Thursday, September 2, 2010

Biama líburu (Two Books)

I've been using a variety of helpful resources to learn more Garifuna, one of the best being this dictionary:

As you can see, one of the authors happens to be my favorite person of all time. Another bonus is that the dictionary is trilingual: Garifuna, Spanish, and English. (There are Garifuna people who live in Belize and in the United States, and some don't speak Spanish.)

When I hear a new word in a conversation, I look it up later, or sometimes I want to refresh my mind of a useful term I still can't remember easily.

In Garifuna, nouns and corresponding modifiers have gender agreement. This is found in many languages, such as Spanish and French. ("La casa es blanca." "El perro es blanco.") When I learn new words, I make sure to remember the gender so I can use them properly.

Another fun and useful component is the etymology of borrowed words. For example, if I want to know the word for "window," I find that it is "funedere," taken from the French word, "fenêtre." This helps me remember it as well as understand the sound system better.

Just for fun, let's look up "suddenly": "sódini," with the etymology note showing it somes from the English word. Nice to know!

The word for "paper" is "gárada," which comes from "carta" in Spanish.

And one last example is "ereba," the traditional cassava bread (more about this in a future post). This food is common among South American indigenous groups. For those of you familiar with northern South America, you know about the "arepa," a thick corn tortilla that is a main part of diet and prepared in many ways. Both come from the same word in Arawak.

I love this dictionary and use it frequently, as you can tell by the picture! It was a long, tedious process for those who compiled it, and now it saves me a lot of work in language learning!

The second book I use is the Bible in Garifuna:

Garifuna is one of only 451 languages in the world with a translation of the entire Bible (many languages only have the New Testament and portions of the Old Testament, and many more still have no Scripture). Fernando was part of the translation team, and the project took years of work. Here is a portion from Psalms:

Every week at church, someone reads a passage and the sermon is given in Garifuna. We also use the Bible for the Bible story project. When L, the story crafter, needs to hear a certain verse to make sure she's telling something correctly, I look it up for her and read it. This helps me learn the language and also allows me to understand new details about familiar passages.
I hear people say how much better the Bible sounds to them in Garifuna, and I certainly feel the same about English. It's a good reminder to thank God for what we have and pray and support the effort for others to have God's Word in their own language!


  1. Allison thanks for the awareness of these two resources. Who is the author of the first book? Also, where can we purchase both books in the US? I am enjoying your journey learning garifuna.

    I have a website that is all about Belize and Garifuna. The and is and/or. You can join and you can send me entries so that I can add on the Garifuna pages. The website is

  2. Hi Angela,

    Good to hear from you! I have registered for your blog and am looking forward to reading more in the future.

    Unfortunately, the Garifuna Bible is out of print. The dictionary is only available in Honduras, but I can mail you a copy, if you'd like. Just send your mailing address to

    Binilabu Bungiu!