A Tok Pisin Lesson For You

Tok Pisin lesson

First off, what is Tok Pisin? Tok = Talk and Pisin = bird. So Tok Pisin means ‘Talk of the bird.’ Tok Pisin is PNG’s trade language and is what we call Pidgin English. It is a combination of native, German, English words. This language was invented by the plantation owners to be able to communicate to their slaves. It is continually evolving and changing. Tok Pisin even varies between the coast, highlands, and different provinces, not to mention in towns and the bush.


Daniel reading a comic book in Tok Pisin

Over all, the language it is very easy. I will take you through some of the basics of the language and you can get a sneak peek of what we have been learning.


a- ah like jaw

e- eh as in bed

i- ee as in seen

o- oh like boat

u-oo as in soon

ai- hard i as in eye

au- ow as in how

r- r’s are flapped. your tongue should come up to the roof of your mouth and back again.


Tok Pisin dictionary


Some nouns :



pikinini- child



Bikpela- God

Jisas- Jesus




ples- native village

haus- house

diwai (dee-wy)-tree

kaukau (cow-cow)-sweet potatoes, the Highlands staple here.


kaukau at the market


bilum- the native purse/bag for everything man or women


all the different types of bilums

kai kai-food (also the verb ‘to eat’)


wontok- another person belonging to the same tribe

Krismas- Christmas/years


Tok Pisin praise and worship song








yupela-you (plural)

mipela- we


Palms 32:8


Verbs almost all having the ending ‘im.’





pundaun-fall down

kisim-get, grab, take


stap (stop)-is, am, is, are, was, were, been, being (any state of being). Also used as staying, living.

makim-do, doing, done; also to mark out or point.

wokim-make, work

karim- to carry

pasim- stop/turn off

opim- open/turn on



Adjectives are created by adding ‘pela’ on the end of the word. Tok Pisin doesn’t have many very descriptive adjectives.

naispela-nice, pretty


no gut- bad

longpela-long, tall





Colors and numbers are the same: a blue shirt is ‘blupela’ and three guavas is ‘tripela.’



practicing our Tok Pisin it a village

Some common greetings and phrases:

monin-good morning

apinun-good afternoon/evening

gut nait-good night

(apinun includes the evening and is used up until it is dark. Then gut nait is used.)

Em nau/ em stret- yes (literally, ‘that is correct’)

nogat- no

Tenk yu tru- thank you very much

Lukim you-goodbye, see you later

Yu stap orait?/ Mi orait-how are you?/ I’m  fine.

Yu got hamas Krismas?- how old are you? (years are measured by Christmas’s)

Mi got __ Krismas.-I am __ years old.

Yu stap we?- where do you live?

Mi stap long Goroka.- I live in Goroka.

A couple common phrases we think are slightly odd:

Yu go we?- “Where are you going?” Rather than being nosy, this is a very common and polite question.

Orait, yu ken i go.- “Alright, you can go.” This is kind of a leaving, good bye comment, and much as it sounds like it, it’s not rude: ‘okay, leave already!’



Misc. words:

long- this is used for every and any preposition.

“Mi go long haus nau.” I am going to the house now.

bilong- a possesive.

“Em i pusi bilong Sarah.” It is Sarah’s cat.

tru- very

“Em i gutpela tru.” It is very good.

bai-makes the sentence future tense.

“Mipela bai pilai soka.” We will play soccer.

bin-makes the sentence past tense.

“Yu bin kleanin rum bilong yu, o nogat?” Have you cleaned your room yet, or no?


Jenny surrounded by the Tok Pisin bibles that CRMF distributes



Well, I hope that very short lesson was neat and different as you get a glance at what all of us are learning and experiencing down here. Even Daniel (the 4 yr. old) is now saying “mi bikpela boi”( I am a big boy) and actually trying to talk to people in Tok Pisin.

I want to learn more and honestly I love speaking this language. Over all, my opinion of Tok Pisin is that it is definitely a go between for people’s Tok Ples (tribal language) and English. There are not a lot of descriptive words and you will find yourself talking in circles, trying to explain a word that does not exist. I am so thankful to our language teachers and I have learned so much in the past 5 months.


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