By Doris Payne

Maasai is a language spoken by about 883,000 people in East Africa, mostly in Kenya and Tanzania. The Maasai are a very proud people who make their living by herding cattle in some of the driest and most desolate regions on earth. They have maintained much of their traditional culture and lifestyle in spite of over one-hundred years of contact with European civilization and many violent clashes with Europeans and neighboring language groups. Their only weapons are wooden clubs, spears and the ability to survive and move quickly over the African plains.


As with many languages in East Africa, "tone" is very important in Maasai. The different tones are written as marks above some letters. For example, the letters , and are all pronounced with high tone. The letters , and are all pronounced with low tone. If there is no mark over a letter, it is pronounced with "mid tone," half way in between high and low.


There are also some letters in the Maasai alphabet that are not used in English. You don't need to be able to pronounce these words in order to solve the puzzle, however, you should pay very close attention to the letters and the tone marks.


The following are some sentences in Maasai, and the English translations in random order. Indicate which translation goes with each Maasai sentence by placing the letter of the correct translation in the space provided:


English translations, in random order

  1. 'The warrior cuts me.'
  2. 'The warrior cuts the tree for me.'
  3. 'The warrior cuts it.'
  4. 'I cut the tree for the warrior.'
  5. 'The warrior hits me.'
  6. 'You see the warrior.'
  7. 'The warrior hits the snake.'
  8. 'The snake sees me.'
  9. You hit the snake for the warrior.'
  10. 'I cut the tree.'