Monday 4 August 2014

Teaching to learn

Surprisingly, I learned a lot of Kelabit words on my first day. I must admit that it was difficult to learn those words. I was thinking that if it was difficult for me to learn Kelabit words, it would also be difficult for the Bario women to learn English. Hence, I thought that I would need to be more patient and find strategies to teach English to the Bario women. Most of the content in this post will consist of the Kelabit words that I had learned in Bario.

Below are a few words that I have learned in Kelabit on my first day:

Jonathan Ngadan Uih - My name is Jonathan.
Kuman - Eat
Mirup - Drink
Petabi De Dhtum - Good night
Petabi Rhedum - Good night 

Petabi Le ke thang - Good morning 
Numbers from 0-10 - Na'am, edtah, dua', teluh, epat, lima', enam, tuduh, waluh, iwah, puluh.
Uih - I 
Iko - You
Kayu - Tree

Some jungle vegetables and fruit vocabulary that I picked up over time:

Midin. Slightly smaller and finer compared to paku-pakis.
Buah kabar
Daun sup
Daun Isip. Widely used to wrap Nuba' Laya' (soft rice)
I was assigned to Christina. Christina is a mother of four and is 28 years old. She looks really young. At first, she was shy to learn English so I built a strong relationship with her and eventually it was easier to teach her English. Hence, I realised the importance of relationship building before teaching an older person.

I must admit that I learned more Kelabit words from her as she already has quite a wide English vocabulary but just lacks the confidence to communicate in English. I learned Bahasa Kelabit from her and she learned the English from me. Both of us used Bahasa Malaysia as a medium of communication.

As we grew closer, she had to leave to Miri for some reasons. I thought Christina would forget about me when she left to Miri but I was so happy when she texted me! After she left, I was paired up with Violacea to teach Tepuq Ribet English. I rested for a few days before joining forces with Vio as I was ill. I came to a conclusion that unexpected things will happen when you are teaching and we must always be prepared to face these changes. 

Christina and her one year old daughter, Cherisha. I truly miss them a lot despite meeting them for only 3 days.

Below are the few words that Christina and I learned using the translation method:

Thank you - Terima kasih
You are welcome - Pa'ad
Sorry - Mutuhdoo
It is okay - Doo enah
Yes - Mo
No - Na'am

Water - Pa'
Food - Nukenen
Rice - Nuba'

Wind - Bario
Mountain - Pu'un

Up - Dita
Down - Benah
Right - Seno'ah
Left - Ka'bing

Cat - U'sing
Dog - Oko
Chicken - La'al
Fish - Luang
Wild boar - Baka

We - Tauh
They - Ideh
He/she - Ieh

Only after learning and practicing the Kelabit language hard, I found this...

I should have found this book earlier though...

I will wrap up this post with some Bahasa Kelabit fun facts:

  • Did you know that the apostrophe sign is pronounced as 'k' if is it written at the end of a Kelabit word?
  • Bahasa Kelabit does borrow some words from Bahasa Malaysia.
  • There is no 'he' or 'she' in Bahasa Kelabit and both are referred to as 'ieh'.


  1. hey i wanted to know where did you get that book?
    ive been always wanting to learn kelabit as i am kelabit myself.
    thank you.

    1. It's not in print anymore! The best is to find someone who has a copy and then photostat it.

  2. Same here. Mom is kelabit. Wanted to learn her language, is luv to have that book too please. Tt

    1. It would be best to find someone who has the book and photostat it. It's not in print anymore and it indeed is hard to find!