Learn Mini in 20 minutes
Mini is a man-made language designed to be as simple as possible.
With a total of 1,000 words and a core vocabulary of only 120 words, it’s also one of the easiest to learn. This guide will teach you the basics in 20 minutes.
Why learn Mini? Because learning Mini will surprise you by how much you can express when you break things down into their simplest form.
Say it like you mean it
Mini has 19 letters (a b d e f g i j k l m n o p r s t u v). All of the consonants (b d f g j k l m n p r s t v) are pronounced exactly the same as they are in English. Phew!
The vowels are pronounced like they are in Spanish, Italian, German, and many other languages:
A — ah — father
E — eh — met
I — ee — eat
O — oh - moment
U — oo — moo
The only other pronunciation rule you need to know is that words are always stressed or emphasized on their second-to-last syllable:
animale = ah-nee-MAH-leh, not ah-nee-mah-LEH
veji = VEH-jee, not veh-JEE
Good news: You already know a lot of Mini words because they come from English. What does the word mini mean? That’s right, it means mini or small.
A small selection of words you already know:
Mini Englishave have
man human / person
If you’ve studied other languages (especially Romance languages or German but also Malay), you may recognize even more words!
The big idea
Now it’s time to get started. There’s basically only one big idea in Mini, and that’s that every word can be any part of speech. A word like fogo can mean fire, burn, or fiery depending upon how it’s used in a sentence. To make this work in practice, Mini uses a few one-letter words to indicate which part of speech a word is in a sentence.
In a normal sentence, you have a subject (the person or thing doing an action), a verb (the action), and an object (the thing which the subject is acting on). Mini uses one word to mark the verb (i) and another to mark the object (a). Let’s see a few examples.
Note that Mini doesn’t use articles like the or a. It also doesn’t have tenses or plurals or cases. So you end up sounding a little like a caveman: “Me eat. Bob make food.”
[subject] i [verb] a [object]Mi i manja.
I eat.Bob i manja a veji.
Bob eats veggies.Man i bibe a vasa.
A person drinks water.Bob i make a manja.
Bob makes food.Mi i vasa a veji.
I water the plants.
Notice that manja is used to mean both eat and food. This is how most words in Mini work: they describe a broad category of things and their precise meaning is only pinned down when you use it in a sentence.
That depends on what the meaning of “is” is
Mini doesn’t really have a word for “is.” If you want to say that something is something else, you just use the word a to link the two items:
[subject] a [noun]Bob a man.
Bob is a person.Veji a manja.
Vegetables are food.
This is the same word we used above to introduce the direct object. In Mini, when a subject is followed by a [noun] that means the subject is that noun. No extra “is” is necessary.
You might wonder how you would say something is good. The word “good” after all is not a noun so the above pattern wouldn’t work. What we need is…another special grammatical word.
The word e introduces adjectives and descriptive words, and works analogously to a. To say something is good, you say that thing e bon. Let’s see a few examples:
[subject] e [adjective]Kosa e bon.
The thing is good.Bob e vasa.
Bob is wet.Manja e Bob.
The food is Bob's.
Notice that the word vasa, which in the above examples meant water, here means wet, because the word is now being used as an adjective. And similarly the name Bob is now possessive because it’s being used as an adjective.
You might be wondering if there are any more of these weird part-of-speech words. But, rest assured, this is the last one. We’ve now seen all three part-of-speech words in Mini:
Word Functioni introduces the verb
a introduces direct object & noun complement
e introduces adjective complement
These words are the glue that keeps the language together and allows Mini to recycle its vocabulary into as many different concepts as possible.
This grammar can take a little bit to get used to, as it’s pretty different from English. But it’s powerful and intuitive to use once you get the hang of it.
All your ducks in a row
In Mini, adjectives come before the noun like they do in English:
mega loke big placeno mui kolo not much colordika feo bebe fat ugly baby
Adverbs (other than not) come after the verb:
Bob i manja rapi. Bob eats fast.Bob i no manja mui rapi. Bob does not eat very fast.
Hi, my pronouns are si/si
Mini uses the following personal pronouns:
mi first person I, me
tu second person you
si third person he, she, it, him, her
The pronouns do not change for gender or number. To get explicit plural pronouns (like we), you have to use a compound word:
mi-ale we (me-all)
When personal pronouns are used as adjectives, they become possessives.
tu kaja your box
si note his/her/its note
mi-ale name our name
Prepositional phrases come after the words they describe in basically the same way as in English. If the phrase is describing the verb, it can go after the direct object.
de from, of, about, by, out of, made of
en in, at, on
go to, for, towards
sama like, as, than, same
Bob e kon Alisa. Bob is with Alice.
Bob e de Amerika. Bob is from America.
Alisa i viva en London. Alice lives in London.
Da e go tu. That’s for you.
Mi i toma go tu a kosa. I take the thing to you.
Mi e sama tu. I am like you.
Remember that in Mini words can be used as any part of speech? Well, Mini prepositions can often be verbs. (This is why go is go.)
Alisa i go a retorante. Alice goes to the restaurant.Alisa i kon a Bobi. Alice includes Bob.
They can also be used as adverbs:
Mi i kipa en.
I stay in.
Conjunction junction, what’s your function?
Mini uses three conjunctions, which work basically the same as English:
u or, eitherAlisa an Bobi i pale mui.
Alice and Bob talk a lot.Tu i vole a kafe u tea?
Do you want coffee or tea?Mi i kamina en foreta, pero si i kipa en.
I walk in the forest, but he stays inside.
Mini conjunctions can also be used as other parts of speech:
Mi i vole go an. I want to go too.
Si a pero kinde. He is but a child.
Tu i no kan go a u jalan. You can’t go either way.
Yes or no
Yes-or-no questions can be formed by using a question mark and rising intonation (when spoken) or by adding a tag question like no?, ja?, or u ke? to the end of a sentence.
Si i vole resi? Does he want to sleep?
Si i vole go, u ke? Does he want to go or what?
No, si i no vole go. No, he does not want to go.
In English, words like who, what, where, when, and why are used to ask questions. Since Mini is mini, there’s only one question word: the pronoun ke (what). This word can be used to form all the other question words.
In Mini, unlike English, the word ordering of questions does not change.
Tu i ke? You what?
Tu a ke (man)? Who are you?
Tu e ke? How are you?
Tu i go en ke tempo? When (at what time) do you go?
Tu i kipa go ke rason? Why (for what reason) do you stay?
Tu i manja a ke mui? How much do you eat?
Tu i vole uti a ke kosa? Which thing do you want to use?
I’ll have what she’s having
The question word ke (what) which we introduced above can also be used to introduce dependent clauses.
In English, dependent clauses are the little side-comments that people attach to the main part of a sentence. In a sentence like “I feel that it works”, that it works is the dependent clause. Mini works basically the same way, with ke meaning that.
Mi i senti ke si i make.
I feel that it works.Mi i ave a ke si i ave.
I have what she has.Tu i vole manja afa ke tu i aroma a pan.
You want to eat after (that) you smell the bread.
Just do it!
To form a command, simply omit the subject.
I go! Go!
I manja a tu veji! Eat your veggies!
I no pale! Don’t talk!
Count von Count
Let’s count some numbers!
10 tenMan i ave a uno nase, duo oko, an penta diji en kada mano.
A person has one nose, two eyes, and five fingers on each hand.
Now let’s practice some common phrases in Mini.
Tu name a ke?
What's your name?Salu, mi name a Bob.
Hello, my name is Bob.Tu e ke?
How are you?Ke i pasa?
What's up?Bon maten!
Good morning!Sori, toilete e en ke?
Sorry, where is the toilet?I favo pale lenta.
Please talk slowly.Danke.
Thanks.De nulo. / Sama-sama.
If you’ve read up to here, congrats! You now know a lot of what you need to understand and speak Mini. There’s still a few advanced topics left to cover, but you can read about them in the next lesson.
Nun, tu kan begin pale a Mini! (Now you can start speaking Mini!)
Next lesson: Learn Mini II: Advanced Mini
More resources at minilanguage.com