogoond durtai. Harin ta?
A: – I like meat food. A: – Be mahan hoolond durtai.
A: – Do you have sisters? A: – Che egchtei yu?
B: – I don’t. But, I have brothers. B: – Baihgui, harin bi ahtai.
A: – How many brothers do you have? A: – Che heden ahtai wei?
B: – Two A: – Che heden ahtai wei?

In the Grocery Store

English Mongolian
A: – How much is a bottle of water? A: – Us yamar unetei wei?
B: – 450 (tugrik) B: – 450 (durven zuun tavin tugrik)
A: – I’ll take 2 bottles. A: – Hoyor us avii
A: – Do you have fruit? A: – Jims bain uu?
B: – No, we don’t B: – Baihgui
A: – How much is the cola? A: – Cola hed wei?
B: – 620 (tugricks) B: – 620 (zurgaan zuun horin tugruk)
A: – I’ll take A: – Za avii.
B: – Here is your change. B: – Mai, hariultaa av.

In the Post Office

English Mongolian
A: – How much is it to send a letter to overseas? A: – Gadaad zahia yamar unetei wei?
B: – 980 B: – 980 (yesun zuun naya)
A: – May I see stamps and post cards? A: – Ene mark, il zahidliig uzej boloh uu?
B: – Yes, please B: – Bolon
A: – How much are these stamps? A: – Ene marknuud yamar unetei wei?
B: – 1000 B: – 1000 (myanga)
A: – I’ll buy them. A: – Bi avii.

In the Local Cafeteria

English Mongolian
A: – Here’s the menu. A: – Mai, ene hoolnii tses
B: – Thank you. B: – Bayarllaa.
A: – What would you like to order? A: – Ta yu zahialah wei?
B: – Chicken. B: – Tahia.
A: – Sorry, we don’t have chicken today. A: – Uuchlaarai, onoodor tahia baihgui.
B: – So. What do you have today? B: – Tegeed onoodor tanaid yu baigaam bei?
A: – Buuz and tsuivan. A: – Buuz, tsuivan l bain.
B: – Let me have 10 buuz and a cup of milk tea. B: – Arvan buuz, neg ayag suutei tsai avii.

Original Course Text

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