Swahili Vocabulary for Everyone: Travel and Learn


swahiliThere’s one thing East Africans will appreciate above all. It’s you not being ignorant and trying to learn some simple Swahili before visiting their countries. You’ll hear it everywhere and probably you’ll be stopped on the streets by their friendly Karibu! (welcome!) like hundred times, so why not learn some simple Swahili vocabulary and respect the local culture?

Swahili is of Bantu languages origin but derives a little bit from Arabic, German, English, Portuguese, Hindi and French. It’s the result of colonial times, a very tough period for Africa and its people. Currently, the language it’s widely spoken in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s also an official language of the African Union. You can read more about Swahili on Wikipedia pages.

Although it’s a quite oriental and original mixture, the language itself is not as difficult as it may seem. Just take a look!

Simple conversations:

·         Karibu – Welcome

·         Asante (sana) – Thank you (very much)

·         Jambo – Hi

·         Mambo – What’s up?

·         Poa – Ok/cool

·         Hakuna matata – No worries

·         Pole – Sorry

·         Habari? – How are you?

·         Nzuri – I’m fine

·         Jina lako nani? – What’s your name?

·         Jina langu ni… – My name’s…

·         Ndiyo – Yes

·         Hapana – No

·         Unasema Kiigereza? – Do you speak English?

·         Sielewi – I don’t understand

·         Lete bili – Please bring the bill

·         Saidia! – Help!

·         Choo kiko wapi? – Where’s the toilet?

·         Naangalia tu – I’m just looking (you may need this one a lot :))

·         Ni bey gani? – How much is it?

·         Ni saa ngapi? – What time is it?

Everyday words
·         kahawa – coffee

·         maji – water

·         bia – beer

·         mvinyo – wine

·         tunda – fruit

·         mboga – vegetable

·         jusi – juice

·         chai – tea

·         nyama – meat

·         ofisi ya watalii – tourist office

·         posta – post office

·         choo – toilet

·         kushoto – left

·         kulia – right

·         rafiki – friend

Do you learn languages when you travel?

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