lipu nanpa wan, la mi kama sona e toki pona

lipu nanpa wan, la mi kama sona e toki pona
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(i'm learning toki pona, part 1)

At its root, the language toki pona is an art project. It's meant to explore how people understand each other and how the things around us relate to one another. It's defining characteristic is simplicity, both in vocabulary and grammar. According to the general consensus of toki pona speakers, it takes about 30 hours to master. Compare this with the U.S. State Department's estimate 600-750 hours for Danish, Dutch, French, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, and Swedish or 2200 hours for Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean to reach professional proficiency.

From the introduction to the official toki pona book,

Toki Pona is a language that breaks down advanced ideas to their most basic elements. If you are hungry, you ‘want eat’. To teach is to ‘give knowledge’. This allows us to drastically reduce the vocabulary and grammatical structures needed to say what we have to say.

There are 120 words in its original vocabulary which was designed by Sonja Lang, a Canadian linguist who nativley speaks French and English. She also speaks Esperanto (another constructed language), Spanish, and German. Thanks to efforts by the community, the essential vocabulary was expanded to 137 words to better cover all aspects of life, some of which Sonja hadn't yet considered when she originally made the language in 2001 (a lot has changed in the last 20 years after all).

Here's the official site where you can find a lot of interesting information and resources:

Toki Pona (official site)

Here's a YouTube series to learn toki pona. This series of videos was voted the best way to learn toki pona by speakers of toki pona:

For those who prefer written material, here's a website with a series of lessons to learn toki pona:

lipu sona pona (toki pona course)

And there are lots more online resources I can share if other people are interested! Just send me a message!

an interesting note

Sonja Lang lists "limitations" of the language in the official toki pona book. Here're some of them:

  1. toki pona can't distinguish finer shades of meaning.
  2. You can't translate a chemical textbook or legal document into toki pona because it has limited range of functions.
  3. toki pona cant convey every single facet and nuance of human communication.

The first point has become almost entirely obsolete, especially with the publication of the new official toki pona dictionary. Further, according to current linguistic theory, any human language or dialect may be used to communicate any and all human ideas. toki pona may pose unique challenges, but I still have trouble communicating clearly and effectively in English, so I'm not going to make any statements against toki pona in this regard.

The second point was shown to be false by Sonja Lang and a toki pona artist who made a legal contract in toki pona (using a special toki pona calligraphy designed by the artist). Here's the contract:

And here's the site where you can read about the process:

lipu lawa pi esun kama
This conceptual piece was born in the toki pona discussion forums where Matthew Martin (jan Mato) proposed writing up a sales contract in toki pona. He reas...


Yes, I'm a nerd and I'm not sorry for it. I love toki pona as a concept and as an artistic expression. I fully plan to explore it more in the coming months.

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