We build early learning eco-friendly children's villages and big, bright futures

kiswahili for beginners

fws programs are designed within a local context, for the local community - so we are naturally keen to expand our knowledge in this area and continue to foster local culture. 

A big part of this is taking the time to learn (and practise) the local lingo of the community in which we work. At Kesho Leo children's village, this language is Kiswahili (or Swahili in English) - a Bantu language that is spoken widely throughout East Africa.

So, whether you're an fws volunteer, visitor, supporter, or just plain curious: we've put together the fws Kiswahili Guide for Beginners, to help you get started!

If you have any key Swahili phrases you think deserve a listing, please feel free to email your additions to: website@foodwatershelter.org.au. Asante sana.

Greetings

Tanzanians love greetings, and there is a multitude of ways to greet each other. A short walk to the sokoni (market), and you're bound to be stopped along the way by plenty of friendly locals who are keen for a chat. 

Locals love it when people make the effort to try their language...so don't worry about being laughed at (it's inevitable!) as you test out your newly found Kiswahili pronunciation prowess.

Karibu:
 Welcome
Asante: Thank you (people say thank you all the time and please - tafadhali - is rarely used)
Asante sanaThank you very much

KaribuniWelcome (to two or more people)
AsanteniThank you (to two or more people)
 
Shikamoo: Respectful greetings (said to elders)
Marahaba: I accept and return your respect

Nimefurahi kukutana na weweI'm happy to meet you
Na mimi piaAnd me also

Hodi(Expression used when asking to enter a house or room)

Habari za asubuhiHow is your morning?
Salama: Peaceful / safe

Habari za leoHow is today?
NzuriGood
Nzuri sanaVery good 
Safi sanaGreat

Habari yako: How are things with you?
NzuriGood
 
Mambo / Mambo vipiHow's it going? (Colloquial, said to young people)
Poa, Freshi, SafiCool / Fine
  
Hujambo: How are you?
SijamboI am fine

Hamjambo: How are you? (to two or more people)
HatujamboWe are fine

Useful words & phrases

Pole sana: I feel bad / very sorry for you (it means empathy)
Asante: Thank you
 
NaombaI would like
NatakaI want
NdiyoYes
HapanaNo 
LabdaMaybe
Sitaki asanteI don't want it / no thank you
 
SijuiI don't know
Najua: I know
SielewiI don't understand
NaelewaI understand

Unasema KiswahiliDo you speak Swahili?
Kidogo sanaVery little

ShillingapiHow much?
Ni bei ganiWhat price?
SawaOK
 
SamahaniExcuse me / I'm sorry (when something is your fault)

NaniWho?
NiniWhat?
GaniWhich?
Wapi: Where?
LiniWhen?
Kwa nini: Why?
Kwa sababuBecause

WeweYou
Mimi: Me
YeyeHim/Her
SisiUs

NjooCome!
NinakujaI come / I'm coming
 
Unatoka wapiWhere do you come from?
Ninatoka .......... : I come from .........

Umetoka wapiWhere are you coming from?
Nimetoka shuleI'm coming from school

Unakwenda wapiWhere are you going?
Ninakwenda nyumbaniI'm going home
 
Jina lako nani: What is your name?
Jina langu .......... : My name is ..........

Unafanya niniWhat are you doing?
Ninafanya kaziI am working

Una miaka mingapiHow old are you?
Nina miaka .......... : I'm .......... years old

MzunguForeigner
WazunguForeigners

PolepoleSlowly slowly
kwa harakaIn a hurry

Usiku mwemaGood night
Na wewe piaAnd you also
Lala salamaSleep safely
Ndoto njemaDream well
Tutaonana keshoSee you tomorrow

Hakuna matataNo worries
Hamna shidaNo problem
Hamna tatizoNo problem

Family & people

FamiliaFamily 
Jamaa
Family / relatives 

Mama
Mother
BabaFather
DadaSister
Kaka: Brother
BibiGrandmother
BabuGrandfather
 
MtotoChild
WatotoChildren

MsichanaGirl
MvulanaBoy

MwanamkeWoman
MwanamumeMan

MkeWife
MumeHusband

RafikiFriend 

MwalimuTeacher

MwanafunziStudent

Numbers

MojaOne
MbiliTwo
TatuThree
NneFour
TanoFive
SitaSix
SabaSeven
NaneEight
TisaNine
Kumi: Ten

Ishirini: Twenty 
ThelathiniThirty
ArobainiForty
HamsiniFifty
SitiniSixty
SabiniSeventy
ThemathiniEighty
TisiniNinety

Mia: Hundred
ElfuThousand 
LakiHundred thousand
MilioniMillion

Days and time

LeoToday
KeshoTomorrow
JanaYesterday

Asubuhi: Morning
MchanaNoon
JioniAfternoon
UsikuNight
SikuDay
 
SasaNow
Sasa hiviRight Now
BaadayeLater

SekundeSecond
Dakika: Minute
SaaHour, clock

Saa ngapiWhat's the time?
Sasa ni saa .......... : The time now is ..........

Dakika moja: Just a moment
Subiri kidogoWait a little
 
JumapiliSunday
JumatatuMonday
JumanneTuesday
JumatanoWednesday
AlhamisiThursday
IjumaaFriday
Jumamosi: Saturday

Weather

BaridiCold
JotoHot

JuaSun 
Jua kali
Fierce sun

MvuaRain
Mvua inanyeshaIt's raining
Kuna upepoIt's windy 

Farewells

KwaheriGoodbye
KwaheriniGoodbye all

Tutaonana tenaSee you again
Tutaonana baadayeSee you later

Nimefurahi sana kukufahamu: I'm very happy to know you

Safari njemaGood journey

Sasa tutaendelea kujifunza pamoja!

(Now we'll continue to learn together!)