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Explaining the Monologue to Learn Toki Pona

Does the Monologue to learn Toki Pona make sense to you?

Below I have created explanations, line by line, translating the words and explaining some of the rules that this monologue helps you understand better.

The Monologue to Learn Toki Pona Explained

1. Hello! This is Michael.

toki! ni li jan Miseli.

toki -> hi

ni -> this

li -> indicates separation of the subject and verb

jan -> person

Miseli -> Tokiponization of the name Michael

In Toki Pona, proper nouns can be adjusted to the phonology of Toki Pona. These are called unofficial words. All unofficial words are adjectives and must follow a noun that they can describe. Hence, a name is describing a person -> jan.

2. He is the leader of a strong tribe.

ona li jan lawa pi kulupu wawa.

ona -> he

li -> separates the subject and verb

jan -> person

lawa -> lead/head (jan lawa - head person - leader)

pi -> of

kulupu -> community/tribe

wawa -> strong

The word pi indicates we are modifying a word with another word that uses an adjective that doesn’t apply to the first word. For instance, (noun) (modifier 1) (modifier 2) implies this grouping: [(noun) (modifier 1)] (modifier 2), which means that modifier 2 is modifying the whole of the noun and modifier 1. To apply the associative property (so to speak), we need the word pi: (noun) pi [(modifier 1) (modifier 2)]. Now modifiers 1 and 2 combine to modify the noun. You can see examples and learn more here.

3. He has a wife and two children.

ona li jo e meli e jan lili tu.

ona -> he

li -> separates the subject and verb

jo -> possesses

e -> separates verb from direct object

meli -> female/wife

e -> separating another direct object

jan -> person

lili -> little (jan lili - little person - child)

tu -> two (jan lili tu - two little people - two children)

When we have multiple direct objects, we use e to separate them.

4. His wife’s name is Anna.

nimi meli li jan Ana.

nimi -> name

meli -> girl

jan -> person

Ana -> Anna (jan Ana - Anna person - recall that names are adjectives)

See how a possessive is created by using the possessor as an adjective? Thus nimi meli, or girl name implies the name of he girl.

5. In the daytime, he and his son go hunting for fish and forage for herbs.

tenpo suno la jan Miseli en jan lili mije li alasa e kala e kasi.

tenpo -> time

suno -> sun (tenpo suno - sun time - day)

la -> separates the context phrase from the main sentence

jan Miseli -> Michael

en -> and (for separating multiple subjects)

jan lili -> child

mije -> masculine (jan lili mije - male child)

alasa -> hunt/forage

e -> separating verb from direct object or separating direct objects

kala -> fish

kasi -> plants/herbs

The word la is designed to give context for sentences, such as time and if-then statements. A good way to think of it is: When (part before la), then (part after la).

6. At home, the second child and her mom make bread and clothes.

lon tomo la jan lili pi nanpa tu en mama li pali e pan e len.

lon -> located at

tomo -> home/structure

la -> separates context from the sentence

jan lili -> child

pi -> of

nanpa -> number

tu -> two

en -> and

mama -> parent

pali -> build/make

pan -> bread

len -> clothing

Notice the use of pi here: nanpa tu (number two) is modifying the child. Without pi, it would mean something like, “two numbered children”.

7. At night, they circle around the fire, sing, draw in the dirt, and look at the moon.

tenpo pimeja la ona li sike lon seli, li kalama musi, li pali e sitelen lon ma, li lukin e mun.

tenpo -> time

pimeja -> dark (tenpo pimeja - dark time - night)

ona -> they

sike -> circle (used as a verb here)

lon -> located at

seli -> fire

kalama -> make noise

musi -> amusing/artistic (kalama musi - artistic noise - music/singing)

pali -> build/make

sitelen -> image (pali e sitelen - build a picture - draw)

ma -> land/earth (pali e sitelen lon ma -> drawing in the dirt)

lukin -> look

mun -> moon/stars

8. A child says, “Mom, there is a blue lizard in my hand. I like this!”

jan lili li toki e ni: mama o, akesi laso li lon luka mi. ni li pona tawa mi!

toki -> speaks

ni -> this

mama -> mom/parent

o -> call to attention (the comma makes it a call to attention and not a command)

akesi -> reptile/amphibian

laso -> blue

lon -> located on

luka -> hand

mi -> mine/me/I (lon luka mi - on hand mine - on my hand)

pona -> good

tawa -> in the perspective of

When someone says something, we have to say “[ona] li toki e ni:” because it means “[they] say this”. Also, the way we say that we like something in Toki Pona is “[something] li pona tawa mi.” It means, “[something] is good to me.”

9. The other child says, “Oh no! Dad, there is a gross bug on my back. I don’t like this. Kill it!”

jan lili ante li toki e ni: ike! mama o, pipi jaki li lon monsi mi. ni li ike tawa mi. o moli e ona!

ante -> other/different

toki e ni: -> says this

ike -> negative interjection

mama -> dad/parent

o -> call to attention

pipi -> bug

jaki -> gross/unclean (pipi jaki - gross bug)

lon -> on

monsi -> back (lon monsi mi - on my back)

mi -> mine

ni -> this

ike -> bad

tawa mi -> from my perspective

o -> command (note there is no comma)

moli -> kill

ona -> it

Notice you can say you don’t like something in a similar way to saying you do like it: ni li ike tawa mi. Also notice that when o is not followed by a comma, it becomes a command.

10. While Michael is breaking branches, he hears the calls of his children.

jan Miseli li pakala e palisa la ona li kute e kalama pi jan lili.

jan Miseli -> Michael

pakala -> break

palisa -> stick(s)

la -> indicating context phrase

ona -> he

kute -> hears

kalama -> calls/shouts

pi -> of

jan lili -> children/child

Notice how we don’t have any verb tenses in Toki Pona and we don’t have a distinction between singular and plural? Toki Pona is ambiguous, which is one of its beauties. Notice also that if we didn’t use the word pi, we would have kalama jan lili - small (people shouts) - faint shouts of people, verses kalama pi jan lili - (small people) shouts - shouts of children. Also notice how Toki Pona places modifiers after words, unlike we do in English (but they do in French!).

11. He puts the bug in a bag and gives it to the child.

ona li pana e pipi lon poki. ona li pana e poki tawa jan lili.

ona -> he

pana -> gives/puts

pipi -> bug

lon -> into

poki -> bag/container

tawa -> to

jan lili -> child.

Notice tawa is a versatile word. It can mean moving, perspective, and can indicate an action towards.

12. He says, “Maybe you can kill the bug.”

ona li toki e ni: ken la, sina ken moli e pipi.

ona li toki e ni: -> he says this

ken -> can

la -> context (ken la - maybe)

sina -> you

moli -> kill

pipi -> bug

The phrase ken la more literally translates to “if capable, then” which means “maybe”.

13. The kid opens the bag and kills the bug with a rock.

jan lili li open e poki li moli e pipi kepeken kiwen.

jan lili -> child

open -> open

poki -> bag/container

moli -> kills

pipi -> bug

kepeken -> using

kiwen -> rock

You can have multiple actions if you use li over and over. Also see how kepeken indicates you are using something to complete this action.

14. Michael says “Good, now go to bed.”

jan Miseli li toki e ni: pona! tenpo ni la o lape.

pona -> positive interjection

tenpo -> time

ni -> this (tenpo ni - this time - now)

la -> context linker

o -> command

lape -> sleep

15. The boy said, “I don’t want to sleep.”

jan lili li toki e ni: mi wile ala lape.

mi -> I

wile -> want

ala -> not (mi wile ala - I want not - I don’t want)

lape -> sleep

When mi or sina is the subject, we don’t need to use the word li. When we want to negate a verb, we can simply put ala after it.

16. Michael said, “Are you challenging me?”

jan Miseli li toki e ni: sina utala ala utala e mi?

sina -> you

utala -> challenge/fight

ala -> not

“Are you challenging or not challenging me?” is how you could translate this sentence. When we ask yes/no questions, we repeat the word twice with ala in between. To answer, the person would either repeat the word surrounding ala (meaning yes), or say the word with ala after it (meaning no).

17. The wind made the child’s body cold.

kon li lete e sijelo pi jan lili.

kon -> air

lete -> cold

sijelo -> body

18. He said, “No. I’m going to bed. I know the way. Indeed.”

jan lili li toki e ni: utala ala. mi lape. mi sona e nasin. Kin.

utala -> challenge

ala -> not

lape -> sleep

sona -> know

nasin -> path/way

kin -> emphasis/confirmation

When the boy says “utala ala”, he is saying, “Not challenging,” meaning no. If he wanted to say yes, he would say, “utala.” The word kin is also interesting.

19. After the fire finished, Michael and Anna ate apples and drank water.

seli li pini la, jan Miseli en jan Ana li moku e kili loje e telo.

seli -> fire

pini -> done/finished

en -> and

moku -> eat

kili -> fruit/veggie/mushroom

telo -> liquid

20. They said, “I love you.”

ona li toki e ni: mi olin e sina.

mi -> I

olin -> love/respect

sina -> you

Note that olin can only be used as affectionate love (meaning living things, generally people). You can’t olin an item.

21. **This part will not be translated, since it is not appropriate for all audiences.**

ona li unpa.

Learn it here.

22. Tomorrow Anna will go to the market.

tenpo suno kama la, jan Ana li tawa lon esun.

tenpo -> time

suno -> sun (tenpo suno - light time - day)

kama -> coming (tenpo suno kama - the coming day - tomorrow)

tawa -> go/travel

lon -> to

esun -> market

23. She needs tools to fix the leg of the couch.

ona li wile e ilo tan ni: ona li wan e noka supa kepeken ilo.

wile -> want/need

ilo -> tools

tan -> because of

wan -> one/united/make whole

noka -> leg

supa -> furniture (noka supa - leg of the furniture)

kepeken -> using

ilo -> tool

Here we use wan as a verb, meaning to make one or unite. We often describe marriage that way as well: tu li wan - Two are united.

24. When she was away, she bought some things and an orange dog with money.

mama li weka la ona li esun e ijo e soweli jelo loje kepeken mani.

weka -> away

esun -> bought/shopped

ijo -> things

soweli -> animal (often a dog)

jelo -> yellow

loje -> red (jelo loje - red yellow - orange)

kepeken -> using

mani -> money

While Toki Pona only has 5 colors, you can mix colors using colors as modifiers on other colors.

25. When the children saw the dog, they were happy.

jan lili li lukin e soweli la ona li pilin pona.

lukin -> look/see

soweli -> dog

pilin -> feeling/feel

pona -> good/positive

26. The dog was big and sweet and barked playfully.

soweli li suli li suwi li mu musi.

soweli -> dog

suli -> big/tall/fat

suwi -> sweet/innocent

mu -> any animal noise

musi -> fun/playful

27. The dog waited near the door.

soweli li awen lon poka lupa.

awen -> waiting/enduring

poka -> near

lupa -> hole/door/window

28. He had a white bird in his mouth.

ona li jo e waso walo lon uta.

jo -> possess

waso -> bird

walo -> white

uta -> mouth

29. Michael faced his two kids.

jan Miseli li lukin e jan lili ona.

lukin -> look/see

jan lili -> kid

ona -> his

Again, possessives are indicated as modifiers. I realized that I originally meant to translate this to two kids, so it would be: jan Miseli li lukin e jan lili tu ona.

30. He said, “Dangit, one or both of you will humble/train this strange dog.”

ona li toki e ni: pakala. sina wan anu sina tu li kama anpa e soweli nasa ni.

pakala -> can be used as a swear word (though I like to think of it a little more mildly since I don’t swear)

sina wan -> one of you

anu -> or

sina tu -> two of you

kama -> progressive verb

anpa -> humble/train

soweli -> dog

nasa -> crazy/strange/silly

Here, kama anpa implies progressing towards being humble, so it implies the process of training.

31. He went inside the house and read his new religious book (his new book of the higher path).

ona li tawa lon insa tomo li lukin e lipu sin ona pi nasin sewi.

tawa -> went

insa -> inside

tomo -> house

lipu -> book

sin -> new

nasin -> path/way

sewi -> high/divine

When we talk about religion, we call it nasin sewi, because it is the divine path.

32. The daughter colored her hair and the son put mud on his face.

jan lili meli li kule e linja lawa ona. jan lili mije li pana e ko ma lon sinpin ona.

jan lili -> child

meli -> feminine

kule -> color

linja -> line/thread/hair

lawa -> head (linja lawa - head thread - hair)

pana -> put

ko -> colloid/paste

ma -> land/earth (ko ma - land paste - mud)

sinpin -> face

33. Mom said, “Why are you so very dirty?”

mama meli li toki e ni: sina jaki mute mute tan seme a?

mama meli - feminine parent

jaki -> gross/unclean

mute -> very

tan -> because of

seme -> what

a -> emphasis

We can repeat a word to emphasize it, so mute mute means very very. The word seme is used to hold the place of the thing we are asking about. Thus tan seme means why, because she is asking “because of what” (this would be the Russian почему). We use seme for most questions that aren’t yes/no questions.

34. She wiped mud off his nose.

ona li weka e ko ma lon nena ona.

weka -> absent/removed

ko -> paste/semisolid

ma -> land

nena -> bump/nose

35. She said, “You and your sibling need to clean all of your skin. However, don’t use all of the water.”

ona li toki e ni: sina en jan sama sina li wile pona e selo sina. taso, o pali ala e telo ali.

sama -> same/peer

pona -> make good

selo -> skin

taso -> however/only/but

o -> command

pali -> make/build

ala -> not

telo -> liquid/water

ali -> all

36. Now that you can understand this, you can understand Toki Pona and read the Toki Pona book. Congratulations!

sina sona e ni la sina ken sona e toki pona li pu. pona!

sona -> know/understand

ken -> can

pu -> interact with the official Toki Pona book

pona -> congratulations


Great job! You made it through! My challenge is to really absorb these explanations, and if you want to learn more, try checking out the hieroglyph version and the sign language version.

Happy learning!

kama sona pona!


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