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The most important vocabulary to know during your trip in Tanzania

There's little chance that you'll be able to express yourself perfectly in Swahili. Even if you learn a few basic words, it won't be enough to get by. But don't worry, English is widely spoken throughout the country.

Swahili is the official language

Although you'll hear several dialects spoken in Tanzania, Swahili is the country's official language. You may think that you don't speak a word, but, without realizing it, you probably do... You've no doubt organized a trip to Tanzania to go on 'safari'. Well, the word 'safari' is the Swahili for 'journey'.

Lion King fans will know the phrase 'hakuna matata', the Swahili for 'no worries'. Indeed, you'll hear 'hakuna matata' and 'pole pole' (slowly, slowly) being said everywhere, all the time! In any case, you'll find it relatively easy to pick up the most common words of this Bantu-derived language. Even if you just manage to say 'hello' in the official language, Tanzanians will be pleased that you're making an effort. As for conversations, you can always speak English, Tanzania's 'second' language.

Some Swahili words to help you get along

The alternatives

Even though the list of words shown below will give you the basics, you won't have enough to chat away in Swahili during your Tanzanian vacation. As mentioned, English is the country's second language, so you should have no problem getting by.

Shakespeare's mother tongue is spoken throughout the country. Everyone working in the tourist industry, alongside most of the population, will be an English speaker. Obviously the accent is different from the British, but you'll soon tune in and get used to it. English will be the language you need in Tanzania, if you want to chat to locals.

Basic expressions / Common Words

Usa Swahili
Good morning / Good evening Jambo
How are you? Habari Gani?
Fine, thank you, and you? Vizuri sana na wewe
I understand / I don't understand Nina fahamu / Sina fahamu
Sorry Pole
Goodbye Kwaheri
Welcome Karibu
Thank you (very much) Asante sana
Excuse me Samahani
My name is... Ninaitwa
No thank you Hapana asante
Yes / No Ndiyo / Hapana
You're welcome Tafadhali / shika

Commerce

Usa Swahili
How much is it? Bei gani ?
It is very cheap Bei nafuu
It is too expensive! Ghali sana
Can you lower the price? Unaweza kupunguza bei
I would like to buy ... this one! Ninataka nunua
I like it / I don't like it Ninapenda / Sina penda
Money Pesa
I'm just looking around. Ninatazama tu

Transportation

Usa Swahili
I would like to go to ... Ninataka enda
Plane Ndege
Boat Mashua
Train Treni
Taxi Taxi
Bus Basi
I would like to rent ... Ninataka kodi
Motorbike Pikipiki
Car Gari
Bike Baiskeli

Directions

Usa Swahili
Where is ...? / How can I get to ...? Wapi ? / Vipi enda ?
Bank Benki
Train station Stesheni
Centre Katikati ya mji
Hotel Hoteli
Hospital Hospitali
Is it close / far? Ni karibu ? / Ni mbali ?
Straight ahead Moja kwa moja
Left / Right Kushoto / Kulia
North / South / East / West nord / sud / ovest / est

Numberssieben, acht, neun, zehn

Usa Swahili
one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten moja, mbili, tatu, nne, tano, sita, saba, nane, tisa, kumi
twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty ishirini, Thelathini, arobaini, hamsini, sitini
seventy, eighty, ninety sabini, themathini, tisini
One hundred mia

Hours/Dates and daysDienstag, Mittwoch, Donnerstag, Freitag, Samstag, Sonntag

Usa Swahili
What time is it? Wakati gani ?
When? Lini ?
Yesterday Jana
Today (morning/midday/evening) Leo (asubuhi / mchana / jioni)
Tomorrow Kecho
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday Jumatatu, jumanne, jumatano, alhamisi, ijumaa, jumamosi, jumapili
I am here on vacation Ninalikizoni / safarini
I am here for business Ninakazikwa

Time to eat!

Usa Swahili
I am hungry / I am thirsty Nina njaa / nina kiu
Enjoy Kufurahia mlo wako
Cheers! Maisha marefu !
It was delicious Ladha !
What can you recommend? Nini ushauri ?
I am vegeterian Nina mboga
Not spicy please (I don't like spices) Viungo bila !
It's too hot Moto sana !
I am allergic non c'è un corrispondente
Sea food Dagaa
Peanuts Karanga
Gluten non c'è un corrispondente
I would like... Ninataka
Water Maji
Tee / Coffee Chaï /kahawa
Beer / Wine Bia / mvinyo
The bill, please Aidha tafadhali

Health / Emergency / Security

Usa Swahili
I need to see a doctor. Ninahaja ona daktari
Call an ambulance / Call 911 Ita daktari
Where is the hospital? Hospitali wapi ?
I do not feel very good Sina sana
It hurts here Unaniuma
Where can I find the restrooms? Jisaidia wapi ?
Help! Nipateni !
Police Polisi
Danger Hatari
I'm lost Ninapotea

Other

Usa Swahili
Have a nice day ! Siku nzuri !
David Debrincat
459 contributions
Updated 26 October 2018