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Swahili for beginners - Jambo and Kwaheri

A beginners guide to Swahili. Get to know the basics to give yourself a head start.

Ben

Ben

Africa Specialist
Published on

06 Oct 2017

Updated on

18 Jun 2020

Kibera Children

Swahili is the most widely spoken language in sub-Saharan Africa, and is the official language in Tanzania and Kenya. Don’t Panic, English is widely spoken in both of these areas however we do recommend learning a few key phrases to enhance your experience in Africa, you’ll get both respect and a broad grin…

Here is some Swahili for beginners, but you may already know more that you realise……..

Hakuna Matata

It’s not just a song performed by a cartoon Meercat, from Disney’s The Lion King …. Hakuna Matata is in fact a real Swahili expression which means no worries/no problems. Simba translates to Lion and Rafiki to friend!


Some additional phrases that make us chuckle - Say them out aloud and you’ll should be able to work them out…

Baisikeli

Computa

Keepilefti - often seen at traffic circles/roundabouts

Kirurumu Ngorongoro Pakulala Camp People
Kirurumu Ngorongoro Pakulala Camp

Saying Hello is a must in Eastern Africa, always start an interaction with a friendly Jambo. Some additional basics include:

Jambo……………………….Hello Ndio…………………….Yes

Karibu………………….......Welcome Hapana…………………No

Safari………………………..Journey Tafadhali…………….Please

Samahani………………...Excuse me

Another important one to remember is Chakula, which means food, if someone announces it then we recommend following that voice!

Gibbs Farm Buffet
Gibbs Farm Buffet
Chem Chem Lodge Light Lunch
Chem Chem Lodge Lunch

And when the bar opens….

Tanda Tula Drinks Stop On Game Drive
Tanda Tula Lodge Game Drive

Remember the essentials....

Beer……........….Bia Wine……........…Mvinyo

Water…........….Maji Cheers….......….Afya


Don’t forget the wildlife……

Grumeti River Camp Lion Image
Grumeti River Camp Lion
Little Chem Chem Game Drive
Little Chem Chem Game Drive

Whilst on Safari, the important ones are:

Lion…………....Simba Giraffe………...Twiga

Rhino……..…...Kifaru Hippo………....Kiboko

Elephant….......Tembo Zebra……….....Punda Milia


Some nice phrases to know….

Shikamo literally means “I hold your feet” which is a respectful greeting used for your elders.

Pole means ‘I am sorry for your misfortune’ and can be used for everything from tripping over to sneezing!

Sijui, said with a shrug of the shoulders, means ‘I don’t know’.

Pole pole which means ‘slowly slowly’, everything is pole pole in Africa, a much better pace of life.


And when it is time to go home....

Kwando Lebala Sunset Reflection
Image provided by Kwando Lebala

Goodbye…………………..Kwaheri

Thank you………………...Asante

Thank you very much…..Asante Sana

Hopefully this mini lesson in Swahili will give you a little taster of whats to come on your travels to Africa, I have been practissing hard and cant wait to use what I have learnt on next months trip to Tanzania.

Happy travels everyone!


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  • Marc

    Marc

    Tanzania Specialist

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