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Swahili (KiSwahili) For Travelers

Useful Swahili Words for Travelers to East Africa

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Basic Swahili (Kiswahili) for travelers to Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Learn some Swahili (Kiswahili) and traveling in East Africa will be even more rewarding. Greetings, numbers, animals, transport and other basic phrases are covered in this article about Swahili.

To find out more about the origins of Swahili, where Swahili is spoken, Swahili online courses, language schools and more; click here.

Pronunciation

Swahili is blessedly simple as far as pronunciation is concerned because every letter is sounded out. For an accurate guide to pronunciation including audio examples, see Yale's Kamusi Project Web site.

Basic Swahili Phrases for Travelers

While many East Africans speak some English or French, knowing a few words of Swahili will really help you out in the more rural areas and along the coast. Since Swahili is a second language to most East Africans, they'll understand a little broken Swahili, and they'll certainly appreciate your efforts.

Greetings


Greetings are important in East Africa and you don't launch into a conversation or even ask a question without first saying "hello, how are you?".
  • Hello = Jambo / hujambo / Salama
  • How are you? = Habari gani
  • Fine (response) = Nzuri
  • Goodbye = Kwa heri / Kwa herini (more than one peson)
  • See You Later = Tutaonana
  • Nice to meet you = Nafurahi kukuona
  • Goodnight = Lala salama

Civilities

  • Yes = Ndiyo
  • No = Hapana
  • Thank you = Asante
  • Thank you very much = Asante sana
  • Please = Tafadhali
  • OK = Sawa
  • Excuse me = Samahani
  • You're Welcome = Starehe
  • Can you help me? = Tafadhali, naomba msaada
  • What is your name? = Jina lako nani?
  • My name is = Jina langu ni ...
  • Where are you from? = Unatoka wapi?
  • I'm from .. = Natokea ...
  • May I take a picture? = Naomba kupiga picha
  • Do you speak English? = Unasema kiingereza?
  • Do you speak Swahili? = Unasema Kiswahili?
  • Just a little bit = Kidogo tu!
  • How do you say in Swahili? = Unasemaje ... kwa Kiswahili
  • I don't understand = Sielewi
  • Friend = Rafiki

Getting Around

  • Where is the ... = ni wapi ...
  • Airport = uwanja wa ndege
  • Bus station = stesheni ya basi
  • Bus stop = bas stendi
  • Taxi stand = stendi ya teksi
  • Train Station = stesheni ya treni
  • Bank = benki
  • Market = soko
  • Police station = kituo cha polisi
  • Post Office = posta
  • Tourist Office = ofisi ya watali
  • Toilet/bathroom = choo

  • What time is the ... leaving? = inaondoka saa ... ngapi?
  • Bus = basi
  • Minibus = matatu (Kenya); dalla dalla (Tanzania)
  • Plane = ndege
  • Train = treni/gari la moshi

  • Is there a bus going to ...? = Kuna basi ya ...?
  • I'd like to buy a ticket = Nataka kununua tikiti
  • Is it near = Ni karibu?
  • Is it far = Ni mbali
  • There = huko
  • Over there = pale
  • Ticket = tikiti
  • Where are you going? = Unakwenda wapi?
  • How much is the fare? = Nauli ni kiasi gani?

  • Hotel = hoteli
  • Room = chumba
  • Reservation = akiba
  • Are there any vacancies for tonight? = Mna nafasi leo usiko? (Kenya: Iko nafasi leo usiku?)
  • No vacancies = Hamna nafasi. (Kenya: Hakuna nafasi)
  • How much is it per night? = ni bei gani kwa usiku?
  • Mosquito net = chandalua

Days and Numbers

  • Today = leo
  • Tomorrow = kesho
  • Yesterday = jana
  • Now = sasa
  • Later = baadaye
  • Every day = kila siku

  • Monday = Jumatatu
  • Tuesday = Jumanne
  • Wednesday = Jumatano
  • Thursday = Alhamisi
  • Friday = Ijumaa
  • Saturday = Jumamosi
  • Sunday = Jumapili

  • 1 = moja
  • 2 = mbili
  • 3 = tatu
  • 4 = nne
  • 5 = tano
  • 6 = sita
  • 7 = saba
  • 8 = nane
  • 9 = tisa
  • 10 = kumi
  • 11 = kumi na moja (ten and one)
  • 12 = kumi na mbili (ten and two)
  • 20 = ishirini
  • 21 = ishirni na moja (twenty and one)
  • 30 = thelathini
  • 40 = arobaini
  • 50 = hamsini
  • 60 = sitini
  • 70 = sabini
  • 80 = themanini
  • 90 = tisini
  • 100 = mia
  • 200 = mia mbili
  • 1000 = elfu
  • 100,000 = laki

Food and Drinks

  • I'd like = nataka ...
  • Food = chakula
  • Hot/cold = ya moto/baridi

  • Water = maji
  • Hot water = maji ya moto
  • Drinking water = maji ya kunywa
  • Soda (soft drinks) = soda
  • Beer = bia
  • Milk = maziwa

  • Meat = nyama
  • Chicken = nyama kuku
  • Fish = sumaki
  • Beef = nyama ng'ombe
  • Fruit = matunda
  • Vegetables = mboga

Health

  • Where can I find a ... = Naweza kupata ... wapi?
  • Doctor = daktari/mganga
  • Hospital = hospitali
  • Medical Center = matibabu

  • I'm sick = mimi ni mgonjwa
  • I need a doctor = nataka kuona daktari
  • It hurts here = naumwa hapa
  • Fever = homa
  • Malaria = melaria
  • Headache = umwa kichwa
  • Diarrhoea = harisha/endesha
  • Vomiting = tapika
  • Medicine = dawa

Animals

When you're on safari in East Africa many of the guides and trackers will speak Swahili.

  • Animal = wanyama
  • Buffalo = Nyati / Mbogo
  • Cheetah = Duma / Chita
  • Cow = N'gombe
  • Elephant = Tembo / Ndovuh
  • Giraffe = Twiga
  • Goat = Mbuzi
  • Hippo = Kiboko
  • Hyena = Fisi
  • Leopard = Chui
  • Lion = Simba
  • Rhino = Kifaru
  • Warthog = Ngiri
  • Wildebeest = Nyumbu
  • Zebra = Punda milia

To find out more about the origins of Swahili, where Swahili is spoken, Swahili online courses, language schools and more; click here.

Sources

  1. About.com
  2. Travel
  3. Africa Travel
  4. African Culture and People
  5. African Languages
  6. Swahili Basics for Travelers - Useful Phrases

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