The Lion's Rear

How to go about translating a sentence or two of Tokipona


Archive Tokipona translations by breaking down the sentences in to concepts, and reassembling them, you get to focus as much on the aesthetics as the meaning

think of what you want to say, for example:

I'm having difficulties starting to study. Social media is always there, distracting me.

The author finds an anchor where they can start translating and work from there. From "starting to study" comes pali open, and through to pali open li ike tawa mi which they can then choose to further refine or reconsider now that it's in the tokipona linguistic form. pali lipu open can mean the "start of the book work", in Pu Lesson 11 the noun-phrasing is explained, each new word describes the sum of the previous words.

Breaking down more complex ideas like "social media" is a bit difficult and it requires a lot more imagination and heavy lifting. It's a document- or note-based community for everyone, so the author finds lipu kulupu ali

The construction of tokipona ends up being a fairly aesthetic adventure then, where a choice of words may differ based on the context or the intent, and lets you grapple with some of the interesting paradoxes of how we think:

And distracting me could be “good for me”, or “pona tawa mi”? It would make a kind of poetic sense: I am bad at this because that is good for me…

pali lipu open li ike tawa mi
tan lipu kulupu ali pona tawa mi.
tenpo lili.

while this reads nicely and looks okay as text, it's really something which benefits from reading in the hieroglyphic which tokipona "ships with". The author points out kindly that the glyphs and the fonts which render them are meant to be able to combine glpyhs to show grouped meaning which the textual reading may not be able to convey; things like tawa mi looking like a walking person or lipu encasing the concept the document carries… it's good stuff