Toki Pona

Written by: Alex Roberts

Toki Pona is a constructed language, or “conlang” meaning it didn’t develop naturally. Instead, it was created by Sonja Lang in 2001 to “attempt to understand the meaning of life in 120 words.”

According to the official website,, it originally had only 120 words, but now has 137 words. The amount of words in this language is much lower than most other languages. The BBC reported that according to the Oxford English dictionary, there are 171,146 words in the English language. This means that Toki Pona is a very easy language to learn.

The lack of words makes it difficult to express complicated things, however, it allows you to think in ways you may have not thought before. You often have to combine words to say things, such as ‘telo suli’, which directly translates to ‘big water’, which can mean ocean or sea.

So if you’re not good at using context to know what someone is saying, this can be a very difficult language.

Toki Pona isn’t the only constructed language, however. There are many other conlangs, often created to make communication easier, such as Esperanto, which was created by Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof in the late 1800s, according to

Many people speak conlangs. According to, more than 2 million people speak Esperanto. Unfortunately, it is unknown how many people can speak Toki Pona because it is hard to know how many people speak languages. Even the amount of Esperanto speakers is disputed.

A lot of people do not know what constructed languages are, so I created a survey to understand how many people know about or speak conlangs, but more importantly for this article, Toki pona.

According to the survey results, only 23.1% percent of people at our school know what a constructed language is. This is a lot smaller than I expected. When I asked what conlangs people had heard of, the most well-known was Esperanto. This was expected because of the large number of speakers. More surprisingly, the second-place tie of most well-known conlangs were Klingon and Toki pona. I was expecting Klingon, but not Toki pona. Klingon is from Star Trek, so it would obviously be well known. Toki pona is more obscure, so it surprised me a little.

Another question I asked on the survey was “Do you speak any constructed languages?” 7.9% of people answered yes. This was very surprising, because conlangs are fairly obscure. But I quickly realized why. Someone who knows a constructed language is much more likely to click on a survey titled “Constructed Languages”, which would most likely explain this number.

Here are some common phrases in toki pona and Esperanto:


“Hello!” in toki pona is “toki!”

“Hello!” in Esperanto is “Saluton!

“I’m sorry!”(apologizing) in toki pona is “mi ike!”

“I’m sorry!” in Esperanto is “Mi bedaŭras!

“My name is…” in toki pona is “nimi mi li…”

“My name is…” in Esperanto is “Mia nomo estas…”

“Where is…” in toki pona is “…lon seme”

“Where is…” in Esperanto is “kie estas…”