English is a widely spoken language among the globe and the default language in most sites and apps. It has over 170,000 words and counting, many of which bear importance to literary works and to daily conversations. The rest seem to be a clutter of various words mostly found in spelling bee contests.
Many words in English are variations of one word, altered to carry a different meaning from the original, such as: “penalty” and “penalized.” While both words sound the same, their use and surface meanings are different.
But you can live without these words, right? Maybe you can still live with a few thousand words. Perhaps you still want them, but why do you want them? sina wile e ona tan seme? The last question is a phrase in Toki Pona that can be translated as “you need them for what?”
INTRODUCING: toki pona
CODM, Club Penguin, and Disney divisions in their respective (rough) Toki Pona translations using three different writing systems.
Toki Pona is a personal language created by Sonja Lang in an effort to understand what the meaning of life is; taking a minimalistic approach of creating a language while being able to express the maximum with it.
Many Toki Pona words are derived from a variety of languages such as French, English, Finnish, Malayo-indonesian and more—giving the learner a much easier time to connect with the language.
She lessened words that carry a negative vibe and extracted a better base to help frame the language through a much more positive and simple lens—adjusting the speaker to a new perspective of seeing things.
It’s just like a game, almost—maybe an abstract jigsaw puzzle. Let’s say you wanted to say orca or killer whale in English but you didn’t know the word for it. How would you describe an orca so it’s understandable? Well personally I know that orcas are whales and whales are essentially just big sea creatures—kala suli (literally: FISH BIG)
So I would call an orca a big sea creature or in Toki Pona, kala suli. Now what if you wanted to disambiguate it from other whales? Well let’s add an adjective that makes it distinct from the other whales or narrows it down to an orca. First thing that comes to my mind is—compared to most whales, orcas are usually darker.
But that might not have been what you thought, and that’s ok! There are many ways to say each concept and it’s up to you on how you can express that concept to the people you’re talking to.
Toki Pona among the face of the internet
pali mute tan toki pona
Toki Pona is introduced to many young folks by creators such as jan Misali (formerly Conlang Critic), Langfocus, and more! jan Misali created their series for people to learn Toki Pona in 12 days.
Written works like books have also been translated to Toki Pona, among them is The Little Prince, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Æsop for Children, Gilgamesh, the Torah and MANY more!
Games like Minecraft and lichess.org include community contributed translations so you can learn while playing a well-known favorite sandbox survival game or a classic board game for you to practice with.
You may ask:
How do they translate these?
Being a non-precise language may be difficult in regards to translating works of science, and other advanced concepts. However it is still possible to be able to do this by gluing them all up with context—THE important piece that holds the language all together.
Think of it as a painting seen from a distance, just by looking at it you can see a blurry image framed up. That blurry image becomes much more detailed as you get closer and gets more defined by the time you’re near it.
Now, think of yourself as the painter of that painting. You have an image in mind that you want to paint, but it seems too difficult to translate it to the canvas. First you have to take the most important part of what shapes the image in your brain, that is the topic.
Don’t go too complicated with the details yet, just brush it all up first, experiment with the colors until you have the basic components of everything. By that time, you can go as precise as you need to or as ambiguous as you want, it’s all up to how you perceive it and how others should be able to perceive that image in your head too.
Here’s a Toki Pona cover for Bad Apple
Toki Pona Communities
KULUPU MUTE PI TOKI PONA signed by jan Lakuse and jan Tepo in Luka Pona
For a small language with simple goals, many communities share their contributions for it. From these communities, a variety of cultures arise and are shared among different spaces—one of them being from Discord. Many words that come across as jokes are recognized among these communities; used in many creative works such as music, art, games, storytelling, etc.
Most of the Toki Pona spaces are inclusive and accessible to many kinds of folks whether they’re disabled, queer, or a minority. It’s somewhat easy to come across them once you know which place to go to and which person to talk with.
pona li lon insa pi jan ali
There is good inside of everyone.
kijetesantakalu o! A comic strip series in Toki Pona by jan Ke Tami featuring English translations too!
pipi suwi li pana e pona by jan Emalan
Chill off with this Toki Pona original song.
A gaming channel entirely in Toki Pona! (Includes a Minecraft Hardmode series)
One of the communities’ amazing works feature Luka Pona, a sign language created by jan Olipija to act as a sister-language for Toki Pona—created through recognizing how sign languages work while still making it simple.
Just like Toki Pona, this sign language is much more minimal and simple compared to most natural sign languages. It also encourages being playful with the language by importing signs or testing grammar in signspace.
The growth of a lone seed.
kasi ale o kama kili pona
A month ago, Toki Pona celebrated its 20th birthday since it was published on the internet. Toki Pona has reached a lot of milestones and this was all thanks to the community for contributing their philosophies, usages, analyses, and more fun stuff ranging from vocabulary, grammar to the study of life and art.
It’s clear how grown Toki Pona has been since its first page on the internet, to the first book, and now we have a new book published just recently! The recent book includes compilations of how most people would use vocabulary, kind of like a dictionary. New and old words are included in this book because of how much people use them, totalling from 120 words and 3 synonyms in the first book to 137 essential words (and 50 more).
Sonja wouldn’t want to change anyone’s use of vocabulary or grammar, nor would she correct anyone if their usage of Toki Pona was different from hers. She planted the seeds and all that it needs and let the sprout grow as it has to.
Which is why she created a second book to tell people that there are many valid ways of using Toki Pona and shouldn’t really have a standard way. Language shouldn’t be restricted to one way of speaking, if it helps to communicate or express a human’s need then it must be so.
Well that’s all for now folks. Are you interested in learning Toki Pona? Do you want to be part of a diverse culture and be able to speak in a new language? Below are sources for you to check them out! You can also check in the appendix for more artworks and such by amazing creators from around the world.
Toki Pona Free Courses
lipu sona pona by /dev/urandom: https://devurandom.xyz/tokipona/ (available in English, German, Polish, and Russian)
12 days of sona pi toki pona by jan Misali: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuYLhuXt4HrQIv3xnDxZqRaLfmxB2U5rJ
nasin sona musi by jan Mulan: https://jamesmoulang.itch.io/nasin-sona-musi (game for learning Toki Pona words)
Toki Pona cheat sheet by blinry: https://morr.cc/toki-pona-cheat-sheet/toki-pona-cheat-sheet.pdf
Essential Toki Pona Vocabulary Memrise deck by Sonja Lang: https://app.memrise.com/course/5969373/essential-toki-pona-vocabulary/
Anki deck sorted by word frequency: https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/206063196
Dictionary based on Sonja Lang’s community polling by jan Sasi: https://tp.lcp.su/nimi/
Toki Pona Paid Courses (this link is not affiliated)
Toki Pona: The Language of Good by Sonja Lang and
Toki Pona Dictionary compiled by Sonja Lang (both created by the creator herself!): https://tokipona.org/
Luka Pona Free Resourses Compiled by jan Olipija:
GRAMMAR – DOCS https://bit.ly/3BKRlb0
GRAMMAR – BLOG POSTS https://bit.ly/38JPmHk
DICTIONARY – DOCS https://bit.ly/3tlIkCr
ONLINE SEARCHABLE DICTIONARY https://bit.ly/3ti73HH
Sites you may want to visit:
https://tapas.io/series/Nasin-Nasa/info (contains adult themes)
Note: These aren’t all of what Toki Pona has to offer, there’s so much more to explore!
Fight the Good Fight!