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Zulu phrasebook

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Zulu is the language of the Zulu people, the majority of them living in South Africa.

Pronunciation guide

Vowels

Zulu vowels are very similar to those found in english. However, Zulu is a tonal language, so the meaning of some words depends on whether you use a high or low pitch. For instance, "Unjani?" with a high tone on the u means "how are you?" whereas a low thone on the u means "How are they?"

Consonants

t like the t in "tea"

k somewhere between a K and a G in English

kh this is a digraph; it is pronounced like a hard k in english, like k in "kick". Not pronounced like "ch" in the Scottish "loch"

h like English h

hh A digraph. this is a voiced h, like "ch" in the Scottish "loch", but softer.

y Like the English y

b Like the English b

Click Consonants

Zulu has three click consonants, represented by "c," "q," and "x" in written Zulu.

c: Click your tongue off the back of your teeth, like a disapproving "Tsk tsk."

x: This sounds like the click made to summon a horse. Click the side of your tongue off your molars, on either or both sides of your mouth.

q: This is the hardest click. It should sound somewhat like a cork being popped from a bottle. Put your tongue on the edge of your hard palate, and pull it of sharply. This will take some practice.

Common diphthongs

Phrase list

Basics

Common signs

OPEN 
CLOSED 
ENTRANCE 
EXIT 
PUSH 
PULL 
TOILET 
MEN 
WOMEN 
FORBIDDEN 


Hello (to one person) 
Sawubona.
Hello (to a group of people) 
Sanibonani.
How are you? (singular 'you') 
Unjani?
How are you? (plural 'you') 
Ninjani?
I'm fine. 
Ngikhona.
We're fine. 
Sikhona.
What's your name? 
Ungubani igama lakho?
My name is _____. 
Igama lami ngingu _____.
Can you help me? 
Ungangisiza?
How much (does it cost)? 
Yimalini?
What's the time? 
Isikhathisini?
Where are you from? 
Uphumaphi?
I come from ___________. 
Ngiphuma _____.
Do you speak English? 
Uyasikhuluma isiNgisi?
Thank you. 
Ngiyabonga.
Stay well / Go well. (used as 'goodbye') 
Sala kahle / Hamba kahle.

Problems

Leave me alone. 
Don't touch me! 
I will call the Police. 
Ngizobiza amaPoyisa. (...)
Police! 
Stop! Thief! 
I need your help. 
It's an emergency. 
I'm lost. 
I lost my bag. 
I lost my wallet. 
I'm sick. 
I need a doctor. 
Can I use your phone? 

Numbers

Numbers in Zulu are quite complex, with all of them acting as adjectives that alter the subsequent word. The numbers listed below are the traditional Zulu numbers, but virtually all Zulu speakers use the English counting system for convenience.

zero 
iqanda
one 
kunye
two 
kubili
three 
kuthathu
four 
kune
five 
isihlanu
six 
isithupha
seven 
isikhombisa
eight 
isishiyagalombili
nine 
isishiyagalolunye
ten 
ishumi
eleven 
ishumi nanye
twelve 
ishumi nambili
thirteen 
ishumi nantathu
fourteen 
ishumi nane
fifteen 
ishumi nesihlanu
sixteen 
ishumi nesithupha
seventeen 
ishumi nesikhombisa
eighteen 
ishumi nesishiyagalombili
nineteen 
ishumi nesishiyagalolunye
twenty 
amashumi amabili
twenty-one 
amashumi amabili nanye
twenty-two 
amashumi amabili nambili
twenty-three 
amashumi amabili nantathu
twenty-four 
amashumi amabili nane
twenty-five 
amashumi amabili nesihlanu
twenty-six 
amashumi amabili nesithupha
twenty-seven 
amashumi amabili nesikhombisa
twenty-eight 
amashumi amabili nesishiyagalombili
twenty-nine 
amashumi amabili nesishiyagalolunye
thirty 
amashumi amathathu
forty 
amashumi amane
fifty 
amashumi amahlanu
sixty 
amashumi ayisithupha
seventy 
amashumi ayisikhombisa
eighty 
amashumi ayisishiyagalombili
ninety 
amashumi ayisishiyagalolunye
hundred 
ikhulu
one hundred one 
ikhulu nanye
one hundred two 
ikhulu nambili
two hundred 
amakhulu amabili
three hundred 
amakhulu amathathu
four hundred 
amakhulu amane
five hundred 
amakhulu amahlanu
six hundred 
amakhulu ayisithupha
seven hundred 
amakhulu ayisikhombisa
eight hundred 
amakhulu ayisishiyagalombili
nine hundred 
amakhulu ayisishiyagalolunye
thousand 
inkulungwane
two thousand 
izinkulungwane ezimbili
three thousand 
izinkulungwane ezintathu
four thousand 
izinkulungwane ezine
five thousand 
izinkulungwane ezinhlanu
six thousand 
izinkulungwane eziyisithupha
seven thousand 
izinkulungwane eziyisikhombisa
eight thousand 
izinkulungwane eziyisishiyagalombili
nine thousand 
izinkulungwane eziyisishiyagalolunye
ten thousand 
izinkulungwane eziyishumi
eleven thousand 
izinkulungwane eziyishumi ezinanye
twelve thousand 
izinkulungwane eziyishumi ezimbili
thirteen thousand 
izinkulungwane eziyishumi ezintathu
fourteen thousand 
izinkulungwane eziyishumi ezine
fifteen thousand 
izinkulungwane eziyishumi ezinhlanu
sixteen thousand 
izinkulungwane eziyishumi eziyisithupha
seventeen thousand 
izinkulungwane eziyishumi eziyisikhombisa
eighteen thousand 
izinkulungwane eziyishumi eziyisishiyagalombili
nineteen thousand 
izinkulungwane eziyishumi eziyisishiyagalolunye
twenty thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamashumi eziamabili
thirty thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamashumi eziamathathu
forty thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamashumi eziamane
fifty thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamashumi eziamahlanu
sixty thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamashumi eziamathupha
seventy thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamashumi eziamakhombisa
eighty thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamashumi eziamaisishiyagalombili
ninety thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamashumi eziamaisishiyagalolunye
hundred thousand 
izinkulungwane eziyikhulu
two hundred thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamakhulu eziamabili
three hundred thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamakhulu eziamathathu
four hundred thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamakhulu eziamane
five hundred thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamakhulu eziamahlanu
six hundred thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamakhulu eziamathupha
seven hundred thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamakhulu eziamakhombisa
eight hundred thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamakhulu eziamaisishiyagalombili
nine hundred thousand 
izinkulungwane eziamakhulu eziamaisishiyagalolunye
one million 
isigidi

Time

now 
(...)
later 
(...)
before 
(...)
morning 
(...)
afternoon 
(...)
evening 
(...)
night 
(...)

Clock time

What time is it? 
(...)
one o'clock (when AM/PM is obvious) 
(...)
two o'clock (when AM/PM is obvious) 
(...)
one o'clock AM 
(...)
two o'clock AM 
(...)
noon 
(...)
one o'clock PM 
(...)
two o'clock PM 
(...)
midnight 
(...)

Duration

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

Days

Monday 
uMsombuluko
Tuesday 
uLwesibili
Wednesday 
uLwesithathu
Thursday 
uLwesine
Friday 
uLwesihlanu
Saturday 
uMgqibelo
Sunday 
iSonto

Months

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

Writing time and date

day 
(...)
week 
(...)
month 
(...)
year 
(...)
century 
(...)
leap year 
(...)
1:00 PM 
(...)
2:00 PM 
(...)

Colors

blue 
luhlaza okwesibhakabhaka
orange 
i-orenji
purple 
iPhephuli
green 
luhlaza
gray 
mpunga
brown 
nsundu
black 
mnyama
white 
mhlophe

Transportation

[English word] - [Zulu word] ([plural Zulu word])

car - imoto (amamoto)

bus - ibhasi (amabhasi)

ship -umkhumbhi (imikhumbhi)

plane - indiza, ibhanoyi (izindiza, amabhanoyi)

motorcycle - ithukathuka (amathukathuka)

train - isitimela (izitimela)

Bus and train

   (ibhasi)  (isitimela) 

Directions

Taxi (itexsi)
Lodging (ihhotela)
Money (iMali)

Eating

Bars

Shopping

Driving

Authority

iphoyisa (amaphoyisa) police


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