Kpelle-Introductions (part 2) and People!

In previous lessons we briefly discussed introducing oneself (Hello, how are you-Ba nun, Kumeni?). Today’s lesson will expand on that lesson, while providing some more information on how to discuss (talk about and introduce) other people, specifically one’s family.

As noted last time-you begin introductions by stating “Ba nun” and “Kumeni.” A common response is: “Kpao, meni da fE naa” or No, news/all is well. If you haven’t met before, you will likely ask their name, you do so by saying “ilaa ba gbee?” (what is your name?). The person will answer-“Na ba ______” (person’s name). From there you may ask what exactly that person is doing here-“ba lE kei bE?” (“What are you doing here?”). They can answer in several different ways, while I was in Liberia this summer, I was studying Kpelle so I answered- “na pa kolo-poron” (“I came to school.”). To be more precise I would often say: “na pa KpElEE-woo ma-korii” (“I came to learn Kpelle”). Another way that is often used to ask someone what they are doing is: “Le be ba nwelii I goloN” (“What do you want to know?”). You can answer usig the same answer (na pa kpElEE….”) or you can answer “I want” “na nwelii”…”Na nwelii na kpelee-woo ma kori” (I want to learn Kpelle).

Now to answer similar questions about a person’s family you need some new vocabulary. A lot of this is done with tones and is based on the gender/sex of the person you are asking. So this is a bit more complicated than one may expect.

NAn (my)-Father (high tone)

Nan (his/her)-Father (normal tone)

nEE (my)-mother (high tone)

Nee (his/her)-mother (low tone)

Mbo (my)-wife/husband (high tone)

Mbo (his/her)-wife husband (low tone)


Saabolo-when asking a man its his sisters, when asking a woman its his brother.

To ask someone about their family’s names, you say-“I saabolo la aba gbEE-What is the name of your brother/sister (depending on gender you are asking).

The person would answer-Nzaabolo la ba _______(name of brother/sister). (My sister/brother’s name is_____)

Some other useful vocabulary:

Fe kolon-I don’t know

Ve Kolon-He/she don’t know

Ife kolon-You don’t know

Ngbele-I am drinking

Tii-to work

Lii-to go

Na ke tii-I am working

Now that we have some basic vocabulary lets practice:


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Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.