yagu sabi

Drinking water in this part of the world is commonly distributed in plastic bags like the one pictured here. You bite the corner off of it and drink. What I thought was especially interesting in the ones I have seen here is that they are printed in Kriol, the Creole language that is the lingua franca of Guinea-Bissau and is the language we are translating the Bible into. Kriol is spoken everywhere but not written so much. This package pictured here says YAGU SABI DI LENDEM, “Tasty Water of Lendem,” Lendem being the tiny spot on the map where we are working on the translation in the interior of Guinea-Bissau.

“Sabi” was the theme of my last blog post too, which was about food here. It means something like “tasty, delicious, fragrant, pleasing.” It is a word used sometimes in the Kriol Bible translation, such as the following verses:

John 12:3

Maria toma un garafa di purfumu karu, di nardu puru, ku ta cera sabi, i unta Jesus na pe, i limpal pe ku si kabelu. Tudu kasa fika i na cera sabi.

“Mary took a carafe of expensive perfume, of pure nard, that smells fragrant, she anointed Jesus on the feet, she washed his feet with her hair. All the house stayed being fragrant.”

Romans 12:2

Ka bo fasi suma ku mundu ta fasi, ma bo disa Deus renova bo pensamentu, pa rabida bo manera di yanda. Asin bo ta pudi rapara kal ki vontadi di Deus, kil ki bon, i perfeitu, i sabi.

“Not you do like the world does, but you allow God to renew your thought, to turn your way of walking. That way you can recognize what is the will of God, the one that is good, and perfect, and pleasing.”

1 Peter 3:10

Kil ku misti ama vida, ku misti oja dia sabi, pa i frianta si lingua di mal, pa i ka konta mintida ku si boka.

“The one that wants to love life, who wants to see pleasant days, may he cool off his tongue from evil, may he not tell lies with his mouth.”

Today Pedru, who is on staff here, came to my room and asked if I wanted to eat at seven today. Or at least I thought that was what he was asking. I thought it was a strange question, but I said yes, sure. After he left I kept thinking, and I realized he wasn’t asking if I would like to eat at seven (seti) but rather if I would like to eat palm oil (siti), a word I was less familiar with. He must have been asking if I would like today’s meal cooked with palm oil, a local delicacy. I wasn’t too sure about that, because it didn’t sound healthy and I was afraid I wouldn’t like it, so I went looking for him to make a correction, but he had already taken off on his motorcycle to buy some palm oil. Sure enough, lunch was fish cooked in palm oil over rice, recognizable by the bright red color of the sauce. It turned out to be quite good, and I even had seconds. After that, I told Pedru, “i sabi.”

fish cooked in palm oil

About David Frank

linguistics and translation consultant
This entry was posted in Bible translation, culture. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to yagu sabi

  1. Margaret T Frank says:

    Looks delicious, and that much palm oil won’t do you much damage.

  2. Martin Lonski says:


    Thanks for sharing. Miscommunication can happen at so many different levels. I think God has a sense of humor in all this!!!????

    I ask of Him that the people you work with will grin at the “bloopers” you make but then also realize that He IS at work in your life.

    for Marty & Cheryl Lonski

    P. S. Thank you again for letting us “come alongside” you and Lynn.


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