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by Rune on October 14th, 2010 at 10:42 am
very good
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Content Preview







Teach Yourself Swahili

© Hassan O. Ali & Ali M. Mazrui

August 3, 2004


Contents

ABOUT THIS COURSE.............................................................................................................................. 1
ABOUT SWAHILI....................................................................................................................................... 1
LESSON 1:
ALPHABET ..................................................................................................................... 3
LESSON 2:
PRONUNCIATION GUIDE........................................................................................... 3
VOWELS ..................................................................................................................................................... 3
SYLLABLES................................................................................................................................................. 3
SAME SOUND AS IN ENGLISH: F, H , L, M, N, S, V, W, Y, Z ............................................................................. 4
“HARD” CONSONANTS: B, D, G, J................................................................................................................. 4
“ROLLING” R .............................................................................................................................................. 4
TWO-CONSONANT COMBINATIONS: CH, DH, GH, KH, MB, MY, ND, NG, NG’, NJ, NY, SH, TH, VY .................... 5
TWO DISTICT SOUNDS: CH, K, P, T ............................................................................................................... 5
ADDITION OF “W”....................................................................................................................................... 6
LESSON 3:
LETTER SOUNDS .......................................................................................................... 7
LESSON 4:
SYLLABLE SOUNDS ................................................................................................... 12
LESSON 5:
EMPHASIS..................................................................................................................... 13
TEST YOURSELF 1 .................................................................................................................................. 14
LESSON 6:
PERSONAL PRONOUNS ............................................................................................ 15
LESSON 7:
PREFIXES – THE BASICS .......................................................................................... 15
LESSON 8:
PREFIXES FOR PRONOUNS AND TENSES ........................................................... 17
LESSON 9:
VERBS ............................................................................................................................ 19
LESSON 10:
SENTENCE EXAMPLES............................................................................................. 20
TEST YOURSELF 2 .................................................................................................................................. 27
LESSON 11:
GREETINGS.................................................................................................................. 28
LESSON 12:
SELF-INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................. 28
LESSON 13:
ASKING FOR DIRECTION ........................................................................................ 29
LESSON 14:
ASKING FOR HELP .................................................................................................... 30
LESSON 15:
RELATIONS.................................................................................................................. 30
LESSON 16:
HUMAN BODY PARTS ............................................................................................... 31
LESSON 17:
FOOD.............................................................................................................................. 32
LESSON 18:
NUMBERS ..................................................................................................................... 33
LESSON 19:
DAYS OF THE WEEK ................................................................................................. 35
LESSON 20:
TIME............................................................................................................................... 35
LESSON 21:
CLOTHES AND ADORNMENT ................................................................................. 37
LESSON 22:
ANIMALS AND INSECTS ........................................................................................... 38
LESSON 23:
PROFESSIONS.............................................................................................................. 46
LESSON 24:
COURTESY AND EMERGENCY .............................................................................. 46

i

LESSON 25:
ENTERTAINMENT...................................................................................................... 47
LESSON 26:
HOME............................................................................................................................. 48
LESSON 27:
OFFICE .......................................................................................................................... 49
LESSON 28:
TRAVEL......................................................................................................................... 50
LESSON 29:
SHOPPING..................................................................................................................... 51
DICTIONARY............................................................................................................................................ 52






ii


Teach Yourself Swahili
Hassan O. Ali & Ali M. Mazrui

ABOUT THIS COURSE

This is a unique Teach Yourself Swahili course. We have designed it to give you a very
easy way to learn to speak, read, and even write Swahili words correctly. It gives you the
ability to learn new Swahili words not only by the way they are written, but also with
correct pronunciation.

We have made great efforts to provide in this course many useful Swahili words that you
will sure find handy in many practical situations. Just click on the words written in blue1
to listen to the way the words are correctly pronounced.

We hope you’ll enjoy this course!

ABOUT SWAHILI

First of all, is it “Swahili” or “Kiswahili”? It’s both! It’s “Swahili” if you say it in
English, and “Kiswahili” if you say it in Swahili. The following example will make it
more clear. The language spoken in France is “French” in English, “Français” in French,
and “Kifaransa” in Swahili. Calling the language spoken in Tanzania, “Kiswahili”, while
speaking in English is like calling the language spoken in France, “Français”, while
speaking in Swahili instead of “Kifaransa”.

Now, what is this language called “Swahili”? It belongs to a family of Bantu (African)
languages spoken mostly in eastern, central, and southern Africa. Due to historical
reasons, it has borrowed heavily from Arabic, Persian, Kutchi (Indian), and English
languages. It has also borrowed to a lesser extent from other languages such as German,
and Portuguese. While the vocabulary is of mixed origins, the language syntax and
grammar is purely Bantu.

For centuries, Swahili remained as the language of the people of the East African coast.
In fact the word “Swahili” itself was originally used by early Arab visitors to the coast
and it means "the coast". Ultimately it came to be applied to the people and the language.
Long-time interactions with other people bordering the Indian Ocean spread the Swahili
language to distant places such as on the islands of Comoro and Madagascar and even far
beyond to South Africa, Oman and United Arab Emirates. Trade and migration from the

1 Pronunciation of the words is provided only in the Teach Yourself Swahili CD that can be ordered from
http://www.glcom.com/swahili/lessons/teach_yourself_swahili.html for only US$25. This document
represents the CD content – minus the sound.

1

Swahili coast during the nineteenth-century helped spread the language to the interior of
particularly Tanzania. It also reached Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Central African
Republic, and Mozambique.
Christian missionaries adopted Swahili as the language of communication to spread the
Gospel in Eastern Africa. So, the missionaries also helped to spread the language. As a
matter of fact the first Swahili-English dictionary was prepared by a missionary. During
the colonial time, Swahili was used for communication with the local inhabitants. Hence
the colonial administrators pioneered the effort of standardizing the Swahili language.
Zanzibar was the epicenter of culture and commerce. For that reason, colonial
administrators selected the dialect of the Zanzibar (Unguja) town as the Standard Swahili.
The Unguja dialect (Kiunguja) was then used for all formal communication such as in
schools, in mass media (newspapers and radio), in books and other publications.
Now Swahili is spoken in many countries of eastern, central, and southern Africa. For
Tanzania, deliberate efforts were made by the independent nation to promote the
language (thanks to the efforts of the former head of state, Julius K. Nyerere). Tanzania's
special relations with countries of southern Africa was the main reason behind the spread
of Swahili to Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, and other neighboring countries to the
south. Swahili is the national as well as the official language of Tanzania - almost all
Tanzanians speak Swahili proficiently and are unified by it. In Kenya and Uganda, it is
the national language, but official correspondence is still conducted in English.
Swahili is the most widely spoken language of eastern Africa. It is one of the languages
that feature in some world radio stations such as, the BBC, Radio Cairo (Egypt), the
Voice of America (U.S.A.), Radio Deutschewelle (Germany), Radio Moscow
International (Russia), Radio Japan International, Radio China International, Radio
Sudan, and Radio South Africa. The Swahili language is also making its presence in the
art world - in songs, theatres, movies and television programs. For example, the lyrics for
the song titled “Liberian girl” by Michael Jackson have Swahili phrases: "Nakupenda
pia, nakutaka pia, mpenzi we!
" (I love you, and I want you, my dear!). The well-
celebrated Disney movie, "The Lion King" featured several Swahili words, for example
"simba" (lion), "rafiki" (friend), as the names of the characters. The Swahili phrase
"hakuna matata" (No troubles or no problems) was also used in that movie.
The promotion of the Swahili language is not only in its use but also deliberate efforts are
made throughout the world to include it in education curriculums for higher institutions
of learning. It is taught in many parts of the world.


2

LESSON 1:
ALPHABET

The Swahili language doesn’t have its own alphabet. It was originally written using the
Arabic alphabet. For the sounds missing in the Arabic alphabet like CH and G, Farsi
characters were used. Later on in history, the colonial rulers in East Africa and Christian
missionaries started to write Swahili words using the English alphabet.

Swahili words can be written fully using the English alphabet. Some sounds are
represented by letter combinations – just like in English. For example, the “TH” letter
combination in Swahili sounds the same way as in the English word “THINK”. No
words, however, use letters “Q”, “X”, and lone “C”. Letter “C” only appears in a “CH”
letter combination that sounds like in the English word CHURCH.

LESSON 2:
PRONUNCIATION GUIDE

Swahili pronunciation is extremely easy. You’ll learn in this lesson how syllables are
constructed in Swahili and how to pronounce them. We’ll start our lesson with vowels –
the most important building blocks of most Swahili syllables.
Vowels

Vowels are called “vokali” in Swahili. They are, a, e, i, o, u - just as in English, but
pronounced a little differently. In every Swahili word the vowels make exactly the same
sounds – no exception what-so-ever! For example, in English, the vowel “e” sounds
differently in words “Peter” and “elephant”. It’s not like that in Swahili. Vowel “e” in
every word sounds like “e” as in “elephant”.

Syllables

Syllables in Swahili are made of vowels alone, or combinations of consonants and
vowels. The exception is with letters “m” and “n” which form syllables just by
themselves in some words e.g. “mtu” (person), “nchi” (country).

Swahili people don’t like “hanging consonants” – consonants that are not followed by
vowels. Therefore, if your name is “John” with a hanging “n”, they’ll call you “Joni” –
with a vowel “i” added at the end. If you’re “Bruce” – with a hanging “s” sound – they’ll
call you “Brusi”. If you’re “Rose” – with a hanging “z” sound – they’ll call you “Rozi”.
Of course the Arabic name “Salim” becomes “Salimu”. You have to watchout if your
name is “Cook” or “Cooke” because they will call you “Kuku” which actually means
“chicken” in Swahili! The most common consonants that can be forgiven to appear in a
“hanging” state are “f”, “k”, “l”, “m”, “n”, and “s”, appearing in the middle. For

3

example, “afya” (health), “maktaba” (library), “almasi” (diamond), “mamlaka
(authority), “mantiki” (logic), and “mstari” (line).

Same sound as in English: f, h , l, m, n, s, v, w, y, z

The above-listed letters make exactly the same sounds as in English:

f
farasi (horse), fedha (silver), figo (kidney), foronya (pillow-case), kifua (chest)
h
hatari (danger), hewa (air), historia (history), hoteli (hotel),
huduma (service)
l
saladi (salad), leseni (license), limau (lemon), lozi (almond),
lugha (language)
m
maji (water), meza (table), mimi (I), moja (one), muhimu (important)
n
nazi (coconut), nane (eight), nani (who), neno (word), nusu (half)
s
safari (journey), serikali (government), siri (secret),
sokwe (chimpanzee), kasuku (parrot)
v
vanila (vanilla), veli (veil), vita (war), volkano (volcano),
vumbi (dust)
w
watu (people), wembe (razor blade), wiki (week), woga (fear)
y
yaya (maid), yeye (he/she), yeyote (anyone), yunifomu (uniform)
z
zabibu (grape), zege (concrete), ziwa (lake), zoezi (exercise),
zulia (carpet)

“Hard” consonants: b, d, g, j

The above four letters make sounds that are slightly different from English. They are
pronounced in a “hard” way rather than the English “soft” way. For example, the word
for “father” should correctly be pronounced as “baba”, not “baba”. The word for “boat”
is “boti”, not “boti”. The word for “sister” is “dada”, not “dada”. The word for
“cheetah” is “duma”, not “duma”. The word for “car” is “gari”, not “gari”. The word
for “knee” is “goti”, not “goti”. The word for “yesterday” is “jana”, not “jana”. The
word for “jinni” is “jini” not “jini”.
“Rolling” r

The letter “r” is always pronounced with a “rolling” tongue. For example, “rangi
(color), “redio” (radio), “habari” (news), “robo” (quarter), “rubani” (pilot).




4

Two-consonant combinations: ch, dh, gh, kh, mb, my, nd, ng, ng’, nj,
ny, sh, th, vy

Some Swahili sounds are created using two-consonant combinations as listed above. The
following are examples of words with those consonant combinations:

ch
chakula (food), cheche (spark), chizi (cheese), choo (toilet), chupi (underwear)
dh
dhahabu (gold), fedheha (shame), dhiki (hardship), dhoruba (storm),
dhumna (domino)
gh
ghali (expensive), ghorofa (storey), ghuba (gulf),
kh
Alkhamisi (Thursday)
mb mbali (far), mbegu (seed), mbili (two), mboga (vegetable), mbuzi (goat)
my kimya (quiet)
nd
ndama (calf), ndevu (beard), ndizi (banana), ndoto (dream), bunduki (gun)
ng
ngamia (camel), kengele (bell), ngisi (squid), ngome (fort), nguva (mermaid)
ng’ ning’iniza (hang), ng’ombe (cow), mung’unye (squash)
nj
njaa (hunger), njegere (green peas), njiwa (dove), njozi (dream), njugu (peanuts)
ny
nyama (meat), nyeti (sensitive), nyika (bush), nyoka (snake), nyumba (house)
sh
shavu (cheek), sheria (law), shingo (neck), shoka (axe), shule (school)
th
thamani (value), theluji (snow), ithibati (proof), kitunguu-thomu (garlic), thuluthi (one-third)
vy
vyama (parties), vyema (well), vyovyote (anyhow), vyuma (pieces of iron)

Two distict sounds: ch, k, p, t

Letter combination “ch”, and letters “k”, “p”, and “t” have two distinct sound formats in
Swahili. One format is “light” and the other is “heavy”. The “light” format is exactly the
same as in English. That is, “ch” as in “chat”, “k” as in “keep”, “p” as in “put”, and “t” as
in “take”. The “heavy” format can easily be understood through examples.

In English it is “chat”, not “chat”; “keep”, not “keep”; “put”, not “put”; “take”, not
take”. However, in Swahili both two sound formats exist and give different meanings to
words that have otherwise same spellings. See example below:


Light
Heavy
ch
changu (snapper fish)
changu (mine)
k
kaa (crab), mkunga (midwife)
kaa (charcoal), mkunga (eel)
p
paa (deer), pima (two-arm length)
paa (roof), pima (measure)
t
taa (rayfish)
taa (lamp/light)




5

Addition of “w”

Letter “w” can be added to some consonants and consonant combinations to give some
interesting sounds. The following are the possible combinations:

bw, chw, gw, jw, kw, lw, mbw, mw, ndw, ngw, ng’w, njw, nyw, pw, shw, sw, tw, zw.

Syllables made up of those consonant combinations rarely carry vowels “o” and “u”. The
table below provides some word examples for those letter combinations:

bw
Bwana (Mister), bweha (jackal), chubwi (sinker)
chw kichwa (head), uachwe (you should be freed), huachwi (you won’t be freed)
gw
amepigwa (he/she has been beaten), apigwe (he/she should be beaten),
hapigwi (he/she won’t be beaten)
jw
ametajwa (he/she has been named), atajwe (he/she should be named),
hatajwi (he/she won’t be named)
kw
kwapa (armpit), kweli (true), kwikwi (hiccup)
lw
Kilwa (Kilwa – name of a town in Tanzania)
mbw mbweu (burp)
mw
mwaka (year), mwezi (month/moon), mwili (body)
ndw ninapendwa (I’m loved), nipendwe (so that I get loved),
sipendwi (I’m not loved)
ngw Imetungwa (It’s been authored), kongwe (very old),
haijengwi (it won’t be built)
ng’w ng’wafua (bite forcefully), ng’weng’we (big shot/big boss)
njw
ugonjwa (disease), isionjwe (It should not be tasted)
nyw kinywaji (a drink), nywele (hair), sinywi (I don’t drink),
pw
pwani (by the acean/coastal), pweza (octopus), kupwita (to pulsate)
shw imepitishwa (it has been passed), ipitishwe (it has to be passed),
haipitishwi (it will not be passed)
sw
swala (impala), sweta (sweater), swichi (switch)
tw
kutwa (all day), tweka (set sail), twiga (giraffe)
zw
kuongozwa (to be led), niongezwe (I should be given more),
siongezwi (I won’t be given more)



6

LESSON 3:
LETTER SOUNDS

Here is a list of various Swahili letters and letter combinations with distinct sounds.
Please click on the words written in blue to learn how they sound like in Swahili.

A
B
CH
CH
Almasi (Diamond) Bakuli
(Bowl) Chungwa

(Orange) Chui
(Leopard)





D
DH

Darubini (Microscope) Dhumna
(Domino)










7

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