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Lesson 1: Welcome

Lesson 1: Welcome

These lessons will teach you a hieroglyphic script which you can use to write sentences out as pictures. In order to do this, you will be using the language toki pona, which is the invention of Sonja Elen Kisa.

toki pona


wile sona li mute e sona.

toki pona lends itself quite well to a hieroglyphic script because of its minimal vocabulary and its emphasis on simplicity. The language itself is in a state of flux, as Sonja began in 2009 to update the official toki pona website, and has not yet finished. There is also a toki pona forum, where people who speak toki pona or are learning go to discuss the language.

If you are new to toki pona, you should follow these lessons along with the on-line toki pona lessons by jan Pije. I have followed the content of these lessons as close as possible so that each chapter corresponds in grammar and vocabulary. In many cases I have used his sentence examples as well.

sitelen sitelen

In toki pona, sitelen can mean both drawing and writing. John Clifford proposed sitelen sitelen as a good way to say hieroglyphic using toki pona. I have also referred to this drawing process as sitelen suwi, or sweet drawing, because of its emphasis on appealing curves and shapes.

personal style


mi pona e ale mi la mi pona e mi.

If you think that you can’t draw well enough to do this, don’t worry. Just draw the image to your own ability and with your own style. It is not important that it looks like my drawing, just that it doesn’t look like any of the other glyphs. As you learn them, you will see they can change quite a bit and still remain distinct from one another. It is also permissible to use a simplified version of the glyph that is still easily readable. It can be used when writing in small or tight spaces, or if you just want to make your drawn sentences pona mute.

slowing down

In a world of rapid and electronically-aided language, what you are about to learn contradicts common sense. This is not an efficient way to communicate, and it is quite impractical on a computer. So why would you want to learn how to do this at all?

This is a way to slow down and play with your thoughts. It is a tool to help connect your mind back to your hand. Just as toki pona examines how the language you use to communicate can influence your thoughts, sitelen sitelen will let you explore how the method you use to communicate can do the same.

I encourage you to follow along with these lessons, to learn how to read sitelen sitelen. But I also encourage you to try and draw along as well, as this is not just for artists but for everybody. Email me copies of your drawings, I’ll be sure to put them into the gallery!