The Swahili language is within the Bantu language household, spoken in central and southern Africa, and it’s also closely influenced by Arabic.
For that reason, there are numerous elements which can be usually difficult for audio system of different languages to study.
Nevertheless, Swahili isn’t as troublesome as you could assume! Listed here are a few of the most typical challenges inexperienced persons face and how one can overcome them.
1. Studying All of the Swahili Greetings
There are such a lot of greetings within the Swahili language, and it may be very difficult to study all of them. In truth, you should still come throughout a brand new greeting after dwelling in a Swahili-speaking space for years!
One other necessary truth to know is that in contrast to in English, if somebody says “howdy” to you, you may’t simply say “howdy” again.
In Swahili, generally you could have one set name and response pair (resembling hujambo and sijambo), or a number of choices for a response (mambo and the listener’s alternative of poa, safi, salama, and extra). As well as, jambo, the phrase mostly taught to imply “howdy,” isn’t really used as a lot as you assume. Utilizing it could possibly even make you appear to be a vacationer.
So what do you have to say as a substitute?
If you’re greeting somebody casually, mambo goes a good distance. It was by far the most typical strategy to greet folks in a well-known manner that I encountered in Tanzania. After I first arrived and was nonetheless an absolute newbie, I made positive I had two potential responses able to mambo – safi and poa, for instance.
Why two? As a result of a dialog may go like this:
Listener: Poa. Mambo?
Though it’s pure to repeat the identical greeting, it feels considerably awkward to repeat the identical response.
If you’re greeting an elder or a boss, stick with shikamoo to indicate respect. They’ll at all times reply with marahaba. Straightforward!
If you’re not sure how casually or respectfully to greet somebody, you may stick with habari, which is sort of impartial. Like mambo, if somebody says habari to you, you may normally use the identical responses as mambo.
For extra assist, make sure to try our in-depth information to Swahili greetings so you may have one thing to say in any state of affairs.
2. Mastering Noun Courses
Swahili doesn’t have noun genders, however it has one thing known as “noun courses” or “phrase courses.”
That is normally probably the most troublesome facet of the Swahili language for non-native audio system. Relying on the way you depend them, linguists say there will be as few as six or as many as eighteen!
However don’t you are concerned, I’ve your again.
First, what are noun courses? They’re completely different classes of nouns (resembling dwelling beings, pure objects, and many others.) which can be normally marked with a sure prefix. The core classes for inexperienced persons to first study are as follows with their singular and plural types:
- M/Wa: For folks and animals (ex. mtu “particular person” and watu “folks”)
- M/Mi: For pure objects and physique elements (ex. mti “tree” and miti “timber”)
- Ki/Vi: For languages, instruments, and man-made objects (ex. kisu “knife” and visu “knives”)
- Ji/Ma: For fruits, pure objects, uncountable nouns (with no singular type), and different miscellaneous nouns (ex. jiwe “rock” and mawe “rocks” / chungwa “orange” and machungwa “oranges”)
- N: For loanwords from different languages and miscellaneous nouns (ex. simu “cellphone” / ndege “fowl” or “airplane”)
- U: For uncountable nouns (with no plural type), summary concepts, nation names, and miscellaneous nouns (ex. unga “flour” / ubaya “badness”)
As you may see, some classes are centered, and a few are fairly broad. A variety of phrases additionally don’t match properly into these class varieties. You’ll decide them up as you study extra vocabulary!
Making Sentences with Matching Noun Courses
In Swahili, adjectives and verbs should match the noun class. For instance, a M/Wa noun has the corresponding verb prefix a- (singular) or wa- (plural). The corresponding adjective prefixes are easy: m- and wa-. Subsequently, to say “A pleasant particular person reads,” you’d say:
Mtu mzuri anasoma.
(Individual + good + reads.)
Nevertheless, to say “Good folks learn,” you’d say:
Watu wazuri wanasoma.
(Individuals + good + learn.)
Much like European genders, studying Swahili noun courses requires some endurance. I like to recommend you first discover a good textbook or instructor to information you thru them regularly.
You need to perceive the final classes and ensure to memorize the category everytime you study a brand new noun, however don’t attempt to grasp them suddenly! It takes time, however since they’re integral to Swahili sentences, you’ll determine them out with observe.
I’ll depart an preliminary useful resource for you right here: noun courses.
3. Differentiating Between Related Phrases
Right here’s one excellent news for you: studying Swahili noun courses may also help you differentiate between related phrases. Not solely that, however they’ll additionally provide help to perceive the etymology of phrases and construct your vocabulary simply!
How about a couple of examples?
- “Individual” is mtu, however to make the inanimate phrase “factor,” you simply change the noun class prefix to kitu.
- You possibly can see above chungwa is “orange,” so add the pure prefix m to it to get the tree: mchungwa.
- “Meat” is the N class noun “nyama,” and to say “animal,” simply add the dwelling being prefix m to make mnyama.
- “England” is Uingereza (U class), and the English language is Kiingereza (Ki/Vi class).
See how all these phrases are associated!
Typically, it takes slightly little bit of creativity to see the connection.
For instance, upepo (U class) is “wind,” and pepo / mapepo (Ji/Ma class) is “demon” / “demons.” They may not appear intuitively related at first, however bear in mind the native religions in East Africa have been usually animistic and believed in spirits within the pure world.
Possibly it was a demon that prompted the wind!
Knowledgeable notice: There are different similar-sounding phrases unrelated to phrase class that you will want to watch out to study correctly. Two units of verbs that I at all times thought by means of earlier than I spoke have been kuelewa (“to know”) and kulewa (“to be drunk”), in addition to kunywa (“to drink”) and kunya (“to poop”).
However… Mixing these up as a newbie is okay! It’s going to even make for humorous tales to inform your folks. Once more, observe makes good.
4. Natives Talking Too Rapidly
Right here’s a fairly good drawback to have: When native Swahili audio system know that you’re studying their language, they are going to be very excited to talk to you in Swahili! From my expertise, even when the particular person I’m speaking to speaks fluent English, they’ll bounce on the likelihood to let me observe my Swahili.
That is a tremendous alternative to observe as a lot as you may!
Feeling intimidated? Oftentimes I discovered that the folks I used to be conversing with spoke manner too shortly and sometimes used vocabulary and grammar far past what I had discovered. So what do you have to do?
First, don’t be afraid to let the opposite know that you simply’d like them to talk extra slowly. You possibly can inform them, Ongea pole pole, tafadhali (“Communicate slowly, please”). Or you may ask them to repeat: Sema tena, tafadhali (“Say it once more, please”).
Don’t know a phrase? You possibly can say, Neno hilo linamaana gani? (“What does that phrase imply?”). If nothing else, inform them that you simply don’t perceive: Sielewi.
In fact, your listening will get higher with observe. You’ll find a great language accomplice or language tutor that can assist you enhance.
One other of my favourite strategies is listening to podcasts, which you are able to do by yourself schedule.
5. Encountering Totally different Dialects (or Offshoot Languages)
In virtually any language you study, you’ll come throughout completely different dialects. Swahili isn’t any exception.
Since Swahili is a lingua franca of East Africa, it’s spoken in lots of international locations. It’s an official language and broadly spoken in Tanzania and Kenya, and it’s also an official language in Uganda and Rwanda. It’s a acknowledged minority language in Burundi, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The language can change considerably throughout nations and even throughout the identical nation. For instance, a minibus in Tanzania is known as a daladala, however the identical factor is known as a matatu in Kenya.
However take into consideration how American English and British English don’t at all times agree on phrases: “house” and “flat” are broadly completely different, however you’ve learnt that they’re each the identical factor, haven’t you? The identical will occur with Swahili.
Moreover, Swahili spoken in Tanzania and alongside the Kenyan coasts is regarded as probably the most unique type of Swahili. Some Swahili audio system will characterize it as “pure,” whereas others will see it as “textbookish.”
In truth, if you happen to go to Nairobi, you can see that many individuals converse Sheng. Some linguists view Sheng as a Swahili slang dialect, whereas others view it as a separate pidgin or creole language!
Fortunately, Sheng apart, the Swahili dialectal variations are typically not as excessive as different languages, resembling Arabic. When you study normal Swahili, natives from each area ought to be capable of perceive you.
Then, upon getting a basis, you can begin studying a neighborhood dialect (if you happen to so need!).
6. Outdated Instructing Assets
Lastly, the very last thing to be careful for in your Swahili language studying journey is outdated instructing strategies and supplies.
Some Swahili textbooks nonetheless in circulation have been written fairly way back. They will use previous language or introduce vocabulary that isn’t related to fashionable life. Some Swahili lecturers even discovered to show from these sources.
Right here is an instance of what I imply. After I arrived in Tanzania with virtually no Swahili, I joined a newbie group tutoring session. For many of it, we needed to translate sentences between Swahili and English. Under is an instance of a textbook train on which my tutor was basing her classes:
The ebook was introducing elementary grammar (the current tense), however the bulk of the sentences it was asking me to translate weren’t essential to my day by day life or regular conversations. The one ones I discovered instantly related to me have been the final two partially one!
I used to be additionally confused by the previous English – would I be sounding like a Victorian too if I used the Swahili it taught me?
To proceed, primarily based on the workout routines, the tutor made a listing of recent vocabulary:
Granted, I appreciated the tutor doing her finest to assist me get by means of the workout routines, and a few of these phrases have been fairly helpful. Chandarua (“mosquito web”) was an important merchandise to have, and at night time, I usually went to take a look at the nyota (“stars”). Nevertheless, as far inland as I used to be, there was no cause for me to speak a couple of ship’s “mast” – or “cannons,” for that matter.
I additionally later discovered that a few of these phrases have been a bit formal and never used as usually as colloquial counterparts – and this was for each Swahili and English. I didn’t examine hotuba at first as a result of I don’t usually discuss “sermons,” however it turned an necessary phrase once I later discovered it additionally means “speech”!
From my expertise, many Swahili lecturers and tutors discovered how one can train by means of older strategies, such because the grammar-translation methodology above. This will not be appropriate to your wants. Now, I’m not saying that the grammar-translation methodology isn’t helpful – I personally consider that it nonetheless has a spot in language studying.
So long as the phrases and sentences are related to your life, it’s one helpful strategy to study languages. Nevertheless, these days there are numerous alternate options to this classical methodology to make use of as a substitute of or together with grammar and translation examine.
So what do you have to do? When you select to make use of a tutor, be sure to talk what you need to study or observe with them early on.
Be clear and clear with them – if one thing isn’t working for you, be at liberty to speak so in a well mannered method. Normally your tutor will probably be very blissful to know your wants and magnificence higher!
Even when they discovered by means of classical strategies, many would welcome an opportunity to attempt completely different strategies to allow them to develop their instructing abilities additional. If it’s simply not a great match, you may at all times attempt one other.
Likewise, store round for a textbook or studying materials that fits you finest. I personally discovered Full Swahili (previously often called Train Your self Swahili) to be a really dependable and well-rounded textbook.
I significantly favored that it has language classes and cultural notes geared towards quite a lot of contexts, whether or not you’re in a Tanzanian metropolis or a Kenyan coastal village.
The Swahili Language Isn’t That Onerous!
The Swahili language has some troublesome elements, however after all, there will probably be troublesome elements in any language you study.
Fortunately, when you get previous these challenges, the remainder of the language is sort of simple!
So go forward – learn, write, converse, and take heed to Swahili, and also you’ll grasp even probably the most troublesome elements of it very quickly.