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Bambara language (Bamanakan) thread - Djembefola - Djembe Forum

Discuss culture and traditions
User avatar
By Michel
Tooro si te

Now we are getting a difficulty in writing Bambara and everybody's own language. I would have written 'I ka kene'. But we'll manage.

Somogo be di?
By bubudi
yes, to eliminate confusion the vowels should be written more like you would in spanish (i.e 'i' rather than 'ee'. the latter in bambara would be pronounced like the english word 'air', but without the 'r').

pronunciation of vowels in bamanakan:
a, like in 'far' (but shorter)
e, like in 'pear'
ɛ, like in 'bed'
i, like in 'pin'
o, like in 'or'
ɔ, like in 'or' (but shorter)
u, like in 'put'

how to make the strange vowel characters 'ɛ' and 'ɔ'? i will add a few buttons for bamana characters if there are enough people participating in this thread. in the meantime, just use a normal 'o' or 'e', or if you have a european keyboard, try using ô and é as a substitute.
By bubudi
who can explain how to pronounce 'aw' properly in bamana?

quick point about the function of 'aw' - it denotes plurality.
- used in the beginning of a sentence: you (pl)
eg. aw ni che - thank you (pl) rather than i ni che which is what you would say to one person
eg. aw ni sogoma - good morning (group) rather than i ni sogoma

- used at the end of a word to denot plurality
eg. jenbefolaw (djembe players)
eg. senekelaw (farmers)

if the noun ends with a different vowel, or a consonant, then just 'w' is added.
eg. denw - children
eg. misiw - cows
User avatar
By Michel
Hɛrɛ sira?

One of the things I love when I'm in Africa is that people ask you how your night was.... whether it was peaceful. Can you imagine asking your colleagues if their night was peaceful? I started doing it. People look funny but I love this question. Reply with hɛrɛ dɔrɔn- peace only. Then your day must have been started perfect!

What I understood when you ask one person how it goes (or to say thank you and so on) you say 'i ni che' (with an 'i', pronounced as 'ee' in english), and to more people it is 'ay ni che'. I don't hear an -aw sound in it, but I could be wrong ofcourse....

At the end of the words it's just adding an 'w'. Like you mentioned in 'denw' and in jenbefolaw' one jenbeplayer is already a 'jenbefola' with an -a at the end. Jeli plural becomes jeliw.

And -lu? I sometimes hear 'jenbefolalu' for plural?
By bubudi
i ni che, michiel

yes, 'aw' at the beginning of a word is pronounced more like 'a', but would still be written as 'aw ni che', as far as i know. possibly also as a' ni che (appostrophe indicating the omitted letter).

is the -w suffix always pronounced the same? for instance, denw - i think should be pronounced more like 'denu'.

-lu is the malinke (maninka) subject plural suffix.
User avatar
By rachelnguyen
I don't think there is a way to really learn to pronounce 'denw' without actually hearing it. In the singular, den, the n is almost silent. It is kind of nasalized in the plural... and the e changes too, right?

For me, having a recording was pretty critical when I was trying to learn this stuff here in the US.
By bubudi
thanks, rachel. any chance of sharing some of those recordings with us? there are some recordings in one of the lesson links i posted above, so anything that's not there would be great, especially the stuff that is really not obvious or difficult to get the hang of.
User avatar
By rachelnguyen
Hey Bubudi,

I have only the recordings that Sidy made for me, LOL. They are, unfortunately, very poor quality. (The record level was way off.)

I will have to check with Sidy to see if he minds if I share a snippet just to give you a sense of what I am talking about.
User avatar
By Michel
I think a 'w' at the end of a word is always almost an -u. Look at your mouth when you pronounce 'jenbefolaw'. Because of the 'n' at the end of 'denw' it's a bit difficult, so more clear it's an -u sound, more like 'denwu'.

About the Malinke '-lu': I'm going to listen all my Ibrahima Sarr recordings, thought I heard 'jenbefolalu' passing by on one of those. So that's why I asked, I thought it had to be Bamanankan.
User avatar
By rachelnguyen
Hi Michel,
I was finally able to get the book, after a LONG process, LOL. The best way is to call. But since it is summer, they probably won't be back in the office until the fall.

And just to give you the heads up: The book kind of sucks. First, it is in horrible type... clearly a bunch of mimiographed sheets just bound together. Also, inexplicably, the exercise instructions are in French, even though the book itself is in English. That isn't a tragedy for folks who speak French, but for people that don't, it would be difficult to say the least. Finally, the content is weird. "Is that a person or a hoe?" We were dying of laughter at the bizarre sentences when reading it last January.

At the end of the day, with all it's faults, it is probably worth the $30 you are going to spend, but it is NOT an easy book to use. It does, however, go into a lot more detail than the mini phrase book that the Peace Corps has put out. (the online peace corps phrase book refers to a recording, but I have been unable to find a copy online. That would actually be pretty helpful, I think.)

By bubudi
michiel, thanks for that link. i had already put the link for the beginner lessons on the first post, but these are labelled intermediate. so we have a lot of good material to work through! i will add the intermediate ones there.

rachel, i will contact the peace corps and see if they could make the soundfiles available.
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