Ferry Transportation – Phrases & Breakdown



Ferries cross every day from Banjul to Barra, and to Dakar, the capital of Senegal. The accomodations range from basic to luxury. Schedules vary, but the ferries are quick and reliable. – Nyima Kantorek

Note that the source for these use an unusual orthography


Where is the ferry going? – Fern la ferry be de dem?
fern/fan = where (also: day/date), ferry = ferry (chalupe in Senegal), be/bi = the, dem = go

I want to go to… – Dama buga dem
dama = I would like, buga/bëgg = desire/like/need/want/intend/intent

How long would it take to get to…? – Fe behnyarta wahhtu lar jaile?
fe/fi = here, beh = until, nyarta/ñaata = amount/cost/many/much, wahhtu/waxtu = hour/time, jaile = take

How many passengers does the ferry take? – Ferry be nyarta nitt lar ebb?
nitt = person/people, ebb = load/pack

How long does the ferry stay in…? – Ferry be de na yarga…?
na/naka = how, yarga = last

What time is it returning? – Bern wahhtu lar lay dealusy?
bern/ban = which/what, dealusy = come back


Phrases and definitons from the Wolof Dictionary & Phrasebook by Nyima Kantorek, published by Hippocrene. The only Wolof/English dictionary in mass publication as far as I can tell; For that alone it makes the book a worthwhile purchase, however the book uses a very non-standard orthography that, although specially designed for English speakers, makes it more difficult to learn the language. Every Wolof speaker that I’ve shown it to, whether native or as a second language, did not recognize it as Wolof and even they had a hard time with it. The book is primarily Gambian dialect.



  1. The National African Language Resource Center at the University of Wisconsin – Madison has published a Wolof-English English-Wolof Lexicon with a fairly thorough introduction to grammar. It too has its kinks but is an enormous improvement on Kantorek. It uses a standard orthography, contains many Wolof words where the former only has phonetic equivalents of British English loan words, and has idioms and example phrases to help clarify meanings. The book is $35 plus shipping. I require it for all my students beyond beginner level.


    There is also the UCLA dictionary by Dieynaba Gaye and Pamela Munro. It is out of print but available free for download from the UCLA Linguistics portal http://www.linguistics.ucla.edu/faciliti/opl.htm

    Jamm ak Jamm

    Alex Zito
    Boston University African Language Program


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