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Getting to Grips with Mongolian Language

When travelling around the world, something that can always be incredibly handy and well received is knowing some of the local lingo. It’s something that some travellers do better than others, and that may depend on the difficulty of a language or how easy it is to communicate with the locals in your own language.

For example, an English speaker going to a Scandinavian country will likely have very little problem communicating in English. However, an English speaker going to a country like Mongolia can be a whole other story. Whilst the younger generation are beginning to learn a second language (such as English, French, German, Russian, Chinese and Korean) at a higher rate, many Mongolian’s won’t speak much, if any, English at all. So here on this blog, we’re giving a little bit of background on the Mongolian language and some key words and phrases to prepare you for your arrival.

Locals

Reading from the Script

 

Mongolian is the primary language of Mongolia. Linguistically, Mongolian belongs to the Altaic family, which includes Turkish, Japanese, Korean, and other alien sounding languages. Modern Mongolian, based on the Khalkh dialect, developed following the Mongolian People’s Revolution in 1921. The introduction of a new alphabet in the 1940s developed along with a new stage in Mongolia’s national literary language – including the assimilation of many Russian words.

Mongolians still use two types of writing: the classical script and the Cyrillic alphabet. The classical Mongolian alphabet, which is written vertically, is a unique script used by speakers of all the various dialects for about a thousand years. In spite of the increasing interest in using only the classical alphabet, along with the decision by Parliament to use it for official papers, the majority of Mongolian people use the Cyrillic alphabet, which was adopted in the early 1940s and sees widespread usage today. The locals prefer the Cyrillic Mongolian due to the much easier writing system compared to the classical alphabet. You can get a feel for what the language sounds like by watching various Mongolian language videos on Youtube.

Mongolian Traditional Script

A Helping Hand

 

On all our Goyo Travel tours we provide an experienced local guide who is an invaluable part of your Mongolian journey. The most common languages that guides tend to speak are English, German, French, Russian, Korean, Japanese and the various dialects of Chinese. On a basic, practical level they act as translators. You will likely be visiting numerous attractions, ger camps, hotels, restaurants, nomadic families, horse wranglers and so on, so it is essential you can communicate with them. However, our guides are much more than just translators – they provide invaluable insights into Mongolian culture and history, facilitate unique experiences and interactions with local nomads, and as can be testified by many of our past guests, they are often the highlight of any trip. Our guests and guides form friendships that last well beyond the final emotional ‘bayartai’ at Chinggis Khan Airport.

One of the highlights of a Mongolian tour will likely be meeting a nomadic family, getting to know how their culture and life works. Of course, you can make do by communicating with simple hand gestures and head nods but having a local guide makes this process a much more rewarding and informative process.

Things are little easier in Ulaanbaatar. At hotels, bars, shops and restaurants in the capital, most staff will have at least basic knowledge of English and menus/signs are often written in English, but that is about it. On any tour, your guide and driver will also be able teach you some basic phrases though, so be sure to use some of these basics. As is the case in most countries, it goes a long way when locals can understand you and know you’re trying, and even if it doesn’t go to plan, it’ll certainly be a good ice-breaker.

Communication

Learn the Lingo

 

Below are some basic Mongolian phrases that might come in handy, whether when you’re making a purchase at the State Department Store, ordering lunch at a local roadside guanz, or chilling off at a local watering hole sipping on Chinggis beer.

 

English

Hello

How are you?

Good thanks, how are you?

What’s your name?

My name is…

Where are you from?

I’m from…

Good morning

Goodbye

Cheers

Thank you

You’re welcome

Yes

No

It was delicious

I am vegetarian

How much is it?

One, Two

Three, Four

Five, Six

Seven, Eight

Nine, Ten

Mongolian Cyrillic

Сайн байна уу?

Сонин сайхан юу байна вэ?

Сайн та сайн байна уу

Таны нэр хэн бэ?

Миний нэр ..

Та хаанаас ирсэн бэ

Би …ээс ирсэн

Өглөөний мэнд

Баяртай

Эрүүл мэндийн төлөө!

Баярлалаа

Зүгээр

Тийм

Үгүй

Энэ нь амттай байсан

Би цагаан хоолтон байна

Энэ ямар үнэтэй вэ

Нэг, Хоёр

Гурав, Дөрөв

Тав, Зургаа

Долоо, Найм

Ес, Арав

Transliteration

Sain baina uu

Sonin aikhan yu baina ve?

Sain ta sain baina uu

Tany ner khen be?

Minii ner…

Ta haanaas irsen be?

Bi …ees irsen

Öglöönii mend

Bayartai

Erüül mendiin tölöö

Bayarlalaa

Zügeer

Tiim

Ugui

Ene ni amttai baisan

Bi tsagaan khoolton baina

Ene yamar ünetei ve

Neg, Kho-yor

Gu-ru, Du-ru

Tau, Zur-gaa

Doloo, Naiym

Yus, Arav