Outdoors Magazine

Making Friends in the Louisiades: Learning Misima Dialect

By Behan Gifford @sailingtotem
Connecting with people in the places we visit, learning about our similarities and differences, is something I truly enjoy. Demonstrating interest by knowing some of their language is a great way to start.
Abel George tutors us
This is complicated by the vast number of languages we faced, first in Papua New Guinea and now here in Indonesia. Tok Pisin (pidgin) and English are actually the two official PNG languages, but everyone speaks a local dialect (and often several other neighboring dialects). The range of that dialect may be limited to a speck of an island, a valley, or even a village. They are strikingly different- truly mutually unintelligible, as opposed to tweaks on a single language. Seems daunting!
It turns out that there is a dominant local dialect in much of the Louisiades that simplifies the process- Misima, the largest island, covers many of the islands at the eastern end. Tok Pisin isn’t used much in this area- unless they’ve had education beyond primary years, most people aren’t exposed to it much. But many people speak Misima dialect, even if they aren’t in the relatively large area it encompasses.
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I had excellent tutors when we arrived in Papua New Guinea: Bela and Derek on s/v Pandana have spent years cruising the area, and Bela is enthusiastically conversant in Misima dialect. Thanks to her enthusiasm and the smiling help of Rubin and his fishermen brothers, I had a few basic words and phrases to grow over the coming weeks.
I believe taking the time is really, really worthwhile. Here’s a collection of what I learned and found helpful. It’s not based on anything but my own pathetic transliteration. There is probably pidgin mixed in. But for making friends in the Louisiades, it will help to crack smiles, open doors, and put you on trusted ground.

Misima Dialect words and phrases

good morning melaluga waiwaisana from dawn to midmorning

good day (really, 10-3) alalati waiwasana this is used during the hot part of the day

good afternoon kokoyave waiwaisana from about 3pm until nightfall

good evening bulin waiwai sana bulin literally means 'star'

goodbye kai yun

thank you ateu owa literally, heart person. Sweet.

what's your name? halam ek? both the 'h' and the 'k' are nearly silent

my name is (name) alau (name)

his/ner name is (name) alula na (name)

what are you doing? hau na ku gigi nor? use this when speaking to several people

what are you doing? hau na u gigi nor? use this when speaking to just one person

just living hau minamina this is the common response

how are you? ham nam gai wa?

I'm good am nam wai si this is the common response

where are you going? gao na na?

I'll be back a na ki te wa this is the common response

good wai si also, i wai si: it's good.

very good wai si hot also used for delicious

bad inak

bad man inak kina

trading pem penpewa

you give u pem

I give ya pewa

sister/brother taliu not literally a relative- common reference

sister/brother  gan for an elder/respectful

what do you want? hau na nu wam?

I want (item) nu wam (item)

do you have… tab…

Do you have bananas? tab suva?

he/she/it he

they i

sail / sailing kuki

sail to Misima kuki Misima

let's sail ta kuki

cooking liga liga

washing (body) hig hig

washing (dishes) ul ul

don't! bahi wa!

don't do it bahi wa nu gi nor.

come here unem

get down ulau

swim gayu

building a house himi tao tao

sit down mi si yo

garden eyowa

basket eyoga

knife kai ni give me the knife: kai ni pem. VERY useful, see prior post!

water wara

rain ke he i lau

water wara

baby wawaya

old man tonowak

man tau

woman yova

people gamagal

canoe waga this generically refers to different boat types

medicine sawa sawal

modern medicine dim dim wali sawa sawal

drinking coconut matu

coconut bwaku

betelnut lele

clothes kaliko

banana suva




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