Quick guide to Swahili Greetings
Swahili is the 7th most widely spoken languages in the world, with 100 million speakers. It is Kenyas national language alongside English and here is the roughest of all guides you will ever read on this site.
Swahili is a vast language of East coast of Africa, that stretches from the South of Somalia to the North of Mozambique, via the islands of Pate, Lamu, Pemba, Zanzibar and Mafia. Swahili also extends inland to Uganda, Congo, Burundi, Zambia and Malawi.
For those trying out Swahili for the first time, worry not for it is one of the easiest African languages to learn as doesn’t contain any unpronounceable sounds.
Swahili has only 5 vowels pronounced as below:
A, E, I, O, U .
A, a [a] pronounced like the “A” in FAR.
E ,e [e] pronounced like the “E” in BED,EGGI ,
i [i] pronounced like the “I” in KIT, SICKO ,
o [o] pronounced like the “O” in OFF,ODD.U ,
u [u] pronounced like the “OO” in TOO, COOL.
98% of the people you find in Diani speak swahili and it is great to learn a few useful words whenever you are in Diani or anywhere else in East Africa. As a matter of fact, the people along Diani Beach and the greater Mombasa area are native speakers of swahili. Therefore, Diani Beach is one of the best places to learn swahili in its purest form.
We will start with a few basic words, just remember to pronounce the vowels correctly as shown above and the consonants as you do in English.
The two basic kinds of greeting are based on habari, “news”, and jambo, “matter”.
Habari bwana —————- hello sir
habari, bibi ——————– hello madam
The standard reply to habari is:
mzuri —————————-I’m fine
habari yako, bwana? ————-hello, sir?
mzuri —————————— fine
mzuri, tu ————————— just fine (tu means just)
mzuri sana———————— very fine (sana means very)
Jambo would be loosely translated to “howdy”.
However, Jambo greetings change according to gender and number of persons as follows.
hujambo, bwana ———————— hello, sir?
sijambo, bibi —————————- I’m fine, madam
Greetings to more than one person
hamjambo ——————– hello
hatujambo ————————— we’re fine, madam
For tourists the shortened form is commonly used so just say JAMBO to everyone and they will happily say Jambo right back at you.
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