Swahili is a really beautiful language – it’s musical and just fun to listen to. I’ve learned a few words and can converse in Swahili for the first 10 seconds and last 5 seconds of a conversation. The language tells you a lot about their culture as well. For example, there are a bunch of variations of hello depending on age as Africans are very conscious about respecting their elders. P.S. keep in mind that the spelling of these words is probably inaccurate. I’ve just been learning Swahili by listening, so these are just phonetically spelled.

Mambo: to a young child

Abari: essentially “how are you” to someone your own age or younger

Shkamo: to someone older than you (I’ve noticed older people say it to Dr. Koshuma as well, so it does not have to be necessarily about age)

There’s also a different, appropriate word to say back when greeting someone. So when I talk to someone, it sometimes feels like getting quizzed. When they say a greeting, do I give the right response? It’s harder than it seems because I’m so used to just repeating the word back to say hello. For example if someone says hello to you, you just say hello back in English. But here are the appropriate responses:

Mambo – Poa

Abari – Zuri (means “good”)

Shkamo – Marahaba

To get advanced, you can add times to these greetings as well.

Abari a sabooyhi (morning)

Abari a mchana (afternoon)

Abari a jioni (evening)

Some random food terms:

Parachichi = avocado

Mahendi = corn

Coocoo = chicken

Tikitiki = watermelon

Some medical terms:

Una umwa wapi? = Where does it hurt?

Umwa = pain

Wapi = where

Keechwa = head

Macho = eyes

Mafua = runny nose

Mgongo = back

Tumbo = stomach

Harisha = diarrhea

Tapika = vomiting

Omha = fever

Baridi = cold

Humna = not (so humna malaria = you don’t have malaria)

Pikipiki = motorcycle (this tells you how many road accident wounds I’ve seen)

To end a conversation:

Ahsante = thank you

Karibu = welcome or you are welcome here

Kwaheri = goodbye

kesho = tomorrow

seekun jaymwa = have a nice day


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