Lingala Words Play

The following words give evidence of the playful nature of this language as it is shaped by many cultural influences. Read over the list and you will get a sense of the fun native speakers and foreigners enjoy in their use of the language.

Balabala – road, and you can feel the bumps and holes as you say it

Kpokoso – difficult, and it is, somewhat even for Congolese to pronounce

Poto Poto – Mud, as in wet earth used for making bricks for house construction

PuluPulu – diarrhea (sorry but I couldn’t resist this one)

Makelele – a dispute, hear them going back and forth?

Ingelesa – the Protestant Church, evidence of the largely English speaking nationalities of the early missionaries?

Semisi – shirt, or Smith since the English pronunciation is too difficult

Kokwei ndeke – literally “the bird is falling” but used as “falling in love”

Mondoki – rebel, this one carries a somber message as it means literally the one with a gun and is derived from ndoki or sorcery;

Mozwi – the one who receives literally, but used for a greedy person

PoussePousse – from the French “pousser”, to push, and used for the metal push carts hired for transporting loads in Congo’s cities.

Ngonga – hour, or gong if you prefer

Mpusu or Miao – they both mean cat and couldn’t you guess

Sukulu – school, more evidence of English speaking missionaries’ influence in educating many Congolese in times past.

Noki noki – real fast as opposed to noki which is just fast. Malembe malembe is real, real slow.

Kotambolatambola – the verb katambola means to walk so by repeating tambola the meaning changes to parading around; repetition as in the previous example intensifies the meaning. Could be used for any other verb you choose. Kolukaluka would mean to search everywhere as opposed to koluka which means a simple search.