Learn Swahili / Kishwahili

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Do you want to learn Swahili before you go for you vacation to Kenya or any Swahili nation in Africa? this site has some Kiswahili basic s for you.

JAMBO is one of the most common words you will hear spoken throughout Kenya. This is the simplest Swahili greeting, and is often the first word learned by visitors to Kenya. Swahili (locally referred to as KiSwahili) is Kenya's national language.

History of Swahili Language in Kenya

Swahili originated on the East African coast, as a trade language used by both Arabs and coastal tribes. The language incorporated elements of both classical Arabic and Bantu dialects, and became the mother tongue of the Swahili people who themselves rose from the intermarriage of Arab and African cultures.

The word Swahili itself came from the Arabicfor 'coast' Sahel. But the language became a pervasive influence, and a regional lingua franca, becoming widely used throughout Kenya and Tanzania. Today, the language is also used in regions of Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Congo and Zambia, and is the most widely spoken African language. In Kenya, most people generally speak a tribal language at home, use Swahili as an everyday language, and English for business.

Swahili is a relatively simple language, being highly phonetic with a rigid grammar. The only difficulty in learning Swahili comes from the extensive use of prefixes, suffixes and infixes, and a class system for nouns.

Coastal Swahili remains the most pure, and the Island of Zanzibar is considered the home of the language.

The further away from the coast that you travel, the less sophisticated the language generally becomes, and grammar is slightly more flexible. Nairobi has now become the home of Sheng, a fashionable Creole of Swahili, Kikuyu, English and slang.

Still, even a little Swahili goes a long way in Kenya. It is worth learning a little, and most Kenyans are thrilled to hear visitors attempt to use any Swahili at all.

The following guide will let you try out some basic Swahili:


Jambo or Hujambo Hello, good day, how are you? (multy-purpose greeting, means"problems?")

Jambo or Sijambo (the response)No problems

Habari? How are things? (literally"news?")

Nzuri Fine, good, terrible

Hodi! Hellow? Anyone in? (said on knocking or entering)

Karibu Come in, enter, welcome(also said on offering something)

Kwaheri/ ni Goodbye to one/ many

Asante/ ni Thank you to one/ many

Sana Very(acommon emphasis)

Bwana Mister, the equivalent of monsieur in French

Mama Like the French madame or madamoiselle, for adult women

Kijana Youth, teenager(pl,vijana)

Mtoto Child, kid(pl,watoto)

Jina lako nani? What’s your name?/ What

Unaitwaje? Are you called?


My name is / I am called Jina langu ni/ Ninaitwa

Where are you from? Unatoka wapi?

Where are you staying? Unakaa wapi

I am from Ninatoka

I am staying (at / in). Ninakaa

See you Tutaonana ( Lit. "We shall meet")

Yes Ndiyo (Lit. it is so)

No Hapana

I don’t understand Sifahamu / Sielewi

I don’t speak Swahili but Sisemi Kiswahili, lakini

How so you say in Swahili? Unasemaje na Kiswahili

Could you repeat that? Sema tena (Lit. speak again)

Speak slowly Sema pole pole

I don’t know Sijui

Where? Wapi?

Here Hapa

When? Lini?

Now Sasa

Soon Sasa hivi

Why? Kwa nini?

Because Kwa sababu

Who? Nani?

What? Nini?

Which? Gani?

True kweli

And/with na

Or au

(It) is (they) are Ni (a useful connector when you cant think of any)

Isn’t it? Siyo?

I’m British / American / German / French / Italian Mimi Mwingereza / Mwamerika / Mdachi / Mfaransa / Mwitaliano


Where can I stay? Naweza Kukaa wapi?

Can I stay here? Naweza kukaa hapa?

Room/s Chumba/vyumba

Bed/s Kitanda/vitanda

Chair/s Kiti/viti

Table/s Meza

Toilet, bathroom Choo, bafu

Washing water Maji ya kuosha

Hot/cold water Maji moto/baridi

I’m hungry Ninasikia njaa

I’m thirsty Nina kiu

Is there any? Iko… or Kuna?…

Yes there is… Iko…or kuna…

No there isn’t any Hakuna

How much? Ngapi?

money Pesa

What price? Bei gani?

How much does it cost? Pesa Ngapi?

I want… Nataka

I don’t want Sitaki

Give me/Bring me (can I have?) Nipe/Niletee

Again Tena

Enough Tosha/basi

Expensive Ghali/sana

Cheap(also"easy") Rahisi

Fifty cents Sumni

Reduce the price,come down a little Punguza kidogo

Shop Duka

Bank Benki

Post office Posta

Café,restaurant Hoteli

Telephone Simu

Cigarettes Sigara

I’m ill Mimi mgonjwa

Doctor Daktari

Hospital Hospitali

Police Polisi


Bus/es Bas,basi / mabasi

Car /s, Vehicle/ s Gari/ Magari

Taxi Teksi

Bicycle Baiskeli

Train Treni

Plane Ndege

Boat / Ship Chombo / Meli

Petrol Petroli

Road, path Njia/ ndia

Highway Barabara

On foot/ Walking Kwa miguu

When does it leave Inaondoka lini?

When will you arrive? Tutafika lini?

Slowly Polo pole

Fast, quickly Haraka

Wait! / hang on a moment! Ngoja!/ ngoja kidogo!

Stop! Simama!

Where are you going Unaenda wapi

To where? Mpaka wapi?

From where? Kutoka wapi?

How many kilometers? Kilometa ngapi?

I’m going to Naenda

Move along, squeeze up a little Songa!/ songa kidogo!

Let’s go, carry on Twende, endelea

Straight ahead Moja kwa moja

Right Kulia

Left Kushoto

Up Juu

Down Chini

I want to get off here Nataka kushuka hapa

The car has broken down Gari imearibika


What time is it? Saa ngapi

Four o’clock Saa nne

Quarter past Na robo

Half past Na nusu

Quarter to Kasa robo

Minutes Dakika

Early Mapema

Yesterday Jana

Today Leo

Tomorrow Kesho

Day time Mchana

Night time Usiku

Dawn Alfagiri

Morning Asubuhi

Last/ this/ next week Wiki iliopita/ hii/ ijayo

This year Mwaka huu

This month Mwezi huu

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

12 Kumi na mbili

20 Ishirini

21 Ishirini na moja

30 Thelathini

40 Arobaini

50 Hamsini

60 Sitini

70 Sabini

80 Themanini

90 Tisini

100 Mia moja

121 Mia moja na ishirini na moja

1000 Elfu


Danger! Hatari!

Warning! Angalia!/ Onyo!

Fierce dog! Mbwa mkali!

No entry! Hakuna njia!


Good -zuri(with a prefix at the front)

Bad -baya(ditto)

Big -kubwa

Small -dogo

A lot of -ingi

Other/ Another Ingine

Not bad Si mbaya

Ok, right, fine Sawa

Fine, cool Safi

Completely Kabisa

Just, only Tu(kitanda kimoja tu-just ona bed)

Thing/ s Kitu/ vitu

Problems, hassles Wasiwasi, matata

No problem Hakuna wasiwasi/ Hakuna matata

Friend Rafiki

Sorry, pardon Samahani

It’s nothing Si kitu

Excuse me (let me through) Hebu

What’s up? Namna gani?

If God wills it Inshallah (heard often on the coast)

Please Tafadhali

Take a picture of me! Piga picha mimi!

Help the poor! Saidia maskini!

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