Swahili or Kiswahili, is an official language of Tanzania, Kenya( English is the official language the government of Kenya and is widely spoken in urban areas), the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda. Swahili speakers can also be found in surrounding countries, such as Burundi, Rwanda, and Mozambique. While only 5-10 million people speak Swahili as their first language, as a second language, there are over 50 million speakers, making it the most widely spoken African language in the world. As a part of the Bantu language family, Swahili is related to a variety of languages from Southern Africa to Central to West Africa. While some Bantu languages, like Xhosa and Zulu are click languages, Swahili does not use clicks, so pronunciation is generally not difficult for English speakers.
[ edit] Pronunciation guide
[ edit] Vowels
Swahili has five vowels: a, e, i, o, u. If you are familiar with
Spanish, Italian or Japanese, the vowels are pronounced the same. If not, they are pronounced:
A - ah (Like the "a" in "father")
E - eh (Like the "a" in "say" but without moving your mouth)
I - ee (Like the "ee" in "see")
O - oh (Like the "o" in "so" but without moving your mouth)
U - oo (Like the "oo" in "doom")
Vowels in Swahili always make the same sounds, even when combined with other vowels. There are no silent letters or diphthongs in Swahili, so vowels will always make the same sound, and it is important that you pronounce each vowel, even when one vowel follows another. For example, in the word "daawa" (lawsuit), you must say "dah-ah-wah", pronouncing
both of the a's. Simply saying "dah-wah" (dawa) changes the meaning to "drug/medicine".
[ edit] Consonants
The following consonants are pronounced the same as in English:
b like the "b" in "bay"
d like the "d" in "dog"
f like the "f" in "fun"
g like the "g" in "gut"
h like the "h" in "hen"
j like the "j" in "jam"
k like the "k" in "kit"
l like the "l" in "lump"
p like the "p" in "pot"
s like the "s" in "sun"
t like the "t" in "tip"
v like the "v" in "van"
w like the "w" in "win"
y like the "y" in "yellow"
z like the "z" in "zebra"
m like the "m" in "mop".
n like the "n" in "numb"
Although "m" and "n" are pronounced the same in Swahili as they are in English, unlike English, these letters can often be found at the beginning of words followed by other consonants, such as "t", "d", etc. Since Swahili has no silent letters, it is important to pronounce these sounds. So for words like "Mchana" (afternoon) and "Ndugu" (sibling/relative), you need to pronounce the "m" and "n" sounds along with the following consonant sounds.
r The "r" sound is not pronounced as it is in English. Actually, like the vowels, the "r" sound is the same as Spanish and Japanese; a soft "r" that sometimes sounds like a "d".
[ edit] Consonant pairings
ch like the "ch" in "chat"
ng like the "ng" in "sing"
ny like the "ni" in "onion"
gh officially pronounced similiar to the "ch" in "loch", you can alternatively just pronounce it with a hard "g", like the "g" in "gut" (as mentioned above)
sh like the "sh" in "dash"
th like the "th" in "thank". It is never pronounced like the "th" in "those". That "th" is spelled "dh" in Swahili.
dh like the "th" in "the". It is important not to confuse "dh" with the Swahili "th" above.
[ edit] Common diphthongs
There are no diphthongs in Swahili; however, foreign names and loan words may contain them.
[ edit] Phrase list
[ edit] Basics
Note that greetings in Swahili are very important and long and drawn out - you can go back and forth several times, using not one but all of the greetings you know.
Hello, how are you?. (to one person) Hujambo (response: Sijambo: I am fine.)
Hello, how are you all. (to a group) : Hamjambo (response: Hatujambo, we're fine)
Hello to an older person or authority figure. Shikamoo ( shee-kah-moh) (response: Marahaba). Some people frown on the use of Shikamoo because it started out as a servant's greeting to his/her master.
Hello. ( informal) Sasa / Mambo / Jambo (generally said only to tourists). This is 'Sheng' or Swahili slang. Most locals are not impressed if you greet them using Sheng.
Response to informal hello Mzuri (fine), Safi (clean/in order), Poa (cool), Poa kichizi kama ndizi (crazy cool like a banana)
How are you? Habari / Habari yako? (lit.: Your news?)
How are you? (alternative) Ukoje? Response: Niko salama.
How are you? (alternative) U hali gani? (lit.: What's your condition?)
How are you today? Habari ya leo?
How are you this morning? Habari ya asubuhi?
How are you this afternoon? Habari ya mchana?
How are you this evening? Habari ya jioni?
How was your journey / trip / safari? Habari za safari?
How have you been today? Umeshindaje leo?
Fine, thank you. Nzuri, asante.
What is your name? Jina lako ni nani?
My name is ______ . Jina langu ni ______.
Where are you coming from? Unatoka wapi?
Where are you from (native region) unatokea wapi
I am from _______. Ninatoka nchi ya _______(your country).
Thank you (very much). Asante (sana).
You're welcome. Karibu.
I don't need. (Polite way of saying you don't want to buy anything) Sihitaji.
Excuse me. ( getting attention) Samahani.
I'm sorry (in the sense of "pardon me"; used for minor transgressions). Samahani.
I'm sorry (about hearing very bad news for someone). Nasikitika.
Please forgive me tafadhali nisamehe
Goodbye Kwa heri.
Good night. Usiku mwema.
Sleep well. Lala Salama.
Did you sleep well? Umelalaje?
Umeamkaje (lit.: did you wake up well?)
See you later. Tuonane baadaye.
See you tomorrow. Tutuonana kesho.
My Swahili is terrible Kiswahili changu ni kibaya sana.
I can't speak Kiswahili. Siwezi kusema Kiswahili.
I only speak a little Kiswahili. Ninaongea Kiswahili kidogo tu.
Do you speak English? Unazungumza Kiingereza?
Where is the _______? _____(e.g. bathroom, police station...) iko wapi?
Grammatically, this would depend on the noun class of the object in question. E.g. for bathroom, it would be 'Kiko', not 'Iko'. There are 18 noun classes in Swahili.
[ edit] Problem(s)
Leave me alone. Uniache!
Don't touch me! Usiniguse!
I'll call the police. Nitaita polisi!
Stop! Thief! (Saying this in Swahili could likely result in violent death for the thief at the hands of self appointed vigilantes. Your item may or may not be recovered.) Simama, mwizi!
I need your help. Ninaomba msaada.
I'm lost. Nimepotea.
I lost my bag. Nimepoteza mfuko wangu.
I lost my wallet. Nimepoteza pochi.
I'm sick. Mimi ni mgonjwa.
I've been injured. Nimeumia
I need a doctor. Ninahitaji daktari.
Can I use your phone? Ninaomba kutumia simu yako?
[ edit] Numbers
One Hundred. Mia moja
One Thousand. Elfu moja
before Kabla ya
after Baada ya
[ edit] Clock time
What time is it? Saa ngapi?
In Swahili, the morning does not begin at midnight (12 AM); instead, it begins at 7:00 AM. Daytime revolves around the rising and setting of the sun, which typically begins to rise around 7 AM and set at 7 PM in the areas where Swahili is spoken. For English speakers, this can be confusing; however, those who learn how to tell time in Swahili will admit that it is more logical than the English system, in which midnight is considered "morning", even though no one begins their day at midnight.
So, to say the time in Swahili, you need to add (or subtract) 6 from the English time. 7:00 in America will be expressed as the
first hour (1:00) in Swahili. AM is expressed with asubuhi (morning) and PM is typically marked with usiku (night). Because the daytime begins at 7 AM, hours from midnight to 6 AM will be expressed with usiku, as these are nighttime hours in Swahili. Jioni (evening) can be used in place of usiku for hours that are not so late, such as 7 PM.
7 o'clock AM saa moja asubuhi
7.15 AM saa moja na robo asubuhi
7.20 AM saa moja na dakika ishirini asubuhi
7.30 AM saa moja na nusu asubuhi
7.45 AM saa mbili (kasoro robo = kasorobo)
7.50 AM saa mbili kasoro dakika kumi asubuhi
8 o'clock AM saa mbili asubuhi
9 o'clock AM saa tatu asubuhi
Noon (12 o'clock PM) saa sita asubuhi
1 o'clock PM saa saba mchana
2 o'clock PM saa nana mchana
7 o'clock PM saa moja usiku
8 o'clock PM saa mbili usiku
9 o'clock PM saa tatu usiku
Midnight (12 o'clock AM) saa sita usiku
[ edit] Duration
saa (masaa)_____ hour(s)
mwezi (miezi)_____ month(s)
mwaka (miaka)_____ year(s)
duration ____ muda
how long ____ muda gani
In Swahili, the first day of the week is Saturday. The name of Saturday combines
juma (week) and mosi (one/first). You can think of it as meaning roughly "the first of the week". The other days are the same, with the exception of Thursday and Friday, which do not follow the pattern.
[ edit] Months
In Tanzania, the words in parentheses are rarely used. Instead, they refer to them as first month, second month, etc.
January Mwezi wa kwanza (Januari)
February Mwezi wa pili (Februari)
March Mwezi wa tatu (Machi)
April Mwezi wa nne (Aprili)
May Mwezi wa tano (Mei)
June Mwezi wa sita (Juni)
July Mwezi wa saba (Julai)
August Mwezi wa nane (Agosti)
September Mwezi wa tisa (Septemba)
October Mwezi wa kumi (Oktoba)
November Mwezi wa kumi na moja (Novemba)
December Mwezi wa kumi na mbili (Desemba)
[ edit] Seasons
Swahili-speaking countries generally experience two seasons: rainy-and-hot and cold-and-dry. Swahili does not have words for "autumn" or "spring", etc.
winter majira ya baridi
spring majira ya machipuko
fall majira ya majani kupukukika
[ edit] Writing time and date
[ edit] Colors
[ edit] Transportation
[ edit] Bus and train
Minibus (Kenya, Uganda) Matatu
Minibus (Tanzania) Daladala
How much is a ticket to _____?
Tikiti ya kwenda ____ shengapi?
One ticket to _____, please.
Naomba tikiti moja ya kwenda ____.
Where does this train/bus go?
Treni/basi hii inakwenda wapi?
Does this train/bus stop in _____?
Treni/basi itakwenda ____?
When does the train/bus for _____ leave?
Treni/basi itaondoka lini?
When will this train/bus arrive in _____?
Treni/basi itafika lini _____?
[ edit] Directions
How do I get to _____ ? Je, ninakwenda ____
I want to go to ____ Ninataka kuenda ____
Which direction? Mwelekeo upi?
...the train station? Kituo/stesheni cha treni/gari la moshi
...the bus station? Kituo/stesheni cha basi
...the airport? Uwanja wa ndegi
Town center Katikati ya mjini
...the youth hostel?
...the _____ hotel? Hoteli _____ iko wapi? (but 'hoteli' often refers to a place to eat, especially in Kenya)
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate?
Consulate Balozi ndogo (but probably better to ask for 'Ubalozi')
Where are there a lot of...
...restaurants? migahawa (singular is 'mgahawa')
...bars? Baa (same in plural)
...sites to see?
Can you show me on the map? Unaweza nionyesha katika ramani? (maps are not widely understood; street names and directions are less frequently used than local landmarks, which you need to learn for each area. Bus stations, bus stops, expensive hotels, monuments, and even some very unlikely items, constitute recognized landmarks)
Where is it on the map? Iko wapi katika ramani?
Turn left. Pinda kushoto
Turn right. Pinda kulia
straight ahead Moja kwa moja
towards the _____
close to _____ Karibu na
past the _____ Baada ya ____/Pita ya _____
before the _____ Kabla ya ____
Watch for the _____. Angalia kwa ____
uphill kwenye mlima
Take me to _____, please.
How much does it cost to get to _____?
itakuwa pesa ngapi kunifikisha------?
Take me there, please.
Tafadhali nipeleke huko basi:
[ edit] Lodging
Do you have any rooms available? Je, unavyo vyumba?/Je, vyumba vipo?
How much is a room for one person/two people? Chumba cha mtu moja/watu wawili ni bei gani ?
Does the room come with...
Self contained (with bathroom) Selfi contain
Not self contained (without bathroom) Non/not selfi contain
Shower Showa/nyunyu/bafu ya manyunyu
...a telephone? Simu
...a TV? Runinga
May I see the room first? Naweza kukiona chumba kwanza?
Do you have anything quieter? Kuna nafasi kimya zaidi?
OK, I'll take it.
Sawa basi, nitakichukua.
I will stay for _____ night(s).
Can you suggest another hotel?
Do you have a safe? ( ...)
Is breakfast/supper included?
What time is breakfast/supper? )
Please clean my room.
Can you wake me at _____?
I want to check out. Ninataka kuondoka.
Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars?
Do you accept British pounds?
Do you accept credit cards?
Can you change money for me? Unaweza kubadilia pesa mimi?
Where can I get money changed? Ninaweza kubadilisha pesa wapi?
Can you change a traveler's check for me?
Where can I get a traveler's check changed?
What is the exchange rate?
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)?
[ edit] Eating
A table for one person/two people, please. Meza kwa mtu moja/watu wawili, tafadhali.
We are two/three/four. Tuko wawili/watatu/wanne.
Can I look at the menu, please? Ninaweza kuangalia menu, tafadhali.
Can I look in the kitchen? Ninaweza kuona jikoni?
Is there a house specialty?
Is there a local specialty?
I'm a vegetarian. Mimi ni mla mboga
Vegetarian food Chakula mboga mboga
I don't eat pork. Sili nyama ya nguruwe/kiti moto (The latter is far more common)
I don't eat beef. Sili nyama ya n'gombe
I don't eat goat. Sili nyama ya mbuzi
I only eat kosher food. Ninakula chakula halali tu.
Can you make it "lite", please? ( less oil/butter/lard) Punguza mafuta/siagi/
No bones. Bila mafupa
a la carte
breakfast kifungua kinywa / chakula cha asubuhi
lunch chakula cha mchana
supper chakula cha jioni
I want _____. Ninataka
I request _____. Naomba _____. (more polite than 'I want', especially in Tanzania)
I want a dish containing _____.
(fresh) vegetables Mboga (singular), Maboga (plural)
(fresh) fruit Mtunda (singular), Matunda (plural)
toast Tosti (but there is a brand of bread called 'Tosti' so you will also find a 'Toasted toast' entry on some menus!)
noodles/pasta Tambi (invariably, spaghetti unless you are in a specialist restaurant)
rice Wali (cooked rice), Mchele (uncooked) Mpunga (rice plant)
May I have a glass of _____? Ninaomba glasi moja ya ____.
May I have a cup of _____? Ninaomba kikombe kimoja cha ____.
May I have a bottle of _____? Ninaomba chupa moja ya ____.
coffee Kahawa (this will usually be instant coffee. It's rare to find real coffee except in specialist establishments or those frequented by tourists)
tea ( drink) Chai
spiced tea Chai ya masala (tea is often spiced with masala mix or ginger
Tea with milk Chai ya maziwa
Tea without milk Chai ya rangi (literally, 'tea with color')
beer Pombe, Bia (Pombe often refers to a local brew and many of these are unsafe to drink. Better to ask for a beer by brand name or ask 'Bia gani ipo?', 'What beers do you have?'
red/white wine Mvinyo/wini nyekundu/nyeupi
May I have some _____? Ninaomba
black pepper pilipili manga
butter Siagi (But you are likely to get margarine, at best. You will probably need to ask for margarine by a brand name, such as 'Blue Band')
Excuse me, waiter? ( getting attention of server) Samahani/ebu (the latter is less formal)
Excuse me, waiter? (to a waiter, 'Kaka', to a waitress, 'Dada')
I'm finished. Nimemaliza
It was delicious. Chakula ni kitamu
Please clear the plates. Uondoe masahani tafadhali
The check, please. Naomba bili, tafadhali
Do you serve alcohol? Pombe ipo?
Is there table service? Je, kuna meza huduma
A beer/two beers, please. Bia moja/mbili, tafadhali.
A glass of red/white wine, please. Glasi mvinyo/wini nyekundu/nyuepi, tafadhali
A pint, please. (Pint measure is not used in East Africa, bottles are usually half litre, sometimes 375ml. People order by the bottle and if there are two sizes, they say 'kubwa' for large or 'ndogo' for small.
A bottle, please. Chupa moja, tafadhali.
_____ ( hard liquor) and _____ ( mixer), please.
orange juice juici/maji ya machungwa
Coke ( soda) Koka
Do you have any bar snacks? Snaki ipo?
One more, please. Moja nyingine,tafadhali
Another round, please. Duru nyingine, tafadhali
When is closing time? Saa ya kufunga ni lini?
Cheers! Maisha marefu
[ edit] Shopping
Do you have this in my size? Kuna hii ya kunitosha?
How much is this? Bei gani?
That's too expensive. Ni Ghali Sana.
Would you take _____? Utakubali-----
I can't afford it. Sina pesa za kutosha
I don't want it. Sitaki
You're cheating me.
I'm not interested.
OK, I'll take it. Sawa, nitachukua.
Can I have a bag? Nipe mfuko mmoja tafadhali.
Do you ship (overseas)?
I need... Ninahitaji
...toothpaste. Dawa ya meno
...a toothbrush. Mswaki
...shampoo. shampoo ya nywele
...pain reliever. ( e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen) dawa ya kupambana na maumivu
...cold medicine. Dawa ya mafua
...stomach medicine. Dawa ya tumbo
...a razor. wembe
...an umbrella. Mwavuli
...postage stamps. stempu
...writing paper. Karatasi ya kuandika
...a pen. Kalamu
...English-language books. Kitabu cha Kiingereza (singular) / Vitabu vya Kiingereza (plural)
...an English-language newspaper. Gazeti la Kiingereza
...an English-English dictionary. Kamusi ya Kiingereza
[ edit] Driving
I want to rent a car. Ninataka kukodi gari.
Can I get insurance? Ninaweza kupata bima?
stop ( on a street sign) Simama
no parking Hairuhusiwi kuegesha (parking not permitted)
Slow down Punguza mwendo
gas ( petrol) station Stesheni/stesheni ya mafuta/stesheni ya mafuta ya gari
petrol Mafuta/mafuta ya gari
[ edit] Authority
I haven't done anything wrong. sijafanya kitu kibaya
It was a misunderstanding.
Where are you taking me?
Am I under arrest? Je, mimi chini ya kukamatwa?
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen.
I want to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate.
I want to talk to a lawyer. nataka kuogea na wakili
Can I just pay a fine now?
[ edit] Country and territory names
United States Marekani
United Kingdom Uingereza
Ireland Eire, Ayalandi
Germany Udachi, Ujerumani
Zanzibar (Tanzanian Island) Unguja
Democratic Republic of the Congo Jamhuri ya Kidemokrasia ya Kongo
South Africa Afrika Kusini
South Korea Korea Kusini
New Zealand Nyuzilandi
[ edit] On safari
zebra punda milia
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