Everything Changes in Time

tenpo ante la, ale li ante

I like to do experiments with Comatose Podcast. Things like having a program write poetry or playing around with a strange narrative.

A couple weeks ago I had a new interesting idea involving using a foreign language to come up with a unique segment. I was curious how it would sound if I wrote a segment in another language and translated into English.

Naturally I chose an incredibly obscure language to first try this out on: Toki Pona.

If you’re not familiar with Toki Pona, it’s a minimalist constructed language that Wikipedia describes thusly:

Toki Pona is a constructed language, first published as draft on the web in 2001 and then as a complete book and e-book Toki Pona: The Language of Good in 2014. It was designed by translator and linguist Sonja Lang (formerly Sonja Elen Kisa) of Toronto.
Toki Pona is a minimal language. Like a pidgin, it focuses on simple concepts and elements that are relatively universal among cultures. Lang designed Toki Pona to express maximal meaning with minimal complexity. The language has 14 phonemes and 120 root words. It is not designed as an international auxiliary language but is instead inspired by Taoist philosophy, among other things.

If you’re new to the idea of constructed languages, this may all seem rather strange. Just know that there are many, many languages created all the time. The most famous of which is probably Esperanto.

While Esperanto is an international auxiliary language, a bridge between people and cultures, Toki Pona on the other hand is more a piece of minimalist art.

Toki Pona asks the following question:

What is possible to say with only 120 words?

It’s this question that drew me into learning Toki Pona many years ago. When I had the thought to try and write a Comatose segment in another language, I chose Toki Pona as a place to start because it would be an exercise in self-expression even if the end result was not very good.

I wrote out something in Toki Pona and then translated it into English. Translating the text was a fun process of trying to figure out what exactly I was going for with the vague minimalist Toki Pona.

It lead to what I believe to be is a rather interesting segment:

Toki Pona segment starting at 3:16
After translating and recording, I knew the art for my segment had to be related to Toki Pona as well.

People in the community have created a lot of art and different writing systems both for and as an extension to the language of good.

One of those projects is a hieroglyphic writing system for Toki Pona called sitelen sitelen. Luckily someone else also created an automatic generator for the same hieroglyphics!

I put the title of the piece into the generator and had the art for my segment.

If nothing else, I had a fun time experimenting with language and art. If it doesn’t make sense or appeal to anyone else, well just remember:

tempo ante la, ale li ante
Written by John Bauer of Comatose.


Comatose is a weekly series of amusing anecdotes, insightful commentary, and pithy stories. Every week three contributors are featured in short segments. The segments, though often unrelated, are tied together using music and narration to set the scene. Relax and enjoy the ride while listening to topics as varied as love, birthdays, and reciprocity.

You can find Comatose on Facebook, Twitter, iTunes, and Stitcher.

If you enjoy our content, please think about supporting us on Patreon as well!

So This Is The New Year ← Previous — Next → The Proposal