- [+] Pronunciation guide
- [+] Phrase list
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.
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".
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"
Other consonantsm 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". 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.
There are no diphthongs in Swahili; however, foreign names and loan words may contain them.
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). Please. Tafadhali. Thank you (very much). Asante (sana). You're welcome. Karibu. Yes. Ndiyo. No. Hapana. 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. Later. 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? Bathroom Bafu Toilet Choo Help! Msaada! 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.
Problem(s)Leave me alone. Uniache! Don't touch me! Usiniguse! I'll call the police. Nitaita polisi! Police! Polisi! Help! Msaada! 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?
NumbersOne. Moja Two. Mbili Three. Tatu Four. Nne Five. Tano Six. Sita Seven. Saba Eight. Nane Nine. Tisa Ten. Kumi Twenty. Ishirini Thirty. Thelathini Forty. Arobaini Fifty. Hamsini Sixty. Sitini Seventy. Sabini Eighty. Themanini Ninety. Tisini One Hundred. Mia moja One Thousand. Elfu moja
Timenow Sasa later Baadaye before Kabla ya after Baada ya morning Asubuhi afternoon Mchana evening Jioni night Usiku 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 Duration dakika_____ minute(s) saa (masaa)_____ hour(s) siku_____ day(s) wiki_____ week(s) mwezi (miezi)_____ month(s) mwaka (miaka)_____ year(s) duration ____ muda how long ____ muda gani Days
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.Saturday Jumamosi Sunday Jumapili Monday Jumatatu Tuesday Jumanne Wednesday Jumatano Thursday Alhamisi Friday Ijumaa Months Month mwezi
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) 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.Season majira summer kiangazi winter majira ya baridi spring majira ya machipuko fall majira ya majani kupukukika Writing time and date
rangigray kijivu green
TransportationBus and train Minibus (Kenya, Uganda) Matatu Minibus (Tanzania) Daladala Passenger Abiria 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 _____?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 ...downtown? Mjini 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? Embassy Ubalozi Consulate Balozi ndogo (but probably better to ask for 'Ubalozi') Where are there a lot of... ...hotels? hoteli ...restaurants? migahawa (singular is 'mgahawa') ...bars? Baa (same in plural) Club Kilabu ...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? street Streeti Highway Barabara Turn left. Pinda kushoto Turn right. Pinda kulia left Kushoto right 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 ____ intersection north Kaskazini south Kusini east Mashariki west Magharibi uphill kwenye mlima downhill Taxi Taxi! Take me to _____, please.
Nipeleke......, tafadhaliHow much does it cost to get to _____?
itakuwa pesa ngapi kunifikisha------?Take me there, please.
Tafadhali nipeleke huko basi:
LodgingDo 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 ...bedsheets? Shuka ...a bathroom? Bath Bafu 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? ...bigger?
bei nafuu?OK, I'll take it.
Sawa basi, nitakichukua.I will stay for _____ night(s).
nitakitumia usiku-----.Can you suggest another hotel? Do you have a safe? (...) ...lockers? 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.