If you are lost in Mali and ask for directions and someone tells you to turn to the left, they will be basically telling you to “Go in the direction of your nose picking hand.” If you will be turning right, then you will be going in the direction of “Your rice eating hand.” The male response to a greeting is “N ba” which means, my mother. The man is basically saying that thanks to my mother, I am here to receive your greeting. The female response to a greeting is “Nse” which translates to ‘my power’. The meaning of this being that, my power as a woman always wins against time.
Bambara also known as Bamana is a Mande language spoken in Mali. It is also spoken in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal. Bambara is the ethnic language of about 4,000,000 people. It is also the lingua franca of Mali. About 80% of the population speak it as a first or second language. The language has many dialects, with the main one being Barmara. Other dialects include San, Semono, Wasulu, Segou, Beledugu, Sikasso and Ganadugu. Bamabara has many loan words from French. If you know French, then you will easily be able to remember Bambara words. If you forget a Bambara word, just try using the French equivalent of it. Writing was introduced during the colonization by the French (1880-1960). The Latin script has been in use since the 1970s. Nko and Arabic scripts are also used to some degree. The language is preserved and passed on to younger generations orally. Bamabara has a wealth of oral literature, mainly based on the tales of kings and heroes. Songs that date as far back as the old kingdom of Mali are also very popular.
Socially, the Bambara are patriarchal, like other Mande speaking groups. Bambara’s are mainly Muslims, even though most of them are traditionalists and participate in traditional rituals in honor of their ancestors. This form of Syncretic Islam is not widely practiced in many places around the world.