Saturday, May 5, 2012

How To Count To Ten In Bassa

Bassa is one of the 16 or so languages spoken inLiberia and one I have been exposed to since age 3.  One of the first things you would learn in Bassa is how to count.  Counting in Bassa usually includes not just the mouth but also the hands!  Watch the video and then I’ll explain the hand movements which can be used as a kind of sign language.

When you are counting, you start with ɖò (one) by pointing to your pinky on your left hand with your right index finger.  When you get to sɔ̃́ (two) you point to the your left ring finger with your right index and bring the left ring finger together with your pinky.  You continue until you have all five of your digits on your left hand together at hm̀m̌ (five).  You then continue this pattern onto your right hand pinky and finally end with ɓaɖa-bùè (ten) by placing both hands together in what looks like two hands praying.  By using these hand signals you can indicate a number to someone without even speaking (i.e. by raising and pressing together the pinky, ring & middle fingers of your left hand you will indicate the number ‘3’ to someone).

I’ve listed the Bassa numbers below from 1 – 10.  You’ll notice that there is some repetition after the number 5 as the number 6 is the word “mɛ̀nɛ̌ìn” + the word for “one” (ɖò) and 7 is “mɛ̀nɛ̌ìn” + the word for “two” (sɔ̃́), etc.  If you learn to count past 10 you’ll notice this sort of pattern repeating.  This system of counting is based on the digits of your hand, our God-given calculator! 

One to Ten in Bassa (with rough guide to pronunciation) :
ɖò (dough) - one
sɔ̃́ (sawe)- two
(tah) - three
hĩinyɛ (he nyay) - four
hm̀m̌ (hmm) - five
mɛ̀nɛ̌ìn-ɖò (muhnain dough) - six
mɛ̀nɛ̌ìn-sɔ̃́ (muhnain sawe) - seven
mɛ̀nɛ̌ìn-tã (muhnain tah)- eight
mɛ̀nɛ̌ìn-hĩinyɛ (muhnain he nyay)- nine
ɓaɖa-bùè (blah bway) - ten

For some more Bassa words check out this online Bassa dictionary by my friends at CEFL.


  1. Thanks Heath, I did learn a few more words on my last trip, including three in Kpele.