I’m wondering what turn of phrases one might use to express “unfortunately” in a formal context where an online user is asking someone to add/remove a feature to website:

– Could you remove the music for me?
Unfortunately, no. Many people like it!

In general to express “unfortunately” ou malheureusement, I would use a round-about way to get there; something like the following with “Hakɛto b’à la”:

Ɔn-ɔn. Hakɛto b’à la, nka n tɛ se. À ka di mɔgɔ caman ye!

Are there other options or solutions out there that people use?

Yesterday, I asked someone how they would express “unfortunately” in Bambara using the sentence examples below.

Unfortunately, I can’t.
Malheureusement, je ne peux pas.

He used tiɲɛ na to express “unfortunately”.

Tiɲɛ na, n tɛ se.

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I ni ce, Christy!

That’s a good option and very natural!

That said, it doesn’t necessarily carry the same message given that it literally means “in truth”. For instance, you could say something positive with it:

Tiɲɛ na, bamanankan ka di

Truly, Bambara is pleasant’

Which makes me think that maybe the topic about “sadly” has some answers to my own question :upside_down_face:.


Does the usage of tiɲɛ na to express “unfortunately” not revolve around contextual usage?

Like, for example, how it is with the word ‘gɛlɛn’? As you know, ‘gɛlɛn’ means:

  • hard, firm

  • difficult

  • expensive

Those above definitions makes sense to me because I can easily understand how one can apply ‘gɛlɛn’ within those contexts.

But, gɛlɛn also means:

  • dear to

And that particular usage of ‘gɛlɛn’ will trip one up if they don’t know the distinct usage of ‘gɛlɛn’ within that particular context.

So, would it not be the same with tiɲɛ na being used to express “unfortunately”… whether one is saying something positive or negative with it… wouldn’t contextual usage/understanding apply in that case? :thinking:

Context always rules supreme when it comes to what something means in a particular instance :slight_smile:

But I think that the difference from gɛlɛn would be that I wouldn’t want to add a sense “unfortunately” to a dictionary entry or subentry for tiɲɛ na because it goes beyond the “inherent meaning”.

To know that “Tiɲɛ na, n tɛ se” should be read as “Unfortunately, I can’t” (instead of “Truly, I can’t” or “Really, I can’t” etc), we need a specific context that makes us read the situation or utterance as “unfortunate”.

Hi Coleman! In Kassim Kone’s translation of Decolonizing the Mind, he uses “Nin bɛɛ la, min ma ɲɛ” where Thiong’o uses “unfortunately.”


I ni ce, Dianna! Very interesting.

Nin bɛɛ la, min ma ɲɛ…

Lit. ‘In all this, that which isn’t/wasn’t good…’

I looked it up in the Bambara Reference Corpus and no one else uses the expression, but it seems like a good turn of phrase that literally can be interpreted even by the uninitiated.

Can you find a good example of it being used in a sentence along with the translation? Perhaps one that isn’t too hard too follow (since I imagine a translation of Thiong’o might be tough).