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Steve & Mónica Parker,
Wycliffe Bible Translators

Language Puzzle - Tok Pisin

Tok Pisin is a creole language used by over 2 million citizens of Papua New Guinea. Most of that number use it as a second language, for commerce and government. It is the mother tongue for some, and so the Bible was published in Tok Pisin in 1989, and some elementary schools use it.

This feature

Since Tok Pisin borrows so much from English vocabulary, and shares the same basic word order, see if you can guess what the Tok Pisin sentence below means. 

Mi go long bus na mi lukim tripela pik.


Over a period of days and week, we'll gradually translate the item. 

Answer so far (almost complete):

Tok P.Mi golong busna milukim tripelapik
EnglishIwent(preposition) in, into, tojungleand Isawthree 


  • Pronouns in Tok Pisin use the same form for subjects and objects.

  • Vowels are pronounced similar to the vowels in these words:

    • [a] - "father"
    • [e] - "eight" or "get"
    • [i] - "pique" or "mit"
    • [o] - "so" or "sought"
    • [u] - "true" or "put"
  • Words borrowed from other languages were shaped by the sound system of Tok Pisin. Consonants shift as follows:

    • The "f" or "ph" in English became [p] in Tok Pisin
    • "sh," "z," or "ch" became [s]
    • The "r" after vowels was dropped, so English "heart" became [hat] (pronounced like our "hot"). The Tok Pisin word hat means "heart," "hot," "hard," or "hat."
    • A rule in Tok Pisin modifies the sound of "b," "d" and "g" at the ends of syllables. The three consonants become [p], [t], and [k], respectively. So "God" becomes [got] and "bag" becomes [bek].
  • Tok Pisin is "phonetic," so "Christian" became [kristen], whereas "cigarette" converted to [sigaret].
  • Tok Pisin sentences are in Subject-Verb-Object order.

  • As a typical VO (verb before object) language, Tok Pisin uses prepositions (not postpositions).


Tok Pisin was originally a simplified version of English, and was previously known outside PNG as Melanesian Pidgin English. It borrows words from various Austronesian and Indo-European languages, and has its own grammar and sound system. More informationDefinitions of "pidgin" and "creole".

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When does God call people to long-term missionary service?

* 21% were called as a result of a missions education service in their local church
* 20% felt God calling them after listening to missionary speakers
* 19% were called because of their own family's missions vision and conversations
* 10% heard God's call through reading missionary books

-- Terry Read, missionary and missions professor