When I set out to look for learning materials on the web, I was initially excited to find so many search results for the language. This excitement quickly faded with the number of 404 - Not Found messages I kept getting on each click of a link. So I've created this space as a repository of resources for learning Anishinaabemowin, or more specifically, Ojibwemowin. With time, I hope it can be of use not just to me, but to others.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Stepping through a course - Lesson 1

My first steps into Ojibwemowin surprisingly started with Pimsleur and their first free half-hour lesson. It was pretty informative, not difficult and I came out of it feeling like I actually learned something.

The course is fairly expensive, and I'll probably spring for it eventually, but not right now (I say that as I'm making rabbit ears with my pants pockets). I generally like to start with audio-only courses when I'm completely unfamiliar with a language. And truth be told, there's nothing as good as hearing the language spoken by native speakers. It's the fastest way to get to solid understanding and also improving your own pronunciation by mimicking native speakers.

In the meantime, I found a forum dedicated to Anishinaabemowin at: A poster there had meticulously gone through all 30 of the Pimsleur lessons and transcribed the dialogs and provided grammar notes along the way. So what I plan on doing here is going through each lesson and commenting with my own notes, as the notes in the forum are very detailed - too detailed for a beginner like me. And I figure since I'm writing up my own notes, the better the language will stick in my mind.

So here goes with Lesson One.

Dialog -

F: Aaniin. Anishinaabe na gidaaw?
M: Henh. Anishinaabe indaaw.
F: Gidoojibwem na?
M: Gaawiin. Bangii eta go. Gidoojibwem na?
F: Indoojibwem.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
F: Giga-waabamin, miinawaa.
M: Giga-waabamin, miinawaa.

- Let's break the dialog down line by line.

F: Aaniin. Anishinaabe na gidaaw?
  • Aaniin is a common greeting - "Hello".
  • Anishinaabe* is the most common way to refer to an Ojibwe person.
  • "na" is a question marker here. If we had no real question mark, this is what would tell us that this is a question.
  • "gidaaw" means "you are". Broken down further, "gi" is "you" and "aaw(i)" is the verb "to be" (present tense).
  • So this sentence means "Hello, are you Anishinaabe?"
M: Henh. Anishinaabe indaaw.
  • "Henh" is how a male person says "yes"
  • "indaaw" means "I am". Broken down further, "ind" (or "indo" before a consonant) means "I" and "aaw(i)" again means "to be" (present tense).

  • So the sentence means "Yes, I'm Anishinaabe."

F: Gidoojibwem na?
  • "Gi" we've already seen means "you" but because it precedes a vowel, we're adding a "d" to...
  • "ojibwem" - the verb "to speak" and
  • again, a question marker "na".
  • So the sentence would be "Do you speak Ojibwe?"

  • You'll notice that "Gidoojibwem" has two "o"s written. This lengthens the vowel when spoken. I will write up a separate post on the writing system used both here and in all my learning materials. For now, just remember that it is commonly referred to as the "double vowel system".

M: Gaawiin. Bangii eta go. Gidoojibwem na?
  • "Gaawiin" means "no". Broken down further, "gaa" means "no" or "not" and "wiin" acts as as an intensifier.
  • "Bangii eta go" would be "just a a bit". So "bangii" is "a few", "eta" is "just" or "only" and "go" acts to affirm "bangii eta".
  • So the entire phrase is "No. just a little. Do you speak Ojibwe?"

F: Indoojibwem.
  • We already know that "ind(o)" means "I"and "ojibwem" means "speak Ojibwe", so...
  • "I speak Ojibwe" is the sentence.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
F: Giga-waabamin, miinawaa.
  • When you see a word that starts with "gi" and ends with "in", such as "giga-waabamin", it translates as "I - [verb]... you". "Waabamin" here means "see" or "find". The "ga" following the "gi" marks it as future tense, so it would be "I will see you". "Miinawaa" means "again" or "too". A side note here is that "gi-waabamin" means "I see you", present tense.
  • The complete phrase is then: "I'll see you again."

M: Giga-waabamin, miinawaa.
  • See above.

*Anishinaabe can mean "first/native person"

I will try and do these lessons every few days, hopefully going through two lessons a week until I reach the end of the 30 lesson course. Honestly, I hope I'm not getting into any copyright issues by publishing the dialogs, but they really are quite useful.

If you want to hear native speakers, you may wish to take some of the sentences here and plug them into There are a few listed Ojibwe speakers there that may record them for you. Please do not publish them for general consumption - as much as I'd like to see them used generally, I feel that it may be breaking copyright law.

Please let me know if you find this at all useful or have suggestions for improvement. Language communication is a basic human instinct and I think it's important to freely share any and all information when it comes to learning our many languages.


  1. Hi, this is awesome Rick. I have the same audio CD set and I'm just getting into it. I wondered if you had any books/texts that are helping you with understanding the language. I'm a native English speaker, and am conversant in German and Spanish, but Anishinaabemowin is unlike anything I've tried before. Any help I can find, I'm happy to take!

    1. Hi Mike.

      Aside from the weshki site I tweeted you, I also use this site for grammar reference and examples:

      I also make pretty heavy use of the Ojibwe People's Dictionary: - it has tons of good examples with most word lookups, and many of the examples include audio.

      I also make sure to regularly search for interesting Ojibwe tweets (that's how I saw your tweet about learning the language)... occasionally there's something interesting.

      If you plan on following along with what I've done with the Pimsleur course, let me know what you think. I've tried to extend the course (you'll see that after lesson 10 and beyond), with the hope of gaining a better/more thorough base in the language.


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