Malians are very religious and welcoming people, who value peace and good health, and this is very evident in their language and the way they express themselves. With the majority of the population being Muslim, the national language, Bambara, also includes Arabic words and phrases here and there.
In the greetings alone, we can see what Malians value and hold dear. When someone says good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, the response is “umse” for a woman, meaning my strength, and “umba” for a man, meaning I give homage to my mother. There is a deep respect for mothers, and although women are marginalized in several different ways, a mother’s word is final and everyone obeys their mother.
Following this, people will often ask “ere sira” or “ere tlina” meaning did you spend the night or day in peace. To which, one would respond, “ere” which means peace. “So mogo bedi” would then be used to ask how your family or people at home are. To which you would respond, “ thoroste” – no problems or worries.
When eating, everyone eats out of a large communal bowl or plate. It is polite to invite others to join you, even if you don’t know them or you know they will likely say no. To politely decline an invitation, or to show that you have had your fill, you say “abarka” meaning thank you, or “barka Allah”, which means thank you God for providing food.
When saying goodbye, if one says see you tomorrow, the response is “inchallah” or “nalasona” which means if it is God’s will. If someone is leaving, the person staying says, “kambufo” – greet your family or the people where you are going – and the person leaving will say “uname” – I won’t forget.
As very religious people, everyday interactions include benedictions. For example, if someone says they or someone in their family is sick, you respond with “Allah ka lafia” meaning may God give you good health. Similarly, vendors walk around town selling everything from peanuts, to toothpaste and make up, to even cellphones. When a vendor tries to sell you something and you want to politely decline, you say, “warko, Allah ka sougoudia” meaning I don’t have money and may God grant you good sales. And to accept a benediction, you say “amina” or amen.
At the end of the day, when going home or going to sleep, Bamana people will often say, “Allah ka dougounoumaje” meaning may God allow you to spend the night in peace. Similarly, “k’an kelen kelen wuli” means may we wake up one by one, signifying that we have spent the night in peace, in contrast with all waking up at once in times of trouble.
Another phrase that can be used to greet or say goodbye is “salam malekum” meaning may peace be with you, and “malekum salam” meaning and also with you. This is also a popular greeting in Senegal, another majority Muslim country whose national language, Wolof, also values peace and family. People will ask how you are and the response “jama rek” means peace only. They will also ask after your family, “a na wa ker ge” – where/how are the people at home.
Posted By Refilwe Moahi
Posted Nov 19th, 2015