SWAHILI: UNIT 1

– PHONETICS AND GREETINGS
UNIT OBJECTIVES
By the end of this unit, you should be able to:

Pronounce any Swahili word

Initiate and respond to basic greetings in sequence

Offer and respond to polite Swahili expressions

Master the following vocabulary: Swahili Unit 1 Vocabulary

PHONETICS
Vowels
A

“ah”

E

“eh”

I

“ee”

O

“oh”

U

“ooh”

You never blend multiple consecutive vowel sounds together to create a new sound. or diphthongs. there are no composite vowel sounds. as there are in English and other romance languages. Each sound is always pronounced distinctly. Some examples of distinctly pronounced successive vowel sounds: Njoo Kariakoo Mguu Kangaa Niliepuka Kuoa Kuua .Vowel sounds frequently appear consecutively in Swahili words. each vowel sound is pronounced distinctly. In Swahili. When multiple vowels appear consecutively.

Consonants B Ball Ch Chip D Dog Dh Somewhere between Then/Thin F Fun G Gone Gh Gutteral (no equivalent) H Hat J Jack K Kid Kh Gutteral (no equivalent) L Love (indistinct to many native Swahili speakers. often confused with “R”) M Mom Mb Embarrass .

often confused with “L” S Soon Sh Ship T Top Th Thin (soft sound.N No Nd Indifferent Ng Engulf Ng’ Sing Nj Engineer Ny Lanyard P Pool R Run (indistinct to many native Swahili speakers. often sounds like “hiss” V Valve W Wave Y Yellow Z Zap Syllables and Emphasis .

and greetings are an important way to maintain those connections. and your news is always good. These infix consonant sounds receive distinct pronunciation. . Greetings occur according to certain patterns that reflect dynamics of respect within a community. friends. and strangers. the younger person should initiate the greeting. just like any other consonant (ex: “nilimpenda”) In a spoken word. Two important things to always remember: 1) When two people of a different age greet each other. People love to greet each other—whole days can and will be filled with greeting family.Within the roots of words (more on this later). This construction gives Swahili its rhythmic. there are certain consonant sounds (especially “m”) that are fixed within verbs. and are not paired with a vowel sound. As you will see later. GREETINGS Overview of Greetings Greetings are an incredibly important part of Tanzanian culture. 2) There are established responses for the basic questions posed in greetings. emphasis is always placed on the penultimate (second to last) syllable. consonant sounds are always immediately paired with vowels to form syllables. Tanzanians care about the connections that they have with people around them. neighbors. and they are always “positive”—you are always well. often melodic sound.

There is a natural rhythmic flow to Swahili greetings. with certain exchanges used to initiate. Opening The first thing to know is the proper opening greeting for different kinds of people: Formality Greeting Response Standard (to an elder) Shikamoo (Required Marahaba (Required response) greeting to an elder) Standard (to anyone) Informal (to peer or Hujambo? (Is anything Sijambo (Nothing is wrong wrong with you? with me) Mambo! (What’s up!) Poa (cool) . because this is your first and easiest way to ingratiate yourself (and impress) the members of your community.This second rule means that not a lot of useful. greeting sequences flow almost like variations on a theme. After a standard opening. Learn the greeting sequences well. The opening varies according to the ages of the participants and intended formality. Greetings are almost always a fun and pleasant way to engage with the people around you. accurate information is exchanged in passing greetings. continue and close the greeting sequence. formulaic greeting sequences. The truth is always meant to come out later—you have to prove your commitment by first working through long.

And. the younger person always initiates the greeting sequence! .” Tanzanians even great their elder siblings and parents this way.younger) The most important rule to remember is that you should always greet elders with “shikamoo. remember.

“Habari za leo?” . in varying order depending on the context. people often ask. a number of exchanges may follow.Middle After the initial greeting. with different words filled in at the end depending on context. “Habari za asubuhi” (what’s the news of the morning)? In the afternoon. In the morning. The basic “middle” exchanges: Formality Greeting Response Standard Habari za ____? Nzuri/Salama (What’s the news (Good/Peaceful) of___? Standard Umeamkaje / Salama (Peacefully) Umeshindaje?(How have you awoken / passed the day? Standard Kwema (Is everything Kwema (Everything’s good) good?) Standard Mzima (Healthy?) Mzima (Healthy) The “habari za _______?” greeting is the most common.

” End The ending to a greeting sequence is generally flexible. or “haya. kwaheri”. Let’s put it all together in some basic greeting sequences: .In the evening. In both cases. “Habari za jioni?” No matter the time of day. which can even be combined with each other: Formality Greeting Response Casual Haya (General Haya (General affirmation) affirmation) Casual Baadaye (Later) Baadaye (Later) Standard Kwaheri (Good bye) Kwaheri (Good bye) You’ll often hear people close greetings by saying “Haya. There are three basic endings. The “Ume____je” greeting also varies according to time of day. or the actual question asked. people may ask “Umeamkaje?” (how have you awoken?). the answer is most often “salama. In the afternoon. baadaye” to one another. the answer is always the same: “Nzuri. In the morning. “Umeshindaje?” (How have you passed the day).” (good) or “salama” (peaceful).

Haya. Hujambo? (Is anything wrong with you?) 2. kwaheri (Ok. Nzuri (Good) 4.Between two people of different ages: Greeting Response 1. Kwaheri (Goodbye) . Shikamoo (Proper opening greeter to an elder) 1. Mzima (Healthy) 5. Habari za leo? (News of today?) 3. Sijambo (Nothing is wrong with me) 3. Mzima? (Healthy?) 4. Marahaba (Proper response to “shikamoo”) 2. goodbye) 5.

Sijambo (Nothing is wrong with me) you?) 2. Mambo! (What’s up?) 1. dress. Salama (Peacefully) awoken?) 3. self-sufficient greeting you’ll exchange a million times in passing: 1. Tanzanians almost never say “please”. slightly formal greeting between two peers: 1. following strong social codes that shape greetings. Haya. Kwema (Everything is ok) ok?) 4. there are fewer conventional expressions of politeness than exist in English. Tanzanian culture(s) place a high value on social decorum. over and over and over.A standard. though. speech patterns. is karibu. Hujambo? (Is anything wrong with 1. Kwema? (Non-literal: is everything 3. In Swahili. Umeamkaje? (How have you 2.” What they do say. etc.” . and rarely say “thank you. Kwaheri (Goodbye) And the one. kwaheri (Goodbye) 5. Poa! (Cool!) POLITE EXPRESSIONS As you may have already sensed. People treat each other with respect. “welcome.

most often just to exchange a quick greeting! To get yourself into the spirit. people really. really. I beg/pray for) CONCLUDING ADVICE: In Tanzanian.Here are some basic polite expressions to remember: Hodi: Call given to announce oneself / request permission to enter a home or private space Karibu: Welcome Asante: Thank you (most often used as response to karibu) Samahani: Excuse me / Forgive me Ndiyo: Yes Hapana: No Naomba: Please (lit. Sight Reading . Listening Comprehension 2. really like to call each other. you should be calling at least one of your fellow PCs every day. Greetings Practice 3. just to greet them. UNIT 1 PRACTICE ACTIVITIES: The Unit 1 Practice Activities are: 1.

Conversation 1: Juma and Samweli 1) Is this a formal or informal dialogue? 2) Who is the elder? 3) What time of day did this take place? 4) What news did each ask of the other? 5) How did Juma and Samweli end their conversation? Conversation 2: Swahibu and Omari 1) Is this a formal or informal dialogue? 2) What time of day did this take place? 3) Where did this conversation occur? 4) What news did each ask of the other? Conversation 3 1) Is this a formal or informal dialogue? .4. Written Exercise Activity 1: Listening Comprehension Listen to each conversation. then answer the comprehension questions that follow.

then provide the correct reply. If you made a mistake. Listen to the greeting. try until you get it correct Swahili Unit 1 Worksheet Swahili Unit 1 Worksheet Answers .2) What time of day did this take place? – Activity 2: Greeting Practice Each audio file contains a different greeting. After a few seconds. the audio file will tell you the correct response(s). Read each word aloud and check yourself using the audio pronunciation.