Learning Cebuano is sometimes confusing.
In this article we are talking more about the words “wala” and “dili”.
These are two of the most misunderstood and confused words in Cebuano for a student of the language. If you look up the meaning of the words you will usually see it explained thus:
- Wala – nothing/absence of
- Dili – No
This simplistic translation will get you by most of the time and most Cebuano’s will not correct you if you use the wrong word. If you pick up on the fact that this explanation does not fit the way the words are used then you will become very confused. Try asking an average Cebuano or even many highly educated Cebuano’s why and they will be unable to tell you.
I have yet to find a book or reference that provides an explanation of the correct use of “wala and dili”.
Lets take a look at this:
Wala – nothing / absence of ( used for past/progressive tense)
Dili – no ( future tense)
*In this example we will assume a negative answer.
- (Cebuano) May kwarta ka ba?
- (English) Do you have money?
Using the simplistic example , you would expect to be able to answer with DILI, after all that means NO.
*The correct answer is WALA.
Let’s try another one.
- (Cebuano) Mukuha ka ba ug kwarta?
- (English) Will you get money?
If you had already learnt that the correct answer for the first question asking if you have money is WALA then be might tempted to answer WALA.
The correct answer is DILI.
The above is a good example of why you really need access to a teacher when learning this language.
Let’s have more example.
- (Cebuano) Naa ba kay problema?
- (English) Do you have a problem?
You might answer DILI since Dili means NO. But the correct answer here is WALA.
- ( Cebuano) Naa ka bay sakyanan?
- (English) Do you have a car?
Sometimes WALA can also means NONE in English.