Language of the week: Iban

In January I began working with Wikitongues, which has led to a lot of traveling in search of languages around the world to record. In March, I was in Langkawi, Malaysia and had the opportunity to record a woman named Sedang speaking Iban. 

Iban is a language spoken primarily in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan and in Brunei (Sedang is from Brunei), along with some dispersion across Malaysia. According to Ethnologue, it is spoken by 1,484,300 people, 784,300 of those speakers learning it as their first language. It belongs to the Malayic languages of the Austronesian language family, making it similar in some regards to Malay.

Six vowels are found in Iban: [i] [e] [ɘ] [a] [u] [o]

There are many prefixes used in Iban that are attached to the verb to show work or an action to be. For example: gagai- chase; dipegagaika- being chased by many; berenjuk- giving each other. Pronouns in Iban are more detailed than native English speakers might be accustomed. In Iban, there is a differentiation between the inclusive and exclusive 'we' and there is also a distinction between singular, dual, and plural. Here's a handy chart (thanks Wikipedia!) showing translations from Iban to English:

Here are some greetings and phrases to try out in Iban:

Selamat datai -- Welcome

Manah betemu nuan! -- Please to meet you!

Kami ka' mupuk dulu; Betemu baru ila -- Goodbye! (Lit. 'we are going back to where we are from', 'see you later')

Nuannemu bejako Iban? -- Do you speak Iban?

Ka nuan betanda enggau aku? -- Would you like to dance with me? (Hey, could be important if you're trying to woo someone in Borneo!)

Dini endor jamban? -- Where's the toilet? (Maybe not the best for that person you're trying to woo..)