Hakuna matata, let’s learn Kiswahili!

By Valtteri Nurminen, COCO Volunteer

This is the seventh and second-last blog of our series introducing East African languages. Next week your language skills will be tested as there will be a quiz! Therefore, I encourage all of you to go back to the previous blogs and rehearse Luhya, Luo, Maa, Luganda, Ngoni and Kalenjin.

This week’s language, Kiswahili or Swahili is the largest African indigenous language. While Swahili is a Bantu language, it is not entirely African as Swahili was developed by Arabic traders and it includes many loan words from English.

Swahili is very widespread as it is the official language of Tanzania and Kenya and also widely spoken in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros Islands, Burundi, Rwanda, Zambia, Somalia, Malawi and Mozambique.

In total, there are more than 100 million speakers of Swahili. Furthermore, Swahili is the only African language that is recognised as the official language of the African Union. Swahili is also an important language in trading and politics.

Swahili is actually a language that together with English threatens the existence of various East African local languages – for example, in Tanzania. However, at the same time, Kiswahili is also slowly dying itself because of the growing role of English. This demonstrates the complex interplay between the local languages, Swahili and the colonial languages of English and French.

It is important to acknowledge the importance of Swahili in bringing the various diverse East African cultures together and enabling mutual communication. In the future, Kiswahili has the opportunity to integrate the nations of East Africa more closely as Swahili can help to create a common East African identity and vision.

Swahili is an easy and useful language to learn – arguably, the easiest African language for an English speaker to learn. What’s best is that Swahili is pronounced exactly as it is written. Also, grammar rules are not very complex. The fact that Swahili is spoken in so many countries means that it is a very useful language to learn.

And as it’s so easy to learn... I’m sure you can learn the following words and sayings very quickly!

Hello – Halo

What is your name? – Jina lako nani?

I am/my name is… – Jina langu ni…

How are you? – Habari yako?

Great – Vinzuri

Thanks – Asante

Thank you very much – Asante sana

Yes – Ndiyo

No – Hapana

School – Shule

Football – Mpira

Father – Baba

Mother – Mama

See you – Tutaonana

Goodbye – Kwaheri

No trouble/no worries – Hakuna matata

Big thanks for Epaphras Mgina who provided the translations above. Epa is COCO’s project partner in Tanzania. Epa works at the MCODE Nursery and has contributed enormously to provide the children with a safer environment to live in and a better quality of education. Also, big thanks for Oswin Mahundi who helped with the translations too.

Asante sana for reading this blog! Remember to rehearse all the 7 languages as there will be a quiz next week…



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