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Nyanja phrasebook

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Nyanja (chinyanja), also known as Chewa (chicheŵa) after the largest tribe speaking it, is a Bantu language spoken by over 15 million people in southern Africa. Chewa/Nyanja is an official language and common lingua franca in Malawi and Zambia, and is spoken by some in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa as well.

The name Nyanja actually means "lake", so chinyanja is the "language of the lake" — referring to the language of the Chewas and other tribes who have adopted their language. In Malawi, the official name is Chichewa, while Zambia and Mozambique call it Nyanja.

In Zambia there are two languages Chewa which is spoke in eastern part (known as "eastern Province")and Nyanja which is sponken in the capital (known as "Lusaka") the two languages have some similarities but are different. Nyanja spoken in Lusaka has unique words some of which are derived from other languages in Zambia which includes but not limited to Chewa, Bemba, Tonga and English.

Pronunciation[edit]

Basic Nyanja pronunciation is relatively straightforward, although getting it exactly right will require more study as the language is tonal and has some unusual sounds (for the native English speaker). Stress is usually placed on the second-last syllable. The writing system is logical if a little inconsistently applied in no small part due to dialectal variations.

Vowels[edit]

All vowels are pronounced "pure" and as in Italian.

a
as in father
e
as in bed or weigh
i
as in machine
o
as in vote
u
as in hoop

Consonants[edit]

Note that the consonants 'n' and 'm' can form initial clusters as in ndapita ("I'm going") or mpingo ("church").

like 'b' in "bed" (this English sounding explosive "b" is usually preceded by "m" to make a consonant blend)
like 'b' in the American southern dialect "down by the Bayou" (implosive 'b')
c, ch 
like 'ch' in "chip" (without aspiration)
like 'd' in "dog" (this English sounding explosive 'd' never begins a word)
like 'd' in the American southern dialect "Down by the bayou" or the modern slang, "Dude!" (implosive 'd')
di 
like 'dzi'
like 'ph' in "phone"
like 'g' in "go", like 'j' in "jello"
like 'h' in "help", emphasized in diphthongs
like 'dg' in "edge"
like "sKat" (unaspirated 'k')
kh 
like 'c' in "cat"
like 'l' in "love"
like 'm' in "mother"
like 'n' in "nice"
ng 
like 'ng' in "song" plus a hard 'g' afterward (two sounds)
ng' 
like 'ng' in "song" (one sound)
ny 
like 'ñ' in Spanish mañana
like "sPat" (unaspirated 'p')
ph 
like 'p' in "pig"
pronounced softly like 'l', often interchangeable
like 'ss' in "hiss"
si 
like 'she' in "sheet"
like "sTop" (unaspirated 't')
th 
like 't' in "top"
tch 
like 'ch' in "chip" (normally aspirated)
like 'w' in "wheel"
ŵ 
bilabial fricative (IPA [ɸ], not found in English), best said like a weak 'w' edging towards 'f'
like 'z' in "adze"

Phrase list[edit]

For this phrasebook, we use the polite form for all phrases, on the presumption that you'll mostly be talking to people you don't already know.

There are significant dialectal variations in the language. Unless otherwise noted, all phrases here use the Malawi (Chichewa) dialect.

Basics[edit]

Hello. 
Moni. (N.B. This greeting is generally not used in and around Blantyre, Malawi, where the normal way to greet people is with 'Muli Bwanji?')
Sir (or) Mister 
Abambo
Madam 
Amayi
How are you? 
Muli bwanji?
Fine, thank you. (And you?)
Ndili bwino.(Kaya inu? [or] Kaya anzathu?)
What is your name? 
Dzina lanu ndani?/Dzina lanu ndi yani?
My name is ______ . 
Dzina langa ndi ______.
Please. 
Chonde.
Thank you. 
Zikomo. (very common - ends most conversations)
Yes 
Ee / Eya / Inde (can also mean "indeed").
Truly (or) Really
Ndithu
No 
Iyayi (used strongly) or ayi (more polite)pronsed as the letter e then I
Bad 
Woipa (person), or choipa (thing)
Thanks 
Zikomo
I'm sorry. 
Pepani
"See you later"/We shall meet. 
Tionana.
Goodbye (meaning: I'm going.) 
Ndapita.
Have a safe journey. 
Yendani bwino / Muyende bwino.
Stay well. 
Tsalani bwino. / Mutsale bwino.
I don't speak Nyanja. 
Sindimalankhula chinyanja.
Do you speak English? 
Mumalankhula chizungu/chingelesi?
Is there someone here who speaks English? 
Alipo munthu pano olankhula chizungu?
Help me! 
Mundithandize! Ndithadizeni
Don't be rude (or) cheeky. 
Osapanga chipongwe.
Swear words 
Mau Otukwana
Good morning. 
Mwauka bwanji? / Mwadzuka bwanji? (greeting) Ndadzuka bwino. (response)
Good afternoon. 
Mwaswela bwanji? (greeting) Ndaswela bwino. (response)
Good evening. 
Mwachoma bwanji. (greeting) Ndachoma bwino. (response)
Good night. 
Usiku wabwino.
Sleep well. 
Gonani bwino. or Mugone bwino.
I don't understand 
Sindimvetsa. or Sindikumvetsa. or sindikunvetsani
I know 
Ndimadziwa.
I don't know 
Sindidziwa.
I want 
Ndikufuna
I don't want 
Sindikufuna
I heard 
Ndamva
I didn't hear 
Sindinamve
Where is the toilet? 
Chimbudzi chili kuti? (Chimbuzi is a big goat :D)
Ladies (toilet) 
Chimbudzi cha Akazi (Gentlemen - never ask for the Kazi..!!)
Gents (toilet) 
Chimbudzi cha Amuna
White person 
Mzungu / Azungu (plural)
Indian 
Mmwenye / Amwenye
What? 
Ati? or chani? or cha?
What did you say? 
Mwati cha? or Mwati chani?

Problems[edit]

Leave me alone. 
Ndilekeni or Ndisiyeni
Don't touch me! 
Osandigwira
Don't swear (or) bad-mouth 
Osatukwana
I'll call the police. 
Ndiitana apolisi
Police! 
Wapolisi!
Stop! Thief! 
Gwirani! Wakubayo!
I need your help. 
Mundithandize, or Thandizeni
It's an emergency. 
N'zofunika mwamsanga
I'm lost. 
Ndasochera
I lost my bag. 
Ndataya chikwama
I lost my wallet. 
Ndataya kachikwama kanga kandalama
I'm sick. 
Ndikudwala
Head ache.
Ndikudwala mutu
Pain.
Kupweteka
Stomache ache.
Kupweteka m'mimba
Chest pain.
Kupweteka chifuwa
Cough.
Kukotsomola
Diarrhoea.
Kotsekula m'mimba
I've been injured. 
Ndapweteka
I need a doctor. 
Ndikufuna dokotala
Hospital.
Chipatala
Can I use your phone? 
Ndingaimbe nawo foni yanuyo?
There's been an accident 
Kuli Ngozi
Hurry quickly 
Fulumira Msanga
Run! 
Thamanga
Hit (or) clout 
Menya
Go away (as in scram) 
Choka
I don't want 
sindikufuna
Thank you and you ( after someone asks how are you ) 
zikomo khaya inu

Numbers[edit]

English numbers are very commonly used even when speaking in Nyanja. Chinyanja/ Chichewa numbers are usually only used to specify quantity, and are preceded by a prefix which corresponds with the object, e.g. chaka chimodzi = one year, zala ziwiri = two fingers, anthu anayi = four people.

Modzi
Wiri
Tatu
Nayi
Sanu
Sanu n'chimodzi (five and one)
Sanu n'ziwiri (five and two)
Sanu n'zitatu
Sanu n'zinayi
10 
Khumi
11 
khumi n'chimodzi (ten and one)
12 
khumi n'ziwiri
13 
khumi n'zitatu
14 
khumi n'zinayi
15 
khumi n'zisanu
16 
khumi n'zisanu n'chimodzi (ten and five and one)
17 
khumi n'zisanu n'ziwiri
18 
khumi n'zisanu n'zitatu
19 
khumi n'zisanu n'zinayi
20 
makumi awiri (two tens)
21 
makumi awiri n'chimodzi
22 
makumi awiri n'ziwiri
23 
makumi awiri n'zitatu
30 
makumi atatu
40 
makumi anayi
50 
makumi asanu
60 
makumi asanu n'limodzi
70 
makumi asanu ndiawiri
80 
makumi asanu ndiatatu
90 
makumi asanu ndianayi
100 
zana limodzi
200 
mazana awiri
300 
mazana atatu
1000 
chikwi chimodzi
2000 
zikwi ziwiri
1,000,000 
one million (...)
1,000,000,000 
one billion
1,000,000,000,000 
one trillion
number _____ (train, bus, etc.
number _____ (...)
half 
theka
less 
kuchepera
more 
kuchulukira

Time[edit]

What is the time? 
Nthawi ili bwanji?
now 
panopa (or) Tsopano ) (or pano)
later 
patsogolo
before 
mbuyo
tomorrow 
mawa
early tomorrow 
mawa, m'mawa
morning 
m'mawa
afternoon 
masana
evening 
madzulo
night 
usiku
yesterday 
dzulo
day before yesterday 
dzana


Clock time[edit]

one o'clock AM 
one o'clock AM ((one)wanu koloko m'mawa kwambiri)
ten o'clock AM 
two o'clock AM ((ten)teni koloko m'mawa)
noon 
noon (twelve koloko m'masana)
two o'clock PM 
two o'clock PM ((two)tu koloko m'masana)
five o'clock PM 
five o'clock PM ((five)faivi koloko m'madzulo)
midnight 
midnight ((twelve)twelufu koloko m'usiku)

Duration[edit]

mphindi_____ minute(s) 
_____ minute(s) (...)
_Ola____ hour(s) 
_____ hour(s) (...)
_____ day(s) 
_____ tsiku (masiku) (...)
_____ week(s) 
_____ mulungu (milungu) (...)
__Mwezi___ month(s) 
_Miyezi____ month(s) (...)
_____ year(s) 
_____ chaka (zaka) (...)

Days[edit]

today 
lero
yesterday 
dzulo
tomorrow 
mawa
this week 
mlungu uno / sabata ino
last week 
mlungu watha / sabata yatha / sabata idapita
next week 
mlungu wa mawa / sabata ya mawa / sabata ikubwera
Sunday 
pasabata, lamulungu
Monday 
lolemba
Tuesday 
lachiwiri
Wednesday 
lachitatu
Thursday 
lachinayi
Friday 
lachisanu
Saturday 
loweluka

Months[edit]

January 
January (...)
February 
February (...)
March 
March (...)
April 
April (...)
May 
May (.Kolola..)
June 
June (...)
July 
July (...)
August 
August (...)
September 
September (...)
October 
October (..Mkoka-lupsya.)
November 
November (...)
December 
December (...)

Colors[edit]

black 
kuda
white 
yera
gray 
gray (...)
red 
wofiira (also used, impolitely, to describe a white person)
blue 
kamtambo (...)
yellow 
chikasu (...)
green 
abiriwiri (...)
orange 
ndimwi (...)
purple 
purple (...)
brown 
brown (...)
what colour? 
mtundu uti (also means 'what sort?')

Transportation[edit]

Bus and train[edit]

How much is a ticket to _____? 
Tikiti ndi bwanji ku _____? (...)
One ticket to _____, please. 
Tikiti imodzi ku _____. (...)
Where does this train/bus go? 
Sitima/Basi ikupita kuti?
Where is the train/bus to _____? 
Sitima/Basi ya ku______ ili kuti?
Does this train/bus stop in _____? 
Sitima/Basi iyi imayima pa _____? (...)
When does the train/bus for _____ leave? 
Sitima/Basi yaku ______ inyamuka nthawi yanji?
When will this train/bus arrive in _____? 
Sitima/Basi iyi ikafika ku _______ nthawi yanji?

Directions[edit]

How do I get to _____ ? 
How do I get to _____ ? ('Ndingakafike bwanji ku ....)
...the train station? 
...the train station? (...steji ya njanji?)
...the bus station? 
...the bus station? (...steji ya basi?)
...the airport? 
...the airport? (...bwalo la ndege?)
...downtown? 
...downtown? (...Town)
...the youth hostel? 
...the youth hostel? (...)
...the _____ hotel? 
...the _____ hotel? (...Hotela ya_____)
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate? 
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate? (...Embassy ya_____)
...the office(s) of______  
Ofesi ya______
Where are there a lot of... 
Where are there a lot of... (Ma... ambiri ali kuti?)
...hotels? 
...hotels? (Mahotela...)
...restaurants? 
...restaurants? (MaRestaurant...)
...bars? 
...bars? (Mabara...)
...sites to see? 
...sites to see? (Malo osangalatsa aleno ku awone...)
Can you show me on the map? 
Can you show me on the map? (Mungandionetse pa map?)
street 
street (Mseu)
Turn left. 
Turn left. (Khotani/Mukhote kumanzere)
Turn right. 
Turn right. (Khotani/Mukhote kumanja)
Road 
Mseu (pronounced Msay-oo)
left 
left (Kumanzere)
right 
right (Kumanja)
straight ahead 
straight ahead (Straight)
towards the _____ 
towards the _____ (mbali ya ku...)
past the _____ 
past the _____ (Kudutsa pa...)
before the _____ 
before the _____ (Osafika pa...)
Watch for the _____. 
Watch for the _____. (muyang-anile chizindikilo cha...)
intersection 
intersection (pokomano miseu/pa mphambano...)
north 
north (ku mpoto...)
south 
south (ku mwela...)
east 
east (ku mm'awa...)
west 
west (ku madzulo...)
uphill 
uphill (ku mtunda/kokwela...)
downhill 
downhill (ku musi...)

Taxi[edit]

Taxi! 
Taxi! (...)
Take me to _____, please. 
Munditengere ku________, chonde.
How much does it cost to get to _____? 
Ndibwanji kupita ku _____? (...)
Take me there, please. 
Munditengere kumeneko, chonde.

Lodging[edit]

Do you have any rooms available? 
Alipo Malo?
How much is a room for one person/two people? 
Ndalama zingati room ya munthu m'modzi/anthu awiri? (...)
Does the room come with... 
Room iri ndi ......
...bedsheets? 
Ma bedsheet?
...a bathroom? 
...kosambira? (...)
...a telephone? 
...telephone? (...)
...a TV? 
...a TV? (...)
May I see the room first? 
Choyamba, ndingathe kuona malo?
Do you have anything quieter? 
Pali kwina kopanda phokoso? (...)
...bigger? 
...yokulirapo? (...)
...cleaner? 
...cleaner? (...)
...cheaper? 
...yochipirapo? (...)
OK, I'll take it. 
Chabwino, nditenga yomweyi.
I will stay for _____ night(s). 
NdiKhala kuno masiku_______
Can you suggest another hotel? 
Mungandiuze hotel ina? (...)
Do you have a safe? 
Do you have a safe? (...)
...lockers? 
...lockers? (...)
Is breakfast/supper included? 
Is breakfast/supper included? (...)
What time is breakfast/supper? 
What time is breakfast/supper? (...)
Please clean my room. 
Chonde, ndikonzereni room. (...)
Can you wake me at _____? | Mundidzutse nthawi ya ________
I want to check out. 
Ndikufuna ndituluke mu hotel. (...)

Money[edit]

Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars? 
Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars? (...) kodi mu vomera kutenga ndalama zaku ma chalo ena?
Do you accept British pounds? 
Do you accept British pounds? (...)
Do you accept credit cards? 
Do you accept credit cards? (...)
Can you change money for me? 
Can you change money for me? (...)
Where can I get money changed? 
Where can I get money changed? (...)
Can you change a traveler's check for me? 
Can you change a traveler's check for me? (...)
Where can I get a traveler's check changed? 
Where can I get a traveler's check changed? (...)
What is the exchange rate? 
What is the exchange rate? (...)
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)? 
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)? (...)

Eating[edit]

A table for one person/two people, please. 
Can I look at the menu, please? 
Ndingaone menu?
Can I look in the kitchen? 
Ndingakaone ku khitchini?
Is there a house specialty? 
Is there a local specialty? 
I'm a vegetarian. 
Ndimadya masamba basi/
I don't eat pork. 
Sindimadya nyama ya nkhumba.
I don't eat beef. 
Sindimadya nyama ya ng'ombe.
Can you make it "lite", please? (less oil/butter/lard
fixed-price meal 
à la carte 
breakfast 
lunch 
tea (meal
supper 
I would like _____. 
Ndifuna _____.
I would like a dish containing _____. 
Ndikufuna chakudya chokhala ndi___________
chicken 
nkhuku
beef 
nyama ya ng'ombe
pork 
nyama ya nkhumba
fish 
nsomba
maize porridge 
nsima
eggs 
mazira
salad 
saladi, masamba
(fresh) vegetables 
masamba.
(fresh) fruit 
chipatso (one), zipatso (many)
bread 
buledi
rice 
mpunga
beans 
nyemba
May I have a glass of _____? 
May I have a cup of _____? 
May I have a bottle of _____? 
coffee 
khofi
tea (drink
tiyi
maize drink 
maheu
water 
madzi
beer (Western) 
mowa
beer (maize)
masese
May I have some _____? 
Mundipatseko ________?
salt 
mchere
black pepper 
Tsabola
butter 
Excuse me, waiter? (getting attention of server
I'm finished. 
Ndakhuta
It was delicious. 
Chakudya chinali bwino.
Please clear the plates. 
Chotsani mbale, zikomo.
The check, please. 
Ndipatseni bill.

Bars[edit]

Do you serve alcohol? 
Mumagulitsa mowa? (...)
Is there table service? 
table sevice iriko? (...)
A beer/two beers, please. 
Mowa umodzi/mowa uwiri, zikomo.
A glass of red/white wine, please. 
Glass ya red/white wine, zikomo. (...)
A pint, please. 
A pint, please. (...)
A bottle, please. 
Botolo limodzi, zikomo. (...)
_____ (hard liquor) and _____ (mixer), please. 
_____ and _____, please. (...)
whiskey 
whiskey (...)
vodka 
vodka (...)
rum 
rum (...)
water 
madzi
club soda 
club soda (...)
tonic water 
tonic water (...)
orange juice 
orange juice (...)
Coke (soda
Coke (...)
Do you have any bar snacks? 
Do you have any bar snacks? (...)
One more, please. 
One more, please. (...)
Another round, please. 
Another round, please. (...)
When is closing time? 
Mumatseka nthawi yanji? (...)

Shopping[edit]

Do you have this in my size? 
Do you have this in my size? (...)Ilipo size yanga?
How much is this? 
Ndi ndalama zingati ichi?
That's too expensive. 
Chikudula kwambiri
Too much. 
Zadullah
Would you take _____? 
Would you take _____? (...)Mumatha kutenga______?
expensive 
Kudula
cheap 
cheap (Kuchipa...)
I can't afford it. 
Sindingakwanitse
I don't want it. 
Sindiri kufuna
You're cheating me. 
Ukunama. (...)
I'm not interested. 
(..) Sindikufuna
OK, I'll take it. 
Chabwino, Nditenga
Can I have a bag? 
Muli ndi jumbo? (...)
Do you ship (overseas)? 
mumatumiza kwinakwache (kunja)?
I need... 
ndirikufuna
...toothpaste. 
...toothpaste. (...)
...a toothbrush. 
...a toothbrush. (nswachi...)
...tampons. 
...tampons. (...)
...soap. 
...soap. (...) sopo
...shampoo. 
...shampoo. (...) zochapila tsisi
...pain reliever. ('e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen') 
mankhwala(then specify ailment)
...cold medicine. 
...cold medicine. (...) mankhwala achifuwa
...stomach medicine. 
...stomach medicine. (...)mankhwala a mmimba
...a razor. 
...a razor. (Leza or Lezala...)
...an umbrella. 
...an umbrella. (...)
...sunblock lotion. 
...sunblock lotion. (...)mankhwala wadzuwa
...a postcard. 
...a postcard. (post card...)
...postage stamps. 
...postage stamps. (stampa...)
...batteries. 
...batteries. (mabatile...)
...writing paper. 
...writing paper. (...)pepala lolembera kalata
...a pen. 
...a pen. (cholembera...)
...English-language books. 
Mabuku achingelezi
...English-language magazines. 
...English-language magazines. (magazine zachingelezi...)
...an English-language newspaper. 
...an English-language newspaper. (nyuzi ya chingelezi...)
...an English-English dictionary. 
Dictionary ya chingelezi

Driving[edit]

I want to rent a car. 
Ndikufuna kubweleka Galimoto. (...)
Can I get insurance? 
Can I get insurance? (...)
stop (on a street sign
stop (...)
one way 
one way (...)
yield 
yield (...)
no parking 
no parking (...)
speed limit 
speed limit (...)
gas (petrol) station 
gas station (...)
petrol 
petrol (...)
diesel 
diesel (...)

Authority[edit]

I haven't done anything wrong. 
sindinapange mulandu ulionse. (...)
It was a misunderstanding. 
It was a misunderstanding. (...)
Where are you taking me? 
muli kundipereka kuti? (...)
Am I under arrest? 
kodi mwandi manga? (...)
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen. 
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen. (...)
I want to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate. 
I need to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate. (...)
I want to talk to a lawyer. 
I want to talk to a lawyer. (...)
Can I just pay a fine now? 
Can I just pay a fine now? (...)

Learning more[edit]

How do you say my condolences in Nyanja? 
(...)
What is this/that called? 
Nichani ichi? Muchiyitana chani icho?(...)


What is this/called in Chichewa?

Ichi ndi Chiyani pa Chichewa?

This is a usable phrasebook. It explains pronunciation and the bare essentials of travel communication. An adventurous person could use it to get by, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

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