How to say (almost) everything in a hundred-word language

“I didn’t realize how complex other languages are until I started speaking Toki Pona,” Krzeminska added. “There are so many different things you have to say before you actually get to say what you want, and there are so many things you’re not allowed to say even though you mean them. Take politeness markers for instance: If it’s not too much of an inconvenience, would you please consider possibly bringing me a cup of coffee? In Toki Pona you would just say: Give me coffee. Either do it or don’t do it. There’s no word for please or thank you. I mean, maybe if you really wanted, you could say pona, but then why would you overuse a word that’s so big and powerful?”

Ultimately though, as many Toki Pona users discover, powerful cultural conventions are not so easily discarded. Speakers are often quick to find clever substitutes, especially in the realm of the non-verbal. “I definitely find myself relying more on body language,” Krzeminska admitted. “We’re so used to saying please and thank you that we tend to do a little Japanese-style nod now instead. It’s so weird not to say anything at all.”