Download GPX file for this article

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Swahili (Kiswahili), is an official language of United Republic of Tanzania, Republic of Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda. Swahili speakers can also be found in surrounding countries, such as Burundi, Rwanda, and Mozambique. While Swahili is primarily spoken natively along the coast and islands of Kenya and Tanzania, it is the lingua franca across all of Tanzania, most of Kenya, eastern DRC, and some parts of Uganda, 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 the vast majority of Bantu languages are tonal, and a few like Xhosa and Zulu also incorporate clicks into their phonetics, Swahili does not use clicks or tones, so pronunciation is generally not difficult for English speakers.


Pronunciation guide[edit]

Vowels[edit]

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 "e" in "ten")
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".

There are no diphthongs in Swahili; however, foreign names and loan words may contain them.

Consonants[edit]

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 consonants

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 rolled as it is in Spanish.


Consonant pairings[edit]

ch
like the "ch" in "chat"
ng
like the "ng" in "sing"
ny
like the "ni" in "onion"
gh
officially pronounced similar 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. Sometimes pronounced as a "z" sound depending on the dialect.

Phrase list[edit]

Basics[edit]

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 (to one person)
Hujambo (response: Sijambo)
Hello (to a group)
Hamjambo (response: Hatujambo)
Hello to an older person or authority figure.
Shikamoo (response: Marahaba). Typically only used in traditional settings.
Hello (informal)
Mambo vipi? (How are things?)
Response to informal hello
Mzuri (good), Safi (clean/in order), Poa (cool), Poa kichizi kama ndizi (crazy cool like a banana)
How are you?
Habari yako? (Your news?)
How are you? (alternative)
Ukoje? (response: niko salama)
How are you? (alternative)
U hali gani? (What's your condition?)
How are you today?
Habari za leo?
How are you this morning?
Habari za asubuhi?
How are you this afternoon?
Habari za mchana?
How are you this evening?
Habari za jioni?
How was your journey / trip / safari?
Habari za safari?
Fine, thank you.
Nzuri, asante.
What is your name?
Jina lako nani?
My name is ______ .
Jina langu ______.
Where are you from?
Unatoka wapi?
I am from _______.
Ninatoka _______.
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 (in the sense of "please forgive me for wronging you"; used for major transgressions).
Nasikitika.
Goodbye
Kwaheri.
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 kuongea Kiswahili.
I only speak a little Kiswahili.
Ninaongea Kiswahili kidogo tu.
Do you speak English?
Unaongea 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, but sticking with the root "iko" in this case should still be understood.

Problem(s)[edit]

Leave me alone.
Uniache!
Don't touch me!
Usiniguse!
I'll call the police.
Nitaita polisi!
Police!
Polisi!
Stop, thief!
Simama, mwizi!
I need your help.
Naomba 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.
Nahitaji daktari.
Can I use your phone?
Naomba kutumia simu yako?
No Problem.
Hakuna matata.

Numbers[edit]

One.
Moja
Two.
Mbili
Three.
Tatu
Four.
Nne
Five.
Tano
Six.
Sita
Seven.
Saba
Eight.
Nane
Nine.
Tisa
Ten.
Kumi
Eleven.
Kumi na moja ("Ten and one")
Twenty.
Ishirini
Thirty.
Thelathini
Forty.
Arobaini
Fifty.
Hamsini
Sixty.
Sitini
Seventy.
Sabini
Eighty.
Themanini
Ninety.
Tisini
One Hundred.
Mia moja
One Thousand.
Elfu moja
One Hundred Thousand.
Laki moja
One Million.
Milioni Moja

Time[edit]

now
Sasa
later
Baadaye
before
Kabla ya
after
Baada ya
morning
Asubuhi
afternoon
Mchana
evening
Jioni
night
Usiku

Clock time[edit]

What time is it?
Saa ngapi?

In Swahili, counting the time does not begin from midnight and instead begins from 6:00 AM. As a result, what's literally translated as second hour (saa mbili) refers to 8:00 AM. Time is still split between twelve hour morning and night segments, so to be specific the words for morning or afternoon (asubuhi or mchana) and night (usiku) will be appended when necessary (i.e saa mbili usiku is 8:00 PM).

7:00 AM
saa moja asubuhi (lit. first hour morning)
7:15 AM
saa moja na robo asubuhi (lit. first hour and quarter morning)
7:20 AM
saa moja na dakika ishirini asubuhi (lit. first hour and minutes twenty morning)
7:30 AM
saa moja na nusu asubuhi (lit. first hour and half morning)
7:45 AM
saa mbili kasorobo asubuhi (lit. second hour minus quarter morning)
7:50 AM
saa mbili kasoro dakika kumi asubuhi (lit. second hour minus minutes ten morning)
8:00 AM
saa mbili asubuhi
9:00 AM
saa tatu asubuhi
12:00 PM
saa sita asubuhi
1:00 PM
saa saba mchana
2:00 PM
saa nana mchana
6:00 PM
saa kumi na mblili mchana (lit. twelfth hour afternoon)
7:00 PM
saa moja usiku (lit. first hour night)
8:00 PM
saa mbili usiku
9:00 PM
saa tatu usiku
12:00 AM
saa sita usiku

Duration[edit]

_____ minute(s)
dakika _____
_____ hour(s)
saa (masaa) _____
_____ day(s)
siku _____
_____ week(s)
wiki _____
_____ month(s)
mwezi (miezi) _____
_____ year(s)
mwaka (miaka) _____

Days[edit]

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 "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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

Colors[edit]

black
nyeusi
blue
kibuluu
brown
kahawia
colours
rangi
gray
kijivu
green
kijani
orange
machungwa
pink
waridi
purple
urujuani
red
nyekundu
white
nyeupe
yellow
njano

Transportation[edit]

Bus and train[edit]

Minibus (Kenya, Uganda)
Matatu
Minibus (Tanzania)
Daladala
Passenger
Abiria
How much is a ticket to _____?
Tikiti kuenda ____ pesa ngapi?
One ticket to _____, please.
Naomba tikiti moja kuenda ____.
Where does this train/bus go?
Treni/basi hii inakuenda wapi?
Does this train/bus stop in _____?
Treni/basi itakuenda ____?
When does the train/bus for _____ leave?
Treni/basi itaondoka kwa ____ lini?
When will this train/bus arrive in _____?
Treni/basi itafika _____ lini?

Directions[edit]

How do I get to _____ ?
Je, ninakuenda ____ ?
I want to go to ____
Ninataka kuenda ____
Which direction?
Mwelekeo upi?
...the train station?
stesheni cha treni?
...the bus station?
stesheni cha basi?
...the airport?
uwanja wa ndege?
...downtown?
mjini?
Town center
Katikati ya mjini
...the youth hostel?
hosteli ya vijana?
...the _____ hotel?
hoteli _____ ? (note "hoteli" can also refer to restaurants)
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British embassy?
ubalozi wa Marekani/Canada/Australia/Uingereza
Embassy
Ubalozi
Consulate
Balozi ndogo (but probably better to ask for "Ubalozi")
Where are there a lot of...
Wapi kuna mengi ya ...
...hotels?
hoteli?
...restaurants?
restorenti? (also "migahawa")
...bars?
baa?
...clubs
kilabu?
...sites to see?
maeneo ya kuona?
Can you show me on the map?
Unaweza nionyesha katika ramani? (Note that maps are not widely used or understood. Street names and directions are less frequently used than local landmarks, which you will need to learn for each area. Bus stations, bus stops, hotels, monuments, churches, and other establishments typically 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 _____
ukielekea _____
close to _____
karibu na _____
past the _____
baada ya ____/pita ya _____
before the _____
kabla ya _____
Watch for the _____.
angalia kwa _____.
intersection
kona
north
kaskazini
south
Kusini
east
mashariki
west
magharibi
uphill
juu mlima
downhill
chini mlima
taxi
teksi
Take me to _____, please.
Nipeleke _____, tafadhali.
How much does it cost to get to _____?
Itakuwa pesa ngapi kuenda _____?
Take me there, please.
Nipeleke huko, tafadhali.

Lodging[edit]

Do you have any rooms available?
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...
Chumba kina ...?
...bedsheets?
shuka
...a bathroom?
bafuni
...toilet?
choo (pronounced "cho")
...shower?
bafu ya manyunyu
...a telephone?
simu
...internet?
intaneti
...a TV?
runinga
May I see the room first?
Naweza kukiona chumba kwanza?
Do you have anything quieter?
Kuna nafasi kimya zaidi?
...bigger?
kikubwa?
...cleaner?
kisafi?
...cheaper?
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?
Chakula cha asabuhi ni saa ngapi?:Chakula cha jioni ni saa ngapi?
Please clean my room.
Can you wake me at _____?
I want to check out.
Ninataka kuondoka.

Money[edit]

Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars?
Do you accept British pounds?
Do you accept credit cards?
Can you change money?
Unaweza kubadilia pesa?
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)?

Eating[edit]

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
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
fixed-price meal
a la carte
breakfast
kifungua kinywa / chakula cha asubuhi
lunch
chakula cha mchana
Food
Chakula
tea
chai
supper
chakula cha jioni
I want _____.
Ninataka
I request _____. Naomba _____. (more polite than 'I want', especially in Tanzania)
I want a dish containing _____.
Banana
Ndizi
Goat
Mbuzi
chicken
Kuku
beef
Ng'ombe
fish
Samaki
ham
sausage
cheese
Jibini
Egg/eggs
Yai/Mayai
salad
Saladi
(fresh) vegetables
Mboga (singular), Maboga (plural)
Fresh
freshi
(fresh) fruit
Mtunda (singular), Matunda (plural)
bread
Mkate
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)
beans
Maharage
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')
juice
juisi
(bubbly) water
water
Maji
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
salt
Chumvi
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

Bars[edit]

Do you serve alcohol?
Pombe ipo?
Is there table service?
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.
whiskey
Whiskey
vodka
Vodka
rum
water
Maji
club soda
tonic water
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.
When is closing time?
Saa ya kufunga ni lini?
Cheers!
Maisha marefu

Shopping[edit]

Do you have this in my size?
Kuna hii ya kunitosha?
How much is this?
Pesa ngapi?
That's too expensive.
Ni ghali mno.
Would you take _____?
Utakubali-----
expensive
Ghali
cheap
Rahisi
I can't afford it.
Sina pesa za kutosha
I don't want it.
Sitaki
You're cheating me.
Hii ni bei Mzungu ("this is the foreigner price")
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
...tampons.
...soap.
Sabuni
...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
...sunblock lotion.
...a postcard.
...postage stamps.
stempu
...batteries.
makaa
...writing paper.
Karatasi ya kuandika
...a pen.
Kalamu
...English-language books.
Kitabu cha Kiingereza (singular) / Vitabu vya Kiingereza (plural)
...English-language magazines.
...an English-language newspaper.
Gazeti la Kiingereza
...an English-English dictionary.
Kamusi ya Kiingereza

Driving[edit]

I want to rent a car.
Ninataka kukodi gari.
Can I get insurance?
Ninaweza kupata bima?
stop (on a street sign)
Simama
one way
yield
no parking
Hairuhusiwi kuegesha (parking not permitted)
speed limit
Slow down
Punguza mwendo
gas (petrol) station
Stesheni/stesheni ya mafuta/stesheni ya mafuta ya gari
petrol
Mafuta/mafuta ya gari
diesel

Authority[edit]

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.
Mimi ni... mMarekani/ wa Australia/ wa Uingereza/ mCanada
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?

Country and territory names[edit]

United States
Marekani
Canada
Kanada
Mexico
Meksiko
Brazil
Brazil
United Kingdom
Uingereza
Ireland
Eire, Ayalandi
Russia
Urusi
France
Ufaransa
Netherlands
Uholanzi
Germany
Udachi, Ujerumani
Italy
Italia


Kenya
Kenya
Tanzania
Tanzania
Zanzibar (Tanzanian Island)
Unguja
Uganda
Uganda
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Jamhuri ya Kidemokrasia ya Kongo
South Africa
Afrika Kusini
Nigeria
Nijeria
Ethiopia
Uhabeshi
China
Uchina
Japan
Japani
Singapore
Singapuri
South Korea
Korea Kusini
India
Uhindi
Israel
Uyahudi
Australia
Australia
New Zealand
Nyuzilandi

On safari[edit]

cheetah
duma
elephant
tembo
giraffe
twiga
hippo
kiboko (plural: viboko)
leopard
chui
lion
simba
ostrich
mbuni
snake
nyoka
turtle
warthog
Ngiri
zebra
punda milia


This Swahili phrasebook is a usable article. It explains pronunciation and the bare essentials of travel communication. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.