11 Wolof Phrases You Will Need When Visiting Senegal

Although French is the official language of Senegal, Wolof is the most commonly spoken of the eleven languages; Balanta-Ganja, Hassaniya Arabic, Jola-Fonyi, Mandinka, Mandjak, Mankanya, Noon, Pulaar, Serer, Soninke, and Wolof.


The Wolof are the most populous people in Senegal, and the language is spoken by 85 percent of the populace. Wolof is also a language of the Gambia and Mauritania.

From the Gambia’s Sine-Saloum Delta to Senegal’s Saint-Louis, Wolof is what you will hear on the streets, but hardly see in official documents and newspapers.

Here are 11 Wolof phrases you will need whenever you visit this West African country.


1. Salaam Alaikum (Sa-laam-a-lay-kum): Hello.

Respond with Wa-Alaikum-Salaam (wa-alay-kum-sal-aam): Hello to you

Literally, it means ‘peace be upon you’ with the response meaning ‘peace also be unto you’. This is the most common way to say ‘hello’ in Senegal.

2. Na nga def (nan-ga-def): How are you?

Respond with Maa ngi fi (man-gi-fi): I’m fine, thanks.

‘Ca va’ means ‘how you doing?’ and can be used after or instead of Salaam Alaikum. It can also be used for asking questions about one’s family, house, and others.


3. Jërejëf (je-re-jef): Thank you

Easy to remember right?

4. Waaw / déedéyt (wao / dey-dey): Yes / No

In any conversation, you would agree with me that yes and no are two of the most useful words to know in any language.


5. Dégg naa / dégguma (deg-na / deg-goo-ma): I understand / I don’t understand

For the latter, if you really want to show you don’t understand, it’s best to pretend you don’t even speak any Wolof at all.

6. Baal ma (baal-ma): Sorry or pardon me

This will come in handy if you accidentally bump into someone or you did something worth apologizing for.

7. Mangi dem (man-gee-dem): Goodbye

This is another effortless phrase you should know as a traveler. For fancier ways of saying goodbye, you can say: ba beneen (see you next time); leegi leegi (see you shortly); yendu ak jamm (have a nice day).


8. Tahawal fee (ta-ha-wal-fee): Stop here

You may be in a cab and see you have reached your destination. Save yourself from walking back or any other drama with this phrase.

9. Ana wanaag wi (ana-wan-aag-wee): Where is the toilet?

As a tourist, experiences around being pressed can be funny or really not. Don’t be caught off guard. Although, toilet as a word seems universal, know where it is with this handy phrase.

10. Ndox (ndorr): Water

An ‘n’ before another consonant might be strange to pronounce if you’re a Westerner. Just start with the ‘dorr’, then slip an ‘un’ sound before it.


11. Nanga tudd (nan-ga-tud): What is your name?

Respond with maa ngi tudd (man-gee-tud): My name is…

Well, how do you make friends if you don’t even know the person’s name?

You will also love these 8 beautiful words from the Swahili Language.



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