Tips when struggling with grammar terms?

I ni ce, Coleman! :slightly_smiling_face: Do you have any grammar learning tips that can be put into layman’s terms?

Sometimes, I find myself having to take a mini Google crash course in English grammar before I can even finish or understand a sentence in Manding. Ugh! :zipper_mouth_face:

Then, after that, having to learn the way the English grammar explanation is or isn’t applied in Manding. :weary: The struggle is real! :exploding_head:

Hi Christy! It’s true that the technical terminology of grammar/linguistics can be tough even if you are native speaker of the language being used (in this case, English to describe Bambara/Manding).


This isn’t so different form any other domain that requires special terms and meanings to precisely discuss things in a short and direct way that is convenient for the initiated. Think of the way that lawyers, mechanics, musicians, etc., talk about their activities between one another.

When it comes to language, what is distinct is that no one is born knowing what a noun, transitive verb or direct object is, but we all “know it” implicitly since we are able to use them correctly. No one would say something like this in English:

I house the built

This is because we master the rules of how to place and modify specific kinds of words (e.g., nouns, verbs, articles), even if we lack a “metalanguage” or way of talking about our talk.

Most English speakers because of Western style schooling are introduced to some of the technical terminology of grammar. What’s tricky when learning Manding is that the language is far enough away from English (and other Western languages like French) that translations (as you know) are often not one-to-one.

For instance, in English, we simply “forgive someone”, but in Manding, we can’t simply “forgive someone”, because yafa is an intransitive verb. We can’t say things like:

N ye i yafa

‘I forgave you’

We have to use the verb intransitively (like the verb taa ‘to go’; e.g., N taara ’ I went’):

N yafara i ma
I + forgave + you + to

‘I forgave you’

Well, in this case, what is the word ma and what should we call it? Here, I glossed it as ‘to’ but it clearly doesn’t meant ‘to’ since it’s not in the final translation of the sentence. The best explanation is that it’s a special kind of word: a postposition that works with the verb yafa to allow us to say the equivalent of “to forgive someone”

Actual tips

Alright, all of that might not have been of much help, so here’s actual tips:

  • Learn verbs with ka or k'à or k'i depending on whether a particular meaning is intransitive, transitive or reflexive and include this information in your definition in English

    For example:

    k'à fɔ = to say something
    ka taa = to go
    k'i ko = to bath; to wash yourself

    Or, for more complex usages:

    ka fɛn di mɔgɔ ma = to give something to someone

  • When you learn about a technical term like copula or predicate marker, learn it like a flashcard with an example as its answer

    For example:

    predicate marker = modifies the tense, aspect or mood of verb. Ex : N taa

Future solution with the dictionary :slight_smile:

But guess what?! I am currently working to add parts of speech and abbreviation tool tips with this very information into the An ka taa dictionary. It’s not live, but here’s an example of what it’ll look like if you hover or click on a words part of speech (note I see a typo in this example, but you get the idea!):

Screen Shot 2021-07-17 at 13.59.56

How’s that for help? :slight_smile:

Basic Bambara Terminology?

Do you find the explanation of the terms not sufficient in the Basic Bambara grammar lectures on YouTube?

The written chapter that goes along with each video might be helpful for you since sometimes I offer extra information. Plus, some people find reading the info more helpful! Did you try that at all?

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