Learn Wolof Online: Can you say thank-you?

When Aaron asked in his post for “Words English needs but doesn’t have,” I thought of a Wolof word to add to the list, but I don’t know how to spell it. enday san? n’day san?

The word is used for expressing sympathy, but much more than an “I’m sorry.” It’s like a combination between “I’m sorry,” “I feel for you,” and “That’s too bad.”

It’s a good for tossing around if someone stubs his or her toe or loses his or her life’s fortune.

I don’t know how to spell it because when I was learning Wolof as a Peace Corps volunteer in The Gambia, Wolof was mostly an oral language and not widely written. Therefore, the two Wolof language trainers had their own versions of spelling and kept harping at those of us learning Wolof to listen instead of whining, “We’re Americans. We’re visual learners. Write it on the board.”

I still know what the word listen is in Wolof, but I don’t know how to spell that either.

Most of the Wolof I know, I never saw in a written format. I added vocabulary and phrasing over my two years of service by asking questions, writing words the way I thought they sounded and paying attention to context clues.

As a health education volunteer, I mostly learned health related conversations. I can whip out the “road to good health” talk on cue, but as for writing it down correctly, forget about it.

When Aaron asked for the word list, I did a Google search to see if I’d find some answers. Although I didn’t find n’day san, or whatever it is, I did find this online course for learning Wolof.

Wolof, spoken in The Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania, is grammatically easy and flexible. There’s one section of the Web site with audio samples. If you can pick up a few words, you’ll so delight vendors that you’ll be able to bargain like a champ.

What is one of the most important words to learn? Jërejëf “Thank-you.” That is the correct spelling. I learned it from the Web site. Click on the word to hear how it sounds.

For those of you who find books handy, the one in the picture is one I came across in my search. Here’s the link with the description.