Say it in Swahili

JAMBO – the best greeting in the world.

KiSwahili is Kenya’s national language. It originated on the East African coast, as a trade language used by Arabs and coastal tribes. It’s Arabic for ‘coast’ Sahel and a mix of classical Arabic and Bantu dialects.

It’s the mother tongue of the Swahili people – from the intermarriage of Arab and African cultures.

 

KiSwahili is spoken throughout Kenya and Tanzania and to some extent in regions of Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Congo and Zambia, making it the most widely spoken African language.
In Kenya, most people generally speak a tribal language at home, use Swahili as an everyday language, and English for business.
KiSwahili is quite simple – it’s highly phonetic with a rigid grammar. The only difficulty in learning Swahili comes from the extensive use of prefixes, suffixes and infixes, and a class system for nouns.

 

Coastal Swahili is the most pure. The Island of Zanzibar is considered the home of the language. The further away from the coast that you travel, the less sophisticated the language generally becomes, and grammar is slightly more flexible. Nairobi has now become the home of Sheng, a fashionable Creole of Swahili, Kikuyu, English and slang.
Heriateg Hotels runs two coastal retreats in Lamu Island and Mombasa.

 

Here’s a quick lesson in Kiswahili for your next holiday

 

Greetings

 

Jambo or Hujambo Hello, good day, how are you?(multi-purpose greeting, means”problems?”)
Jambo or Sijambo (the response)No problems
Habari? How are things? (literally”news?”)
Nzuri Fine, good, terrible
Hodi! Hallo? Anyone in? (said on knocking or entering)
Karibu Come in, enter, welcome (also said on offering something)
Kwaheri/ ni Goodbye to one/ many
Asante/ ni Thank you to one/ many
Sana Very (a common emphasis)
Bwana Mister, the equivalent of monsieur in French
Mama Like French for madame or madamoiselle
Kijana Youth, teenager(pl,vijana)
Mtoto Child, kid (pl,watoto)
Jina lako nani? What’s your name?/ What
Unaitwaje? Are you called?

 

Basics

My name is / I am called Jina langu ni/ Ninaitwa
Where are you from? Unatoka wapi?
Where are you staying? Unakaa wapi
I am from Ninatoka
I am staying (at / in). Ninakaa
See you Tutaonana ( Lit. “We shall meet”)
Yes Ndiyo (Lit. it is so)
No Hapana
I don’t understand Sifahamu / Sielewi
I don’t speak Swahili but Sisemi Kiswahili, lakini
How so you say in Swahili? Unasemaje na Kiswahili
Could you repeat that? Sema tena (Lit. speak again)
Speak slowly Sema pole pole
I don’t know Sijui
Where? Wapi?
Here Hapa
When? Lini?
Now Sasa
Soon Sasa hivi
Why? Kwa nini?
Because Kwa sababu
Who? Nani?
What? Nini?
Which? Gani?
True kweli
And/with na
Or au
(It) is (they) are Ni (a useful connector when youcant think of any)
Isn’t it? Siyo?
I’m British / American / German / French / Italian Mimi Mwingereza / Mwamerika / Mdachi / Mfaransa / Mwitaliano

Daily Needs

 

Where can I stay? Naweza Kukaa wapi?
Can I stay here? Naweza kukaa hapa?
Room/s Chumba/vyumba
Bed/s Kitanda/vitanda
Chair/s Kiti/viti
Table/s Meza
Toilet, bathroom Choo, bafu
Washing water Maji ya kuosha
Hot/cold water Maji moto/baridi
I’m hungry Ninasikia njaa
I’m thirsty Nina kiu
Is there any? Iko… or Kuna?…
Yes there is… Iko…or kuna…
No there isn’t any Hakuna
How much? Ngapi?
money Pesa
What price? Bei gani?
How much does it cost? Pesa Ngapi?
I want… Nataka
I don’t want Sitaki
Give me/Bring me(can I have?) Nipe/Niletee
Again Tena
Enough Tosha/basi
Expensive Ghali/sana
Cheap(also”easy”) Rahisi
Fifty cents Sumni
Reduce the price, come down a little Punguza kidogo
Shop Duka
Bank Benki
Post office Posta
Café, restaurant Hoteli
Telephone Simu
Cigarettes Sigara
I’m ill Mimi mgonjwa
Doctor Daktari
Hospital Hospitali
Police Polisi

 
Travel and Directions

Bus/es Bas,basi / mabasi
Car /s, Vehicle/ s Gari/ Magari
Taxi Teksi
Bicycle Baiskeli
Train Treni
Plane Ndege
Boat / Ship Chombo / Meli
Petrol Petroli
Road, path Njia/ ndia
Highway Barabara
On foot/ Walking Kwa miguu
When does it leave Inaondoka lini?
When will you arrive? Tutafika lini?
Slowly Polo pole
Fast, quickly Haraka
Wait! / hang on a moment! Ngoja!/ ngoja kidogo!
Stop! Simama!
Where are you going Unaenda wapi
To where? Mpaka wapi?
From where? Kutoka wapi?
How many kilometers? Kilometa ngapi?
I’m going to Naenda
Move along, squeeze up a little Songa!/ songa kidogo!
Let’s go, carry on Twende, endelea
Straight ahead Moja kwa moja
Right Kulia
Left Kushoto
Up Juu
Down Chini
I want to get off here Nataka kushuka hapa
The car has broken down Gari imearibika

 
Time, calendar, days and numbers

What time is it? Saa ngapi
Four o’clock Saa nne
Quarter past Na robo
Half past Na nusu
Quarter to Kasa robo
Minutes Dakika
Early Mapema
Yesterday Jana
Today Leo
Tomorrow Kesho
Day time Mchana
Night time Usiku
Dawn Alfagiri
Morning Asubuhi
Last/ this/ next week Wiki iliopita/ hii/ ijayo
This year Mwaka huu
This month Mwezi huu
Monday Jumatatu
Tuesday Jumanne
Wednesday Jumatano
Thursday Alhamisi
Friday Ijumaa
Saturday Jumamosi
Sunday Jumapili
1 Moja
2 Mbili
3 Tatu
4 Nne
5 Tano
6 Sita
7 Saba
8 Nane
9 Tisa
10 Kumi
11 Kumi na moja
12 Kumi na mbili
20 Ishirini
21 Ishirini na moja
30 Thelathini
40 Arobaini
50 Hamsini
60 Sitini
70 Sabini
80 Themanini
90 Tisini
100 Mia moja
121 Mia moja na ishirini na moja
1000 Elfu

Lookout!

Danger! Hatari!
Warning! Angalia!/ Onyo!
Fierce dog! Mbwa mkali!
No entry! Hakuna njia!

Wordsmart

Good -zuri(with a prefix at the front)
Bad -baya(ditto)
Big -kubwa
Small -dogo
A lot of -ingi
Other/ Another Ingine
Not bad Si mbaya
Ok, right, fine Sawa
Fine, cool Safi
Completely Kabisa
Just, only Tu(kitanda kimoja tu-just ona bed)
Thing/ s Kitu/ vitu
Problems, hassles Wasiwasi, matata
No problem Hakuna wasiwasi/ Hakuna matata
Friend Rafiki
Sorry, pardon Samahani
It’s nothing Si kitu
Excuse me (let me through) Hebu
What’s up? Namna gani?
If God wills it Inshallah (heard often on the coast)
Please Tafadhali
Take a picture of me! Piga picha mimi!
Help the poor! Saidia maskini!

 

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