Welcome to Kiswahili 101.

The “ki” indicates that it is a language, but we drop this in English and simply call it Swahili. It is rumored to be one of the easiest languages to learn in the world… once you overcome the psychological barrier that there are 8 different noun classes, all with their own rules for plurals, agreements, subject and object pronouns, etc. On top of this, word endings change slightly depending on if the word is of Bantu or Arabic origin. But otherwise, it’s simple.

1. Jambo is hello for tourists.

2. Ku indicates an infinitive verb. Or, it is a permanent tag for a monosyllabic verb. Or, it is the subject prefix for an indefinite place. Or, it is the tense marker for the negative past tense. Or, it is the object infix for second person singular. (An example: kukukumbuka = to remember you.) And if you say it alone twice – kuku – then you are talking about chicken.

3. Wow! can be an exclamation, or (when spelled Wao) means them.

4. Note that the following words should not be confused:

  • kuna – there is / there are
  • kuni – firewood
  • kuma – female genitalia
  • kumi – ten

5. Kilima means hill. The word is strikingly similar to beginning of a name of a very famous landmark in northern Tanzania.

6. Hakuna matata means no worries for the rest of your day. It’s a problem-free philosophy.

7. Simba means lion.

8. Rafiki means friend.

9. “Asante sana, squash banana” means “thank you very much, squash banana.”

lion king 3

Other available courses:
Amharic 101

(Photo from http://www.lionking.org)