Wolof language and tips to translate Wolof to English

Wolof language and tips to translate Wolof to English

Tatiana Osoblivaia


Language and Culture


Many companies are doing business in Wolof-speaking parts of the world, such as Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania, and northern parts of Mali. Though these countries generally have a small English-speaking population, there will undoubtedly be times when translation is needed.


Origin of the Wolof language

The origins of the Wolof language date back centuries ago to when Arabic traders first arrived on the African continent through what is now Mauritania. As they spread across West Africa, they brought with them their dialect - a combination of Arabic and Berber - which eventually fused with local dialects to create what we now know as the Wolof language.

This new form of communication was indispensable for traders; it enabled them to communicate more effectively with locals while still being able to understand each other. This early version of the Wolof language was heavily influenced by Arabic and Berber grammar, but over time it developed its distinct characteristics.


Growth and Expansion of the Wolof community

Over time, the Wolof language continued to grow and expand throughout West Africa. During the 19th century, French colonizers introduced French words into the vocabulary as well as a formal written form that allowed for greater accuracy in communication between locals and colonizers alike. By the 20th century, many writers were using both French and Wolof languages in their literature, further cementing its status as an important regional language. In addition, many people began using it as their primary method of communication within their communities due to its easy learnability compared to other regional languages such as Fula or Bambara.


Importance of preserving the Wolof language

Today, there is an increased focus on preserving cultural identity through language, particularly in Senegal where many young people are learning traditional dialects such as Wolof to better connect with their heritage and history. Additionally, there are efforts underway to standardize spelling and pronunciation so that future generations can continue speaking this vibrant tongue without any issues or confusion about its usage or meaning. With all these initiatives ongoing, we can be sure that this unique part of African culture will be preserved for years to come!


Why you may need to translate Wolof to English?

Wolof is a widely spoken and historically significant language in Senegal. It has been around for over 800 years, predating the English language for centuries. Wolof has the second-largest native speaker base in Africa, following behind only Arabic. It is one of the most widely spoken African languages.

The Wolof language has two main dialects: Jollof (Senegal) and Jolof (the Gambia). There are about 15 million speakers of Wolof worldwide, primarily in West Africa.

Because of this, businesses that market to Senegal must have at least basic knowledge of Wolof. They must also have Wolof content on their websites if they want to attract customers from this area.

Fortunately, our team of translation specialists can help any foreign business get on board with advertising to Senegal in a way that effectively targets the customer base they wish to target.

Whether you're looking to expand your Senegalese marketing campaign or don't have a marketing campaign in place at all, we can lend a hand. We've already helped many successful companies work with Wolof speakers living in Senegalese communities.


The most demanded Wolof translation types

When it comes to Wolof translation services, there are two main types available - document translation and interpretation services. Document translation refers to the process of translating written documents from one language into another. This is typically done by a professional translator who specializes in that particular language. Interpretation services involve translating spoken words from one language into another. This can be done in person or remotely via video conferencing or telephone calls.


Industries Requiring Wolof Language Translation

Businesses across a wide range of industries require reliable Wolof translation services, including but not limited to legal, medical, financial, and education sectors. For instance, law firms often require translations of legal documents such as contracts and agreements that have been drafted in Wolof so they can be understood by all parties involved in a transaction or dispute resolution process.

In addition, medical facilities may need translations of patient records or medical reports so healthcare providers can provide effective care for patients who speak only the Wolof language.


Main problems with English - Wolof translation and interpretation

  • The first problem with the Wolof-to-English translation is the lack of a Wolof-English dictionary. This means that there are no standardized definitions for words, and so each translator will have their interpretation of each word.
  • Another problem is the fact that many Wolof words have no equivalent in English, or at least not one which can be used in a translation without losing some of its meaning. For example, if we were to translate 'lal' into English as 'to laugh', it may mean nothing to the person reading it, whereas if you say 'hahaha', then they would understand what you mean.
  • A third problem is that some words are untranslatable into another language, for example when trying to translate 'ayi' into English, there is no single word that can describe it properly. Ayi is essentially an expression of emotion or feeling in Wolof, rather than a descriptive word like thank you or hello.
  • The phonology of Wolof is complex compared to English, due to its large consonant inventory and significant vowel length contrasts. This makes it difficult to predict the pronunciation of unfamiliar words based on their spelling alone.
  • There are numerous homographs (words that sound alike but have different meanings). For example, there are two words for 'bird': dakar (a type of bird) and dakar (to become an adult). Also, there are two words for 'hand': diaga (a hand) and diaga.


Signs of a qualified Wolof translator and Wolof interpreter

The first is the number of years they have been in business. A professional Wolof translator or interpreter will have been in business for at least five years and preferably more than ten. This means that they have had time to build their reputation, gain experience and learn how to handle a wide range of translation projects.

Second, look at their portfolio of previous work. A professional Wolof translator will have a website with examples of previous work so that you can see what they do best and how they work with different clients.

Third, check out their credentials and certifications. All translators should be certified in some way or another, but not all translators who claim certification have it because there is no central body that regulates the industry (and therefore no one to verify the legitimacy of any particular certificate).

If you wish to have Wolof to English translation services, you should contact us. Our efficient and professional translation services are reasonable and tailored to suit your needs. We are known for our dedication to providing fast translation services with the utmost accuracy.



Our translations are performed by translators carefully selected to align with the subject matter and content of your project. They meet and exceed international quality standards. Upon request, we will provide you with a certificate attesting to the precision of our translations