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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Useful Swahili Words

Ethiopian Argument | Thursday, May 15, 2014


To be able to pronounce Swahili words correctly, I strongly recommend the Teach Yourself Swahili CD. You can also check out the Introduction to Kiswahili Language by AbdulGhany Mohammed and Kassim A. Abdullah or the Swahili Pronunciation Guide by Thomas Hinnebusch and Sarah Mirza. Some pronunciation is provided in each section of this page in MP3 format. Just click on the Swahili words. You may have to replay the words in some cases.

Quick Swahili Lessons
Many readers of this page have been asking me where they can have quick Swahili lessons. The Teach Yourself Swahili CD has been prepared exactly to address that need. For those who get a chance to visit Zanzibar, Tanzania, they can have Swahili lessons from the Institute of Kiswahili and Foreign Languages of the State University of Zanzibar. Follow the link for more information. Various universities in North America, Europe, and Asia, also offer such lessons. You may locate through the Internet the one that is closest to you. 

Swahili Basics
Swahili is one of the easiest languages to learn. Here are a few basic things to know about Swahili:
Swahili verbs always carry with them the subject (and sometimes the object) and the tense. For example, Ninakula, is a complete sentence which means "I am eating". Ni- prefix stands for the subject "I", the -na- affix stands for "am" showing the tense i.e. the "present continuous" tense, and -kula is the root of the verb "eat".
Another example, Alitupa zawadi which means "He/She gave us gifts". First of all note that in the Swahili language, the pronouns are the same for all the genders - he, him, she, and her are not distinguishable in Swahili - same words, prefixes, affixes and suffixes are used. The well sought after "gender equality" is in-built in the Swahili language!! Now back to the sentence. The prefix A- stands for the subject "He" or "She", the -li- affix indicates the past tense, the -tu- affix stands for the object "us", and -pa is the root of the verb "give".
More examples:

Nilikula - I ate
Nimekula - I have eaten
Ninakula - I am eating
Nitakula - I will eat
If you have any comments or questions, I'd be pleased to receive them at: hassan@magma.ca

Between peers: "Habari!" and the greeted answers, "Nzuri!".
Between peers: "Hujambo?" (Are you fine?) and the greeted answers, "Sijambo!" (I'm fine!)
Young to older: "Shikamoo!" (originally it meant "I touch your feet" as a sign of respect) and the greeted answers, "Marahabaa!" (I acknowledge your respect!).

Personal Pronouns
English Swahili
I Mimi
We Sisi
You (singular) Wewe
You (plural) nyinyi
He Yeye
She Yeye
They Wao
Common Dialogue
Sentence/Phrase Response
Ninaitwa Charles. Wewe unaitwaje?
(My name is Charles. What's your name?)
Ninaitwa Mary. Nimefurahi kukujua.
(My name is Mary. I'm pleased to know you.)
Unazungumza Kiswahili?
(Do you speak Swahili?)
Ndio! Ninazungumza Kiswahili.
(Yes! I speak Swahili.)

Kidogo tu!
(Just a little bit!)

Hapana! Sizungumzi Kiswahili. Ninazungumza Kiingereza tu!
(No! I don't speak Swahili. I only speak English!)
Ninatokea Marekani. Wewe unatokea wapi?
(I'm from the United States of America. Where are you from?)
Ninatokea Japani. Nipo hapa kwa matembezi.
(I'm from Japan. I'm visiting here.)

Ninatokea Uingereza. Nipo hapa kwa kazi.
(I'm from U.K. I'm here on business.)

Ninatokea Ujerumani. Nimekuja kujifunza Kiswahili.
(I'm from Germany. I've come to learn Swahili.)
Kwaheri! Nimefurahi kukutana na wewe.
(Goodbye! I'm pleased to meet you.)
Karibu! Nimefurahi pia kukutana na wewe.
(Goodbye! I'm also pleased to meet you.)

Utapenda kunywa nini?
(What would you like to drink?)
Nitakunywa maji tu. Nina kiu sana!
(I'll just drink water. I'm very thirsty.)

Nitakunywa kahawa bila maziwa.
(I'll drink coffee without milk.)

Nitakunywa chai na maziwa na sukari kidogo.
(I'll drink tea with milk and little sugar.)

Nitakunywa soda. CocaCola, tafadhali.
(I'll drink soda. CocaCola, please.)
Tafadhali niletee chakula moto haraka. Nina njaa sana!
(Please bring me some hot food quickly. I'm very hungry!)
Huu hapa wali, samaki, mbatata, na saladi. Nitakuletea keki baadaye.
(Here is rice, fish, potatoes, and salad. I'll bring you cake later.)

General Words and Phrases
English Swahili
And Na
Bad Mbaya
Bicycle Baiskeli
Bitter Chungu
Car Gari
Cold Baridi
Danger Hatari
Drink (noun) Kinywaji
Drink (verb) Kunywa
Eat Kula
Excuse me! Samahani!
Food Chakula
Friend Rafiki
Good Nzuri
Goodbye! Kwaheri!
Help me, please! Nisaidie, tafadhali!
Here Hapa
Hot Moto
How? Vipi?
I am angry. Nimekasirika.
I am traveling. Ninasafiri.
I am happy. Nimefurahi.
I can speak Swahili. Ninaweza kusema Kiswahili.
I can't speak Swahili. Siwezi kusema Kiswahili.
I love you! Ninakupenda!
Motorcycle Pikipiki
No! Hapana!
OK! Sawa!
Please Tafadhali
Sorry! (apologize) Samahani!
Sorry! (sympathize) Pole!
Sweet Tamu
Thank you! Asante!
Thank you very much! Asante sana!
There Pale
Very Sana
Water Maji
Welcome! Karibu!
What? Nini?
When? Wakati gani?
Where? Wapi?
Where are you going to? Unakwenda wapi?
Which? Ipi?
Yes! Ndio!
Days of the Week
In Swahili, Saturday is the first day of the week. The sixth day of the week, Thursday, is mostly pronounced  as "Alkhamisi" to match the way it is pronounced in its Arabic origin. Thursday and Friday both are of Arabic origin. They probably replaced the original Bantu names of those days due to their special place in the Islamic religion. Note that in Arabic, "Alkhamis" means the fifth day of the Arabic week while Thursday is actually the sixth day of the Swahili week! Sort of we ended up with two fifth days of the week: "Jumatano" and "Alkhamisi"!
English Swahili
Saturday Jumamosi (literally: first day of the week)
Sunday Jumapili (literally: second day of the week)
Monday Jumatatu (literally: third day of the week)
Tuesday Jumanne (literally: fourth day of the week)
Wednesday Jumatano (literally: fifth day of the week)
Thursday Alhamisi (Arabic: fifth day of the week)
Friday Ijumaa (Arabic: the day of congregational prayer)

English Swahili English Swahili
1 Moja 40 Arubaini
2 Mbili 
50 Hamsini
3 Tatu 55 Hamsini na tano
4 Nne 
60 Sitini
5 Tano 
70 Sabini
6 Sita 
80 Thamanini
7 Saba 
90 Tisini
8 Nane 100 Mia
9 Tisa 136 Mia moja thalathini na sita
10 Kumi 999 Mia tisa tisini na tisa
11 Kumi na moja 1000 Elfu
12 Kumi na mbili 1997 Elfu moja mia tisa tisini na saba
17 Kumi na saba Half Nusu
20 Ishirini Two and a half Mbili na nusu
24 Ishirini na nne Quarter Robo
30 Thalathini Forty seven and three quarters Arubaini na saba na robo tatu
It is interesting to note that in the Swahili culture the day starts at sunrise (unlike in the Arab world where the day starts at sunset, and in the Western world where the day starts at midnight). Sunrise in East Africa, being exactly at the Equator, happens every day at approximately 6:00 a.m. And for that reason, 6:00 a.m. is "0:00 morning" Swahili time. By "Swahili time" I mean the time as spoken in Swahili.
So the hands of a watch or clock meant to read Swahili time would always point to a number opposite to the number for the actual time as spoken in English. That is, the Swahili time anywhere in the world (not just East Africa) is delayed by 6 hours.
Therefore 7:00 a.m. is "1:00 morning"  (saa moja asubuhi) Swahili time; midnight is "6:00 night"  (saa sita usiku) Swahili time. 5:00 a.m. is "11:00 early morning" (saa kumi na moja alfajiri) Swahili time.
Note also that the Swahili time doesn't use "noon" as the reference as in a.m. (before noon) and p.m. (after noon). The time is spoken using  "alfajiri" which is the early morning time during which the morning light has started to shine but the sun has not risen yet; "asubuhi" which is the morning time between sunrise and a little before noon; "mchana" which is from around noon to around 3:00 p.m.; "alasiri" which is from around 3:00 p.m. to sunset;  "jioni" which is the entire time period from around 3:00 p.m. up to a little before 7:00 p.m.; and  "usiku" which is the entire time period from around 7:00 p.m. to early morning.

English Swahili
Time Saa
Hour Saa
Watch/Clock Saa
Morning Asubuhi
Evening Jioni/Usiku
Afternoon Mchana
Late afternoon Alasiri/Jioni
Dusk Magharibi
Night Usiku
Late night Usiku wa manane
Early morning Alfajiri
What time is it? Saa ngapi?
8 o'clock in the morning Saa mbili kamili asubuhi
8 o'clock sharp Saa mbili barabara
Noon Saa sita mchana
4:25 p.m. Saa kumi na dakika ishirini na tano alasiri
6:00 p.m. Saa kumi na mbili kamili jioni
8:15 p.m. Saa mbili na robo usiku
7:45 p.m. Saa mbili kasorobo usiku
9:30 a.m. Saa tatu unusu asubuhi (also: Saa tatu na nusu asubuhi)
Now Sasa
Today Leo
Yesterday Jana
Tomorrow Kesho
Day before yesterday Juzi
Day after tomorrow Kesho-kutwa
Day Siku
Week Wiki
Month Mwezi
Year Mwaka
Century Karne


English Picture Swahili
Baboon  Nyani
Bird(s) Ndege
Buffalo  Nyati
Cat  Paka
Cheetah  Duma
Chimpanzee  Sokwe
Cow/Ox Ng'ombe
Deer Paa
Dog  Mbwa
Donkey  Punda
Elephant  Tembo/Ndovu
Giraffe  Twiga
Goat  Mbuzi
Hippopotamus Kiboko
Hyena  Fisi
Impala Swala
Leopard  Chui
Lion  Simba
Monkey  Kima
Ostrich  Mbuni
Peacock  Tausi
Pig  Nguruwe
Python  Chatu
Rhinoceros  Kifaru
Sheep Kondoo
Snake  Nyoka
Warthog  Ngiri
Wild  Boar Nguruwe-mwitu
Wild Dog Mbwa-mwitu
Zebra  Punda-milia

Copyright © 1995-2004 Hassan O. Ali.
Source: http://www.glcom.com/hassan/swahili.html

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