Approaching any new language can be daunting. It invariably involves study and memorization and trial and error. And at the beginning there are usually a lot more errors during the trials.

Lingala is no different. It will most likely seem very strange starting out. For me, it was a mix of the sameness with some things – for example, nearly all of the verbs having the same basic structure, which had the effect of them starting to blur together when presented in a list – along with the newness of trying to get used to pronouncing words beginning with double consonants, such as mb- and ng-. And there are a few things – such as the Lingala words for colours and numbers – that are, to be honest, just a bit difficult at first.

This book tries to make sense of it all and to present things in a logical and useful order.

The first section presents the things you’ll need to get going – some common verbs and vocabulary and the essential other bits to construct basic sentences to get you on your way.

The second section looks at how to put these basic building blocks into use. It reviews the basic verb tenses and introduces a few more verbs and vocabulary, along with examples of how they are used.

The third section introduces a few of the more advanced verb tenses. It also looks at the relationship between some Lingala nouns and verbs that might help you to anticipate what correct forms might be, along with those pesky colours and numbers.

The fourth section introduces a range of everyday topics and activities – restaurants, markets, food, shopping, the natural environment, along with some of the more serious aspects of life in the DRC, such as war, witchcraft and street life – and the associated verbs, vocabulary, common phrases and expressions that you might come across.

The fifth section presents a collection of what I call ‘binomials’ – two related words, such as ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ or ‘question’ and ‘answer’, which I found really helpful for memorising.

Finally, at the end there is a list of verbs and a dictionary – in both Lingala-English and English-Lingala – to help you answer the inevitable questions that will arise as you progress and become more fluent.

In addition to this book, there are a few other resources that you might useful. As I’ve already noted, the Kinois themselves are probably the best teachers you’ll find. I also found listening to the some of the local radio stations and Lingala music to be a big help. And I also made a set of flashcards with English and Lingala on either side to help memorise some of the trickier words and verbs and verb tenses. That last bit came very close to seeming like work, but it did make a big difference when I was first starting out.

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