Swahili – The Language of East Africa


Some of you might wonder now.. what kind of greeting is this? – It is Swahili, a Bantu language which is spoken in most parts of East Africa.

So today we want to teach you some important vocabularies which you might need on your vacation in Tanzania or Kenya.
And of course some general information about the language won’t be missing.

Only around fifteen million people speak Swahili as their mother tongue, but it is the lingua franca for more than a hundred million people in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The name “Swahili” is originally Arabic and means something like “people of the coast”. So you can guess that Swahili has its origin in the coastal areas of East Africa, especially Zanzibar/Tanzania. A lot of vocabulary is derived from Arabic, but also from German, Portuguese, French and English. This is because of the trade between the Arabs and the Africans. And trade was also the reason for the spread of the language.

The language has five vowels, a number of consonants, fifteen noun classes and can be written in Arabic (especially in the past) as well as in Latin script.

Here are some vocabularies / sentences with their translations:

Hamjambo? – How are you? (plural)
Hatujambo. – We are fine.
Hujambo? – How are you? (singular)
Sijambo. – I am fine.
Habari za asubuhi / mchana / jioni? – News of the morning / noon / evening?
Salama / Nzuri. – Good.
Mambo? – Everything good?
Poa. – Everything good/cool.

Jina lako nani? – What is your name?
Jina langu … – My name is …
Umetoka wapi? – Where are you from?
Nimetoka … – I am from …
Mtoto – Child
Mume – Husband
Mke – Wife

Ndiyo. – Yes.
Hapana / Siyo. – No.
Karibu. – Welcome.
Asante. – Danke.
Tafadhali. – Please.

Baadaye. – (See you) later.
Kesho. – (See you) tomorrow.
Usiku mwema. – Good night.

Natafuta mkahawa / hoteli / soko. – I am looking for a restaurant / hotel / market.
… iko wapi? – Where is … ?
Naomba kulipa. – I would like to pay.
Chakula – Food
Kinywaji – Drink
Maji – Water
Chumba – Room
Msala – Bathroom
Choo – Toilet
Pesa – Money
Gari – Car

Tembo – Elephant
Twiga – Giraffe

Simba – Lion
Punda milia – Zebra
Chui – Leopard
Ndege – Bird
Samaki – Fish

We hope you have fun learning. But of course most people in East Africa, especially in the bigger towns and cities, speak English. Some even German or French! So don’t worry and be open to new people and new experiences.

Yours, World Air Travel & Tours


5 thoughts on “Swahili – The Language of East Africa

  1. Pingback: TEST YOUR TRAVEL SKILLS | le touron12

  2. Pingback: Animal Names In Swahili | World Air Travel & Tours

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