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Revision as of 12:04, 4 April 2007

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.

Contents

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 variation.

Vowels

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

as in "father"
like 'e' in "bed"
as in "machine"
like 'o' in "top"
like 'oo' in "hoop"

Consonants

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

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

Basics

Hello. 
Moni
Sir (or) Mister 
Bambo
Madam 
Mayi
How are you? 
Muli bwanji?
Fine, thank you. (And you?)
Ndili bwino.(Kaya inu? [or] Kaya Nzatu?)
What is your name? 
Dzina lanu ndani?/Dzina lanu ndi chani?
My name is ______ . 
Dzina langa ndi ______ .
What is your name? 
Dzina lanu ali chani
Please. 
chonde (usually not used!)
Thank you. 
Zikomo. (seldom used.)
Yes 
Inde (can also mean "indeed").
Truly (or) Really
Nditu
No 
Iyai(used strongly) or yai (more polite)
Bad 
Wo Ipa
Excuse me 
Zikomo
I'm sorry. 
Pepani
Goodbye. 
Tiwonana
Goodbye(meaning, I'm going..) 
Nda pita
Have a safe journey 
Yendani bwino
I don't speak Nyanja. 
Sindikudziwa chinyanja.
Do you speak English? 
Mukamba chizungu?
Is there someone here who speaks English? 
Ndani kuno ama dziwa chizungu
Help! 
Mundi Thandize
Don't be rude (or) cheeky 
Osa patsa chipongwe
Swear words 
Mao Dzoyipa
Good morning. 
Mwaka bwanji. Mwadzuka bwanji?
Good afternoon. 
Mwaswera bwanji.
Good evening. 
Mwachoma bwanji.
Good night. 
Gonani bwino or Mugone bwino.
Stay well
Salani bwino, sukani bwino.
I don't understand 
Sindimvera.
I know 
Ndidziwa
I don't know 
Sindidziwa
I want 
Ndifuna
I don't want 
Sindifuna
I heard 
Ndinamva
I didn't hear 
Sindinamva
Where is the toilet? 
Chimbuzi chili kuti?
Ladies (toilet) 
Akazi (Gentlemen - never ask for the Kazi..!!)
Gents (toilet) 
Amuna
White person 
Mzungu
Indians 
Amwenye

Problems

Leave me alone. 
Ndilekeni or Ndisiyeni
Don't touch me! 
Osandigwira
Don't swear (or) bad-mouth 
Osa nena mao dzo ipa
I'll call the police. 
Ndiitana apolisi
Police! 
Wapolisi!
Stop! Thief! 
Gwirani! Wakubayo!
I need your help. 
Mundithandize
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.
Kussomola
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 Nghozi
Hurry quickly 
Fulumisa Msanga
Run! 
Thamanga
Hit (or) clout 
Menya
Go away (as in scram) 
Choka

Numbers

English numbers are very commonly used even when speaking in Nyanja.

Modzi
Wiri
Tatu
Nai
Sanu
six (...)
seven (...)
eight (...)
nine (...)
10 
Khumi
11 
eleven (...)
12 
twelve (...)
13 
thirteen (...)
14 
fourteen (...)
15 
fifteen (...)
16 
sixteen (...)
17 
seventeen (...)
18 
eighteen (...)
19 
nineteen (...)
20 
twenty (...)
21 
twenty one (...)
22 
twenty two (...)
23 
twenty three (...)
30 
thirty (...)
40 
forty (...)
50 
fifty (...)
60 
sixty (...)
70 
seventy (...)
80 
eighty (...)
90 
ninety (...)
100 
one hundred (...)
200 
two hundred (...)
300 
three hundred (...)
1000 
one thousand (...)
2000 
two thousand (...)
1,000,000 
one million (...)
1,000,000,000 
one billion
1,000,000,000,000 
one trillion
number _____ (train, bus, etc.
number _____ (...)
half 
half (...)
less 
less (...)
more 
more (...)

Time

what is the time? 
Nthawi ali bwanji
now 
panopa (or) Tsopano
later 
patsogolo
before 
before (...)
early tomorrow 
mawa, pa mamawa
morning 
mamawa
afternoon 
masana
yesterday 
dzulo
day before yesterday 
dzana
evening 
madzulo
night 
usiko

Clock time

one o'clock AM 
one o'clock AM (...)
two o'clock AM 
two o'clock AM (...)
noon 
noon (...)
one o'clock PM 
one o'clock PM (...)
two o'clock PM 
two o'clock PM (...)
midnight 
midnight (...)

Duration

_____ minute(s) 
_____ minute(s) (...)
_____ hour(s) 
_____ hour(s) (...)
_____ day(s) 
_____ day(s) (...)
_____ week(s) 
_____ week(s) (...)
_____ month(s) 
_____ month(s) (...)
_____ year(s) 
_____ year(s) (...)

Days

today 
lero
yesterday 
dzulo (...)
tomorrow 
mawa
this week 
this week (...)
last week 
mlungu watha (...)
next week 
mlungu wa mawa (...)
Sunday 
sabatta
Monday 
lachimodzi
Tuesday 
lachiwiri
Wednesday 
lachitatu
Thursday 
lachinayi (...)
Friday 
Friday (...)
Saturday 
Saturday (...)

Months

January 
January (...)
February 
February (...)
March 
March (...)
April 
April (...)
May 
May (...)
June 
June (...)
July 
July (...)
August 
August (...)
September 
September (...)
October 
October (...)
November 
November (...)
December 
December (...)

Colors

black 
akuda
white 
yera
gray 
gray (...)
red 
wofira (also used, impolitely, to describe a white person)
blue 
blue (...)
yellow 
yellow (...)
green 
green (...)
orange 
orange (...)
purple 
purple (...)
brown 
brown (...)
what colour? 
Nthundu uti (also means 'what sort?')

Transportation

Bus and train

How much is a ticket to _____? 
How much is a ticket to _____? (...)
One ticket to _____, please. 
One ticket to _____, please. (...)
Where does this train/bus go? 
Basi ikupita kuti?
Where is the train/bus to _____? 
Basi ku... ili kuti?
Does this train/bus stop in _____? 
Does this train/bus stop in _____? (...)
When does the train/bus for _____ leave? 
Basi ku... idzapita lithi?
When will this train/bus arrive in _____? 
Basi idzabwera ku... lithi?

Directions

How do I get to _____ ? 
How do I get to _____ ? (...)
...the train station? 
...the train station? (...)
...the bus station? 
...the bus station? (...)
...the airport? 
...the airport? (...)
...downtown? 
...downtown? (...)
...the youth hostel? 
...the youth hostel? (...)
...the _____ hotel? 
...the _____ hotel? (...)
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate? 
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate? (...)
...the office(s) of______  
Boma wa ______
Where are there a lot of... 
Where are there a lot of... (...)
...hotels? 
...hotels? (...)
...restaurants? 
...restaurants? (...)
...bars? 
...bars? (...)
...sites to see? 
...sites to see? (...)
Can you show me on the map? 
Can you show me on the map? (...)
street 
street (...)
Turn left. 
Turn left. (...)
Turn right. 
Turn right. (...)
Road 
Mseu (pronounced Msay-oo)
left 
left (...)
right 
right (...)
straight ahead 
straight ahead (...)
towards the _____ 
towards the _____ (...)
past the _____ 
past the _____ (...)
before the _____ 
before the _____ (...)
Watch for the _____. 
Watch for the _____. (...)
intersection 
intersection (...)
north 
north (...)
south 
south (...)
east 
east (...)
west 
west (...)
uphill 
uphill (...)
downhill 
downhill (...)

Taxi

Taxi! 
Taxi! (...)
Take me to _____, please. 
Mundi tengere ku________, chonde
How much does it cost to get to _____? 
How much does it cost to

get to _____? (...)

Take me there, please. 
Mundi tengere kumene, chonde

Lodging

Do you have any rooms available? 
Alipo Malo?
How much is a room for one person/two people? 
How much is a room for one person/two people? (...)
Does the room come with... 
Pa Malo alipo ......
...bedsheets? 
Ma Sheetibed
...a bathroom? 
...a bathroom? (...)
...a telephone? 
...a telephone? (...)
...a TV? 
...a TV? (...)
May I see the room first? 
Poyamba, ndifuna kuona malo
Do you have anything quieter? 
Do you have anything quieter? (...)
...bigger? 
...bigger? (...)
...cleaner? 
...cleaner? (...)
...cheaper? 
...cheaper? (...)
OK, I'll take it. 
Chbwino, ndidza mtenga
I will stay for _____ night(s). 
Ndi Khala kuno Masiku_______
Can you suggest another hotel? 
Can you suggest another hotel? (...)
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. 
Please clean my room. (...)
Can you wake me at _____? | Mundi zukitsa nthawi a ________
I want to check out. 
I want to check out. (...)

Money

Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars? 
Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars? (...)
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

A table for one person/two people, please. 
Can I look at the menu, please? 
Can I look in the kitchen? 
Is there a house specialty? 
Is there a local specialty? 
I'm a vegetarian. 
Ndimady m'be-u baasi
I don't eat pork. 
Sindimadya nyama ya nkumba
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 kukhala ndi _____.
I would like a dish containing _____. 
chicken 
nkhuku
beef 
nyama ya ng'ombe
pork 
nyama ya nkumba
fish 
nsomba
maize porridge 
nsima
eggs 
ma egesi / masira
salad 
ndiwo / mbe-u
(fresh) vegetables 
mbeu zaziwisi
(fresh) fruit 
chipatso (one), zipatso (many)
bread 
buledi
rice 
mpunga
beans 
kaela (or) nyemba
May I have a glass of _____? 
May I have a cup of _____? 
May I have a bottle of _____? 
coffee 
khofi
tea (drink
teyi
maize drink 
maheu
water 
madzi
beer (Western) 
mowa
beer (maize)
masese, ucwala
May I have some _____? 
salt 
Nchere
black pepper 
Nsobola
butter 
Excuse me, waiter? (getting attention of server
I'm finished. 
Ndakutha
It was delicious. 
Chakudya chili bwinobwino
Please clear the plates. 
Chotsa Mbale, zikomo
The check, please. 

Bars

Do you serve alcohol? 
Do you serve alcohol? (...)
Is there table service? 
Is there table service? (...)
A beer/two beers, please. 
Mowa imodzi/mowa ziwiri, zikomo.
A glass of red/white wine, please. 
A glass of red/white wine, please. (...)
A pint, please. 
A pint, please. (...)
A bottle, please. 
A bottle, please. (...)
_____ (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? 
When is closing time? (...)

Shopping

Do you have this in my size? 
Do you have this in my size? (...)Alipo size wanga
How much is this? 
Agula bwanji
That's too expensive. 
Akudula zambiri
Would you take _____? 
Would you take _____? (...)Mumata kutenga
expensive 
Wo gonitsa
cheap 
cheap (...)
I can't afford it. 
Akudula zambiri - ndilibe ndarama
I don't want it. 
Sindiri kufuna
You're cheating me. 
Unama. (...)
I'm not interested. 
I'm not interested. (..) Sindikufuna
OK, I'll take it. 
Chabwino, Ndidza chigula
Can I have a bag? 
Can I have a bag? (...)
Do you ship (overseas)? 
mumatumiza kwinakwache
I need... 
ndirikufuna
...toothpaste. 
...toothpaste. (...)
...a toothbrush. 
...a toothbrush. (...)
...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 wa mimba
...a razor. 
...a razor. (...)
...an umbrella. 
...an umbrella. (...)
...sunblock lotion. 
...sunblock lotion. (...)mankhwala wadzuwa
...a postcard. 
...a postcard. (...)
...postage stamps. 
...postage stamps. (...)
...batteries. 
...batteries. (...)
...writing paper. 
...writing paper. (...)kalata wolembera
...a pen. 
...a pen. (...)
...English-language books. 
Buku zo nena achizungu
...English-language magazines. 
...English-language magazines. (...)
...an English-language newspaper. 
...an English-language newspaper. (...)
...an English-English dictionary. 
Buku wa mao achizungu

Driving

I want to rent a car. 
I want to rent a car. (...)
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

I haven't done anything wrong. 
I haven't done anything wrong. (...)
It was a misunderstanding. 
It was a misunderstanding. (...)
Where are you taking me? 
Where are you taking me? (...)
Am I under arrest? 
Am I under arrest? (...)
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? (...)

Useful Words

Katundu 
“stuff”, “luggage” or “baggage”

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