Georgian Language

Georgian Language Update

February 1: My New Year’s Resolution to learn Georgian hasn’t got too far. I need far greater self discipline, motivation etc…

I have got up to Lesson 13 of Peace Corps Georgia’s Georgian Lessons on Youtube. Lesson 13 is particularly useful with the aspirated and unaspirated letters that cause me so many difficulties. There are five pairs of letters that to me sound the same but are slightly different.

An aspirated sound produces a slight waft of air coming out of your mouth and an unaspirated sound does not.

Georgian alphabet…all 33 letters.

Consider the th in thistle versus the th in this: the former is unvoiced, while the latter is voiced.

aspirated              unaspirated

თ       t                         ტ       t’

ქ         q                        კ       k

ქარი (wind)             კარი (door)

ჩ      ch                        ჭ    t’ch

ფ      p                         პ     p’

ც      ts                         წ    t’s

I’m still struggling with the differences.

The Georgian Language: ქართული ენა

გამარჯობა! (gamarjoba) this mouthful is “Hello!” in Georgian.

These posts are not to teach the Georgian language as I am in no way an expert, these are more my reflections on learning this difficult tongue.

Some basics of the Georgian Language:

There are 33 letters in the Georgian alphabet, 28 consonants and 5 vowels.

Georgian is read and written from left to right like English.

There are no capital letters, which makes it difficult to determine what are names in a text.

There are many consonant clusters (this makes it difficult for me to pronounce).

მე ვსცავლობ ქართულ ენას (me vstsavrob kartul enas) I am learning Georgian!

All nouns end with a vowel, unfortunately just adding an -i to the end of an English word doesn’t make it Georgian (though it occasionally works). Here in Tbilisi,  I am always Jimi (like Hendrix) not Jim.

Georgian nouns and pronouns have no gender. My Georgian students frequently confuse “he” and “she” in English, even when they have reached quite a high level. Conchita Wurst winning Eurovision hasn’t helped.

Georgian has no articles.  (a. an and the)

The Georgian Language is one of the oldest in the world, it is believed that the Georgian alphabet was created in the fourth century BC, it is a unique language not related to any others. It is one of the kartvelian languages in the Caucasian-Iberian family.

The first letter of the Georgian alphabet is ა pronounced like the a in apple.

This can combine with მ /m/ to make მამა (mama) which is bizarrely Georgian for father. ა can also combine with ნ /n/ to make ანა (Ana) my granddaughter.


Basic Georgian page 39. (I am not starting at the beginning…I’ve had this book at least four years….but 38 pages in 4 years is pitiful progress…)

რისი? What kind of?

წიგნის მაღაზია. Bookshop.

რისაი მაღაზიაა ეს?  – ეს არის წიგნის მარაზია

What kind of shop is it? It is a bookshop.

რისი სკამია ეს? – ეს არის ხის სკამი.

What kind of chair is it? It is a wooden chair.

This is going to be a dull blog post….

Basic Georgian page 39

Basic Georgian page 39

Not sure how I can spice up the language learning….

There aren’t many videos on Youtube for learning Georgian (it is a rather niche interest, and of little use outside Georgia). Here is Keti Chikovani presenting some Georgian.

Well I’ll finish the exercise….

Verb: to mean (conjugated)

მე გულისხმობ

შენ გულისხმობ

ის გულისხმობ

ჩვენ გულისხმობ

თქვენ გულისხმობ

ისინი გულისხმობენ


can’t sleep… არ შემიძლია

train … მატარაბელი

What a (good) smell! …რა (კარგი) სუნიაკვს

Reading in Georgian: ვახტანგ გორგასალი Vakhtang Gorgasali

Vakhtang Gorgasali was a Georgian King in the fifth century.  His biography is the first in the series “დიდი ქართველები” (Great Georgians).

ვახტანგ გორგესალი Vakhtang Gorgesali

ვახტანგ გორგესალი Vakhtang Gorgesali

Vakhtang Gorgasali was the son of King Mihrdat V (მირდატ V) of Iberia (Eastern Georgia) and a Persian Noblewoman Sagdukht. His father died when he was just seven years old.

An equestrian statue of Vakhtang Gorgasali can be seen in front of Metekhi Church in the centre of Tbilisi. Vakhtang was famous for founding Tbilisi, at the time of his birth there was no Tbilisi and the capital was Mtskheta.

Night drawings and Vakhtang Gorgesali 019

Equestrian Statue of Vakhtang Gorgasali in front of Metekhi Church

I have been reading this with the help of Khato, my lovely Georgian wife. As she prepares the dinner (ხათო თლის ვაშლს), I read the text, painfully slowly, she then helps me translate the words. For a children’s text there are a lot of long words like “ქერპთაყვანისმცემელთა” (20 letters long!). Long words in Georgian should come as no surprise, where even a simple hello in Georgian is გამარჯობა (gamarjoba) which means something like “I wish thee victory”.

Night drawings and Vakhtang Gorgesali 020

ქერპთაყვანისმცემელთა (20 letter-long word)

Some useful vocabulary picked up in the first couple of pages. (I try to learn vocabulary by making associations in my mind, I find Georgian words much more difficult to remember than French, Spanish or even Russian words…:)

თითქმის    (titkmis)   almost…. this almost has rude associations…you might be disappointed if a Georgian girl offers to show you her თითი (titi) as this means finger (or toe) not what you might have been thinking!
მთავარი    (mtavari)  main   the “tav” in the middle is like” tavi” meaning head

გმირი  (gmiri)   hero  trying to imagine the Soviet Space station Mir inside a GI….

ქვეყანა   (kveq’ani)  country…the word doesn’t look like any country I know

სპარსეთი  (sparseti) Persia

სპარსი  (sparsi) Persian this looks a little like Farsi, the language of Iran/Persia

დედოფალი   (dedopali) queen დედა is mother so there is a similarity

მტერი … მტრები  (mteri…mtrebi) enemy…enemies the plural is very close to the Georgian word for pigeon (მტრედი) I can imagine a flock of pigeons crossing over the border invading Georgia…

მოკვდა  (mokvda)  died  this doesn’t suggest any associations to me…so I just have to learn it.

I still have several pages to go so I shall update this post as I make further progress.

Reading in Georgian: Pirsomani ფიროსმანი

I want to move away from children’s books and read something more interesting. Palitra, a Georgian publishing house, have a series of books about “დიდი ქართველები” (Great Georgians). These are aimed at children, it is true, but they are not fairytales, they remind me of the Ladybird Books I grew up with in England, from which I learnt a lot.

a sample of the "Great Georgians"

a sample of the “Great Georgians”

I usually borrow them from the Mediatek and return them having just looked at the pictures. The biography of Pirosmani (ფიროსმანი) is the first I have actually read in its entirety. My wife helped me with every sentence (she is better than Google translate).

Niko Pirsomani is possibly the most famous Georgian painter. He was born in the village of Mirzaani (მირზაანი) in Kakheti (now part of Georgia, then part of the Russian Empire). At the age of eight he moved to Tbilisi in the care of his newly married elder sister, Mariam.

Young Niko moves to Tbilisi with his sister and her husband.

Young Niko moves to Tbilisi with his sister and her husband.

Unfortunately Niko’s sister died of cholera and Niko had to support himself working as a servant to wealthy families.

Niko taught himself painting and developed his own distinctive style. One of his specialties was painting directly onto oilcloth (the medium being much cheaper than canvas). At the age of 20 he opened a painting workshop with another self-taught artist, George Zaziashvili, where they made signboards.

Painting signs for bars in his distinctive style.

Painting signs for bars in his distinctive style.

Pirosmani had other jobs in his life, he was a train conductor and at one time he sold dairy products near to where McDonalds is now located in Rustaveli Avenue. As a painter he struggled and often had difficulty even affording the materials for painting.

Vazha Pshavela sometimes visited the bar where Pirsomani was painting.

Vazha Pshavela sometimes visited the bar where Pirsomani was painting.

He was very shy and although he greatly admired the poetry of Vazha Pshavela, when Vazha visited the bar where Pirsomani was working, Pirosmani was too shy to introduce himself.

Members of the art establishment were slow to recognise Pirosmani, although they noticed his signs all around Tbilisi. He did exhibit some paintings in Moscow at an exhibition for self taught artists. The Society of Georgian Painters, founded in 1916 by Dito Shevardnadze, invited Pirosmani to its meetings, but his relations with the society were always uneasy.

Reading about Pirosmani on the beach in Gerogian

Reading about Pirosmani on the beach in Gerogian

Pirosmani suffered from poverty and ill health throughout his life. He never married although he was besotted by a French actress, Margarita, who he painted and sent many flowers which he could ill afford. In his last years his lodgings were a former broom cupboard under the stairs. he died in 1918.

Pirosmani in his room under the stairs.

Pirosmani in his room under the stairs.

When he died in 1918, his passing went virtually unnoticed, and it is unknown today where he is buried.

Pirsomani’s reputation grew after his death, Pirosmani was the subject of a film made in 1969, that won the Grand Prix at the Chicago Film Festival in 1972.

In 2013 to celebrate the 150th birthday of Georgia’s most famous painter. 108 works taken from the national archives were showcased at the national Gallery in Tbilisi,  the largest-scale exhibition of Pirosmani since the 1970s. Pirosmani Exhibition

There are at least 44 other books in the series, I shall try to read some more:

Palitra "დიდი კართველები"

Palitra “დიდი კართველები”

Reading the ads on the Metro

My Georgian continues to make painfully slow progress. Almost everyday I take the metro and I thought that if I read the ads, it would get me more familiar with the language.

Tempo Cigarette Ad

Tempo Cigarette Ad

This is an advertisement for Tempo (ტემპო) Cigarettes. იტალიური სტილი letter for letter is italiuri stili…so that is easy “Italian Style”. In the red circle is written ახალი which means “new”.

The health warning at the bottom of the ad starts მოწევა კლავს which translates as “Smoking Kills”. A much higher percentage of Georgians smoke than most Europeans (apart from maybe Russians and Serbs). I have never smoked, I never saw the point. 

Lottery advert

Lottery advert

This ecstatic woman is all around Tbilisi advertising the lottery, something else which doesn’t interest me but I can learn the phrase “შენი ჯერია მოიგო!” which translates as “your turn to win!”

Other ads are for bank credit, phone packages and various pharmaceuticals…not especially exciting but could be useful for learning the languagel

Reading in Georgian : Galaktion Tabidze გალაკტიონ ტაბიძე

Poetry is a big feature of Georgian culture. Many of the important streets in Tbilisi are named after Georgian poets…Chavchavadze, Rustaveli, Tsereteli, Vazha-Pshavela etc… sadly these Georgian poets are hardly known in the English speaking world. One street with high class restaurants is named Tabidze Street after the poet Galaktion Tabidze (1891-1959). I have a book of Tabidze’s poems with English translations by Innes Merabishvili. I am trying to learn one of these by heart, perhaps his most famous poem… ქარი ჰქრის… (Blows the wind)


Galaktion Tabidze “Poems”

The poem published in 1924  is 10 lines long (the first and last are the same, which makes my task a little simpler).

ქარი ჰქრის, ქარი ჰქრის, ქარი ჰქრის,

პოთლები მიჰქრიან ქარდაკარ …

ხეთა რიგს, ხეთა ჯარს რკალად ხრის

სადა ხარ, სადა ხარ, სადა ხარ?

როგორ წვიმს, როგორ თოვს, როგორ თოვს

ვერ გპოვებ ვერასდროს… ვერასდროს!

შენი მე სახება დამდავს თან

ყოველ დროს, ყოველთვის ყოველგან!

შორი ცა ნისლიან ფიქრებს სცრის …

ქარი ჰქრის, ქარი ჰქრის, ქარი ჰქრის!

Looking at each line in turn…

ქარი ჰქრის, ქარი ჰქრის, ქარი ჰქრის,

the first line is quite easy the first two words being simply repeated twice

პოთლები მიჰქრიან ქარდაკარ …

the second line is trickier, the first word I know means leaves (პოთლები) the second  მიჰქრიან is not easy having a difficult consonant cluster in the middle “ჰქრ” it is like putting h – k and r together,  the final word  ქარდაკარ (kar-dakar) I remember because I think of a rally car in the Paris Dakar rally.

ხეთა რიგს, ხეთა ჯარს რკალად ხრის

რიგს sounds like the English word “rigs” and ჯარს sounds like the English word “jars” so I imagine these in trees (ხეთა) when trying to remember the line.  რკალად (this means arch and I just have to learn it). The last word  ხრის rhymes with ჰქრის.

სადა ხარ, სადა ხარ, სადა ხარ?

like the first line here we have two words repeated, it is a useful phrase სადა ხარ? means where are you?

როგორ წვიმს, როგორ თოვს, როგორ თოვს

this is about the weather, how it rains (წვიმს) and how it snows (თოვს)

ვერ გპოვებ ვერასდროს… ვერასდროს!

we have the combination ვერ three times in this line, I think of a worm “ver” in French. გპოვებ the word for find begins with g and p a consonant combination we don’t have in English at the beginning of a word (we have it in pigpen)

შენი მე სახება დამდავს თან

this line is causing me problems შენი მე “you” and “I” are words I know,  სახება here I notice the three consonants ს – ხ – ბ look similar interspersed with vowels. დამდავს თან I am having trouble remembering this damdevs tan is how it sounds like some made up country in central Asia.

ყოველ დროს, ყოველთვის ყოველგან!

here we have ყოველ repeated three times, ყოველ means “every” and sounds a little like the English word “hovel,” a lowly dewelling.

შორი ცა ნისლიან ფიქრებს სცრის …

შორი (shori) means far or distant I can imagine distant shores,  ცა means sky, ფიქრებს (nislian) sounds a bit like a Japanese car (Nissan), სცრის (stsris) again we have the …რის ending …

ქარი ჰქრის, ქარი ჰქრის, ქარი ჰქრის!

the last line is the same as the first…so that’s easy

Now to learn it all…

Here are two English Translations of the poem:

The wind it whirls, the wind it whirls, the wind it whirls
and the leaves pursue the wind to wind, a-whirling…
Ranks of trees, rows of trees arch their backs,
where are you, where are you, why so far?
Oh, the rain. Oh, the snow. Oh, the snow!
Where’d you go? Where’d you go… No one knows!
But your portrait swirls deep within my mind
everywhere, in every way, all the time…
The far-off skies sprinkle mist and thoughts…
the wind it whirls, the wind it whirls, the wind it whirls…

Translation: Timothy Kercher

Whirls the wind, whirls the wind, whirls the wind

And the leaves whirl from wind still to wind

Rows of trees, lines of trees bend in arch,
Where art thou, where art thou, why so far?..
How it rains, how it snows, how it snows,

Where to find, where to find… Never know!
But pursued, but pursued by your eyes
All the time, everywhere, every time!..
Distant skies drizzle thoughts mixed with mist…
Whirls the wind, whirls the wind, whirls the wind!.

Translation: Innes Merabishvili

Reading in Georgian: ჯინი ბოთლში The Genie in the Bottle

ჯინი ბ ბოთლში

ჯინი ბოთლში

I have stepped up now to level 2 of the Usborne First readers translated into Georgian. This is a retelling of the classic “Genie in a Bottle” story.

A fisherman is not having much luck fishing apart from catching some seaweed, some colourful shells and an old sock (ფუუუ!)…but then he finds an old bottle in his net.


მეთევზემ ბოტლს თავსახური მოხსნა და შიგ ჩაიხედა.
The fisherman removed the cap and looked inside the bottle.

At first it seems there is nothing in the bottle, that it is empty (ცარიელია!) and he throws it away. But then there is a cloud of smoke and an angry genie appears.


=^_^= “მიაუ !”

The genie has been trapped inside the bottle for 1000 years, he is very hungry and wants to eat the fisherman, but the fisherman has an idea….

Level 2 readers have a vocabulary range of 250 words (level one was 150 words). I got through the book laboriously by copying out the Georgian then making a translation in English. For this I am helped by a dictionary, my Georgian wife and Google Translate (which isn’t too slick on Georgian!).

Later I may read the book in Georgian to one of my grand daughters.

Some useful Georgian vocabulary from the book:

მერე   then

ძველი   old

უცებ   suddenly

მაგრამ   but

Not useful Georgian vocabulary:

ჯინი   genie (not a word I will need every day….sorry, Christina Aguilera)

აურუყრუყდა this is the sound the genie’s stomach (მუცელი) makes when he is hungry


ქართულს სწავლობ ნელ-ნელა

Reading in Georgian : The Fox and The Crow მელა და ყვავი

მელა და ყვავი The Fox and the Crow

მელა და ყვავი The Fox and the Crow


My reading in Georgian is still at the first level, here another children’s story with a moral.


The fox is walking in the wood, when he spies a crow in a tree with a piece of cheese.




For once I can understand what the fox says without resorting to a dictionary or “Google Translate” (which isn’t great from Georgian to English). “ყველი მინდა” (I want the cheese).

The fox is sneaky and flatters the crow telling her how beautiful she is, what beautiful wings and speculating that the crow has a beautiful voice, too.

the crow begins to caw and drops the piece of cheese

the crow begins to caw and drops the piece of cheese

The crow, susceptible to the flattery starts cawing… ყვაა…, ყვაა…. (which sounds more crow like than the English … caw… caw…) as soon as she opens her beak (ნისკარტი დაალო) the cheese is dropped.

the fox catches the cheese and gobbles it down

the fox catches the cheese and gobbles it down

The fox catches the cheese in his mouth.

The moral being you shouldn’t always believe flattery.

I think it is time I moved up to the second level of Georgian books.

I borrowed the following from the local “Mediatek” (library) : in addition to the Fox and the Crow, there is a level two book ვირისყურება მეფე (The King with Donkey Ears), a book about Saint George (წმინდა გიორგი) and another about იაკობ გოგებაშვილი (Jacob Gogebashvili), who created the Georgian a-b-c  ა-ბ-გ book

some Georgian reading

some Georgian reading

I always have high ambitions on leaving the library, but often return the books late and unread :/

Some problems using the Georgian Language


lemons in the market

lemons in the market


I find when I go to the market and attempt to speak in Georgian, my interlocutors reply in Russian 😦


Me: რა ღირს?                      (How much? in Georgian)

Seller: шестьдесят               (sixty in Russian)

Me: სამოცი?                        (sixty in Georgian)

(hands over 1 lari, gets forty tetri back and goods)

Me: დიდი მადლობა           (thank you in Georgian)

Seller: спасибо                    (thank you in Russian)

Is my Georgian pronunciation so bad?

Do they think because I’m not Georgian I will automatically understand Russian (I don’t)?