Hakuna Matata – Guide to Basic Swahili

Hakuna Matata – Guide to Basic Swahili

When traveling to Kenya it is useful to learn some Swahili (or kiswahili) language. Even though your pronunciation may not be perfect, knowledge of some basic words and sentences will pay off in: making contact with locals (they often really appreciate the effort), bargaining and risky or serious situations. 

So, let’s learn some basic Swahili!!

Jambo!

Hello = Jambo / Salama
How are you? = Habari gani, Habariako
Fine (response) = Nzuri, nzuri sana
Goodbye = Kwa heri / Kwa herini (more than one peson)
See You Later = Tutaonana
Nice to meet you = Nafurahi kukuona
Goodnight = Lala salama
Yes = Ndiyo
No = Hapana
Thank you = Asante
Thank you very much = Asante sana
OK = Sawa

What is your name? = Jina lako nani?
My name is = Jina langu ni …
Where are you from? = Unatoka wapi?
I’ʹm from .. = Natokea …

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Ladies in Kapenguria. ©Bunch of Backpackers.

Hi Rafiki!

May I take a picture? = Naomba kupiga picha
Do you speak English? = Unasema kiingereza?
Do you speak Swahili? = Unasema Kiswahili?
Just a little bit = Kidogo tu!
How do you say in Swahili? = Unasemaje … kwa Kiswahili
I don’ʹt understand = Sielewi

Friend = Rafiki
Where is the … = ni wapi …
Bus stop = bas stendi
Taxi stand = stendi ya teksi
Bank = benki
Market = soko
Police station = kituo cha polisi
Post Office = posta
Toilet/bathroom = choo

At the well. Northern Kenya. ©Bunch of Backpackers.
At the well. Northern Kenya. ©Bunch of Backpackers.

Let’s take a matatu!

Bus = basi
Minibus = matatu (Kenya); dalla dalla (Tanzania)
Hotel = hoteli
Room = chumba
Reservation = akiba
Are there any vacancies for tonight? = Mna nafasi leo usiko? (Kenya: Iko nafasi leo usiku?)
Doctor = daktari/mganga

1 = moja
2 = mbili
3 = tatu
4 = nne
5 = tano
6 = sita
7 = saba
8 = nane
9 = tisa
10 = kumi
11 = kumi na moja (ten and one)
12 = kumi na mbili (ten and two)
20 = ishirini
21 = ishirni na moja (twenty and one)
30 = thelathini
40 = arobaini
50 = hamsini
60 = sitini
70 = sabini
80 = themanini
90 = tisini
100 = mia
200 = mia mbili
1000 = elfu
100,000 = laki

Ladies in line. Northern Kenya. ©Bunch of Backpackers.
Ladies in line. Northern Kenya. ©Bunch of Backpackers.

Learn introducing yourself with this video

Use your newly learned basic swahili on your travels to Kenya!

Meet 'travel mastermind' Manouk: a 29-year-old sassy girl from Rotterdam, the Netherlands. With BoB she inspires you to explore the world, meet the unexpected and follow your dreams. Happy travels!

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