Going to Tanzania/Uganda without some basic Swahili written down if not learnt, will definitely affect your experience out there. I learnt some Swahili from You Tube before going to Tanzania which proved to be extremely useful. Swahili is easy to learn as the spelling is phonetic, you can therefore write down a few phrases to take with you without having to worry about getting to grips with the pronunciation. Not only will basic Swahili make you feel more confident on your travels, but the locals will be delighted to hear you speak Swahili, and haggling in Swahili is beneficial for the budget.

When I first began to learn Swahili, I used some great You Tube videos by a brilliant man called Kulmansam. He has produced a series of videos, from greetings to telling the time to getting directions- the first one can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNIGPJPSePo

Here are some Swahili words/phrases I learnt for Tanzania:

Hello- Jambo Reply- Sijambo

Hello to an elder- Shikamoo

Hello to a large group- Hamjambo

How are things?- Habari?

Very good- Nzuri Sana

And you?- Na wewe?

What’s up?- Mambo Reply- Safi, Fresh or Poa

Thank you- Asante

Thank you very much- Asante sana

Welcome- Karibu

We shall meet again- Tutaonana

Goodbye- Kwaheri

See you later- Badai

Tomorro- Kesho

Good morning/how is the morning?- Habari za asubuhi?

Good afternoon/how is the afternoon?- Habari za mchana?

Good evening/how is the evening?- Habari za jioni?

Water- Maji

Hot water- Maji moto

Large water- Maji kubwa

Small water- Maji kidogo

A littble bit- Kidogo kidogo

Where?- Wapi?

Tired- Choka

Here- Hapa

Laugh/funny- Cheka

I would like- Naomba

Goodnight- Lala Salama

Sorry- Pole

Yes- Ndio

No- Hapana

Excuse me- Samahani

Do you speak English?- Unasema Kilingereza?

Bread- Mkate

Banana- Ndizi

Fish- Samaki

Tea- Chai

Maybe- Labda

Really?- Kweli?

OK- Sawa

I don’t understand- Sifahamu

Can I stay here?- Naweza kukaa hapa?

Do you have…?- Kuna


These are essential for shopping (haggling) and for other general things such as arranging transport and accommodation. I have put some phonetic spelling in brackets as knowing the numbers really is important.

One- moja

Two- mbili

Three- tatu

Four- nne (unnay)

Five- tano

Six- sita

Seven- saba

Eight- nane (nanay)

Nine- tisa

Ten- Kume (koomee)

Hundred- mia

Thousand- elfu

One thousand five hundred shillings- Elfu moja mia tano shillingi



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