Friday, January 19, 2007

Swahili Lessons

In Kenya there are two official languages, English and Swahili. When I first arrived in Nairobi I was surprised to see that the English language is very common here. Nearly everybody in Nairobi speaks English. Many of the signs and billboards are printed in English too. But I also realized that if I really want to live among the people here in Kenya and gain their respect, I will have to learn some Swahili.

While in Nairobi my fellow volunteers and I spent many hours with a native Kenyan by the name of Joram. Joram was our Swahili teacher. He would come knocking at our door each morning to give us an intense two hours or more of Swahili. Swahili, I heard, is supposed to be an "easy language." I can't say that I find it easy, but I have picked up some basics. Two interesting facts about Swahili are that, unlike English, every letter in every word is always pronounced and never made silent and also there are no words to denote "he" or "she." When a Kenyan tries to apply these same rules to English, Americans can get a little confused. Many Kenyas will pronounce every letter in "Wednesday," literally saying, "WED-NES-DAY." Sometimes a Kenyan will also refer to a man as "she" or a woman as "he." But I suppose they should be allow to make a couple mistakes considering that most Kenyans speak better English that American's speak Swahili. There are also words spoken in "sheng" or "slang" which is a combination of both Swahili and English.

Here are some Swahili basics.

Msamiati (MM-SAAM-EE-AH-TEE) - "Vocabulary"

Kiswahili (KEE-SWA-HEE-LEE) - the Swahili language

Habari (HA-BAR-EE) - greeting "How are you?"
Mzuri (MM-ZUREE) - response "Good"

Hodi (HO-DEE) - greeting "May I come in?"
Karibu (CAR-E-BOO) response - "Welcome"

Tafadhali - (TA-FAD-HAAL-EE) - "Please"
Asante (A-SAAN-TAY) - "Thank you"
Jambo (JAAM-BO) - "Hello"
Salama (SA-LAAM-A) - "Peace"
Kwahari (KWAA-HARE-EE) - "Goodbye"
Asubuhi (AS-OO-BOO-HE) - "Morning"
Mchana (MM-CHAAN-AA) - "Afternoon"
Jioni (JEE-O-NAY) - "Evening"
Usiku (OO-SEE-KOO) - "Night"
Leo (LAY-O) - "Today"
Ndiyo (NN-DEE-O) - "Yes"
Hapana (HAA-PAAN-A) - "No"
Bwana (BWAAN-A) - "Man"
Bibi (BEE-BEE) - "Woman"
Matoto (MAA-TO-TO) - "Child"
Baba (BA-BA) - "Father"
Mama (MA-MA) - "Mother"
Dada (DA-DA) - "Sister"
Kaka (KA-KA) - "Brother"
Mzungu (MM-ZOON-GOO) - "white person"
Nyumbani (NEE-OOM-BAAN-EE) - "Home"
Jina (JEE-NA) - "name"
Nchi (NN-CH-EE) - "Country"
Mji (MM-JEE) - "City or Town"
Samba (SH-AAM-BA) - "Farm"
Rafiki (RA-FEE-KEE) - "Friend"
Simba (SIM-BA) - "Lion"
Kitabu (KEE-TA-BOO) - "Book"
Shule (SHOO-LAY) - "School"
Matatu (MA-TAA-TOO) - "Minibus"
Baiskeli (BI-SKELL-EE) - "Bicycle"
Gari (GAR-EE) - "Car"
Gari la Moshi (GAR-EE-LA-MO-SHEE) - "Train"
Chukula (CHAW-KOOL-A) - "Food"
Kinywaji (KEE-NEE-WA-JEE) - "Drink"
Choo (CHOO) - "Toilet"
Pesa (PAY-SAA) - "Money"
Kanisa (KHAN-EE-SA) - "Church"
Mungu (MUN-GOO) - "God"

Sheng (SHANG) - "Slang"

Sasa? (SA-SA) - greeting "Now?"
Fit (FIT) - response "Well"

Mambo? (MAAM-BO) - greeting "Things?"
Poa (PO-A) - response "Cool"

1 comment:

Thistle Stop said...

Hi Tim, thanks for creating a blog to share your experiences. I'm very interested in life in Kenya, as well as Christian life and missions, so I look forward to learning more from your blog. So far, I have only read 'Swahili Lessons', and I have a comment and a question. 1. You forgot the 'h' in shamba. 2. Isn't 'choo' pronounced to rhyme with 'know' rather than 'knew' -- that is, with a 'long O' (which really is a long O doubled and pronounced twice in succession)? Best wishes to you for every blessing. Cheers, Cyndi