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.
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.
[ edit] Pronunciation
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.
[ edit] Vowels
All vowels are pronounced "pure" and as in Italian.
a as in f ather
e as in b ed or w eigh
i as in mach ine
o as in v ote
u as in h oop
[ edit] Consonants
Note that the consonants 'n' and 'm' can form initial clusters as in
ndapita ("I'm going") or mpingo ("church").
b like 'b' in "bed" (this English sounding explosive "b" is usually preceded by "m" to make a consonant blend)
b like 'b' in the American southern dialect "down by the Bayou" (implosive 'b')
c, ch like 'ch' in "chip" (without aspiration)
d like 'd' in "dog" (this English sounding explosive 'd' never begins a word)
d like 'd' in the American southern dialect "Down by the bayou" or the modern slang, "Dude!" (implosive 'd')
di like 'dzi'
f like 'ph' in "phone"
g like 'g' in "go", like 'j' in "jello"
h like 'h' in "help", emphasized in diphthongs
j like 'dg' in "edge"
k like "sKat" (unaspirated 'k')
kh like 'c' in "cat"
l like 'l' in "love"
m like 'm' in "mother"
n 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
p like "sPat" (unaspirated 'p')
ph like 'p' in "pig"
r pronounced softly like 'l', often interchangeable
s like 'ss' in "hiss"
si like 'she' in "sheet"
t like "sTop" (unaspirated 't')
th like 't' in "top"
tch like 'ch' in "chip" (normally aspirated)
w like 'w' in "wheel"
ŵ bilabial fricative (IPA [ɸ], not found in English), best said like a weak 'w' edging towards 'f'
z like 'z' in "adze"
[ edit] Phrase list
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.
[ edit] Basics
Sir (or) Mister Abambo
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 ______.
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)
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?
[ edit] Problems
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
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
Stomache ache. Kupweteka m'mimba
Chest pain. Kupweteka chifuwa
Diarrhoea. Kotsekula m'mimba
I've been injured. Ndapweteka
I need a doctor. Ndikufuna dokotala
Can I use your phone? Ndingaimbe nawo foni yanuyo?
There's been an accident Kuli Ngozi
Hurry quickly Fulumira Msanga
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
[ edit] Numbers
English numbers are very commonly used even when speaking in Nyanja.
6 Sanu n'chimodzi (five and one)
7 Sanu n'ziwiri (five and two)
8 Sanu n'zitatu
9 Sanu n'zinayi
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 _____ ( ...)
What is the time? Nthawi ili bwanji?
now panopa (or) Tsopano ) (or pano)
early tomorrow mawa, m'mawa
day before yesterday dzana
[ edit] Clock time
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)
[ edit] Duration
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) ( ...)
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
[ edit] Months
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 ( ...)
[ edit] Colors
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?')
[ edit] Transportation
[ edit] Bus and train
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?
[ edit] Directions
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! 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.
[ edit] Lodging
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. ( ...)
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)? ( ...)
[ edit] Eating
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)
à la carte
tea ( meal)
I would like _____. Ndifuna _____.
I would like a dish containing _____. Ndikufuna chakudya chokhala ndi___________
beef nyama ya ng'ombe
pork nyama ya nkhumba
maize porridge nsima
salad saladi, masamba
(fresh) vegetables masamba.
(fresh) fruit chipatso (one), zipatso (many)
May I have a glass of _____?
May I have a cup of _____?
May I have a bottle of _____?
tea ( drink) tiyi
maize drink maheu
beer (Western) mowa
beer (maize) masese
May I have some _____? Mundipatseko ________?
black pepper Tsabola
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.
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 ( ...)
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? ( ...)
[ edit] Shopping
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______?
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
[ edit] Driving
I want to rent a car. Ndikufuna rent 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 ( ...)
[ edit] Authority
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? ( ...)
[ edit] Learning more
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
phrasebook. It explains pronunciation and the bare essentials of travel communication. An adventurous person could use it to get by, but please usable plunge forward and help it grow!