Basic Dusun for Travelers

BORNEO, INDONESIA- If you are traveling overland through the state of Sabah, Borneo, take it from me—it’s worth it put aside ten minutes, and learn some Dusun. While most of Malaysia speaks Bhasa Malaysia, a language virtually identical to Bhasa Indonesia, the mountainous northwestern communities of Sabah speak an entirely different language, Dusun. Taking the time to learn just a handful of phrases—even if it is just how to say thank you—will make a WORLD of a difference in how you are treated by the locals. I never would have made it to the foot of Mount Kinabalu in time for my ascent had I not been able to hitch a ride with a local guy named Oscar willing to drive me—who finally agreed to take me after I thanked him in his native tongue. In the big cities such as Kota Kinabalu, Bhasa Malaysia is still the go-to language, but if you speak it in a smaller town and all you get is a blank stare, odds are you’re speaking with someone who knows Dusun.



THANK YOU...ponsikou; pun-SEE-cow


YOU'RE WELCOME…miagal; MEE-AH-gahl


HOW ARE YOU?...nunukabar nu?; new-new kah-BAHR new?


I AM GOOD, AND YOU?...osonong-osonong iboh; OH-so-nohng OH-so-nohng ee-boh


WHERE ARE YOU FROM?...honggo tadon nu; hong-go TAH-doen new


I AM FROM AMERICA…mantad oku hilo America; MAHN-tahd OH-koo EE-loh America




WHAT IS YOUR NAME?...sai ngaran nu?; sigh NGA-rahn new?


MY NAME IS MATT…ngaran kunopo ga ik Matt; NGA-rahn coo-NOH-poh gah eek Matt


HOW MUCH? piro; sa PEE-doh—the r sound is like a d with a rolled tongue


GOOD MORNING…osonong ko sua bon; OH-so-nohng ko sue-ah bohn


GOOD NIGHT…osonong othong pinjaram; Oh-so-nohng oh-tohng PIN-jah-rahm