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Wolof Dictionary: Pronunciation

My Magazine 2023/06
7 min
Wolof, one of the most widely spoken language in The Gambia, is a beautifully melodic and expressive language that reflects the rich cultural tapestry of its people. Pronouncing Wolof words correctly not only enhances your ability to communicate effectively but also demonstrates respect for the local culture.

In this article, we dive into the intricacies of Wolof pronunciation, providing insights and tips to help you master the art of speaking this captivating language.

Keep in mind, the best way to perfect your Wolof pronunciation is to engage with native speakers. Interact with locals, practice conversations, and seek feedback on your pronunciation. Gambians are known for their warmth and willingness to help, so don't hesitate to ask for assistance in improving your Wolof language skills. This firsthand guidance from native speakers will ensure you develop an authentic and accurate pronunciation. 

The Wolof pronunciation system is relatively simple. Every symbol stands for only one sound; every symbol is pronounced the same way in every word. The distinction between short and long vowels is very important because it is sometimes the only way to distinguish pairs of words with different meanings. Long vowels are always doubled, while short vowels are not. There is a lot of prenalization in Wolof. There usually occurs with nasals such as m, n, etc.


As indicated, Wolof vowels are either long or short. A long vowel indicates a doubling of the symbol and must be pronounced a little longer than a short vowel (which is not doubled). Long and short vowels can occur anywhere in the word.

Vowel - English Equivalent - Wolof Example

a - absorb - banta 
aa - far - laaj
e - get - dem
ee - where - seet
i - in - nit, simis
oo - door - loo

Consonant - English Equivalent - Wolof Example

b - boy - bunta
c - ch in church - caabi
d - dog - def, dara 
f - fire - fo ka
g - good - dogal, duga
k - cool - kaala
l - land - lolu, laal
w - war - waw
x - between k and h - xaalis
y - your - yaay

Interested in learning more? Contact us or head over to our Activities section, where we offer Wollof classes with a friendly and engaging teacher that will be happy to help you improve your skills! 



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