Lesson 2: The Semi-vowels in Lingala and Key Distinctions Between Vowels

Distinctions Between Vowels in Lingala

While most vowels in Lingala do not sound the same, making a distinction between e – ε and ɔ – o is very important. Each one of these gives a new meaning to a word.

Let’s see some examples:

e – ε kobéla to boil  kobÉla to be sick
kosesa to separate kosεsa to cut, to sharpen
kobémba to travel kobÉmba to charm, to seduce
kosénga to bewitch kosÉnga to ask


ɔ – o kobonga to balance kobɔnga to suit
libóngó shore libɔngo knee
ekómo bec ekɔmo bracelet


The Semi-Vowels in Lingala 

Lingala has two semi-vowels y and w that correspond to two vowels i and u.

koyâ to come w kowâ to die


Now let’s practice some of these words, vowels and semi-vowels!



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages Copyright © 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.