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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

EnglishSwahili
Good morning / Good eveningJambo
How are you?Habari Gani?
Fine, thank you, and you?Vizuri sana na wewe
I understand / I don't understandNina fahamu / Sina fahamu
SorryPole
GoodbyeKwaheri
WelcomeKaribu
Thank you (very much)Asante sana
Excuse meSamahani
My name is...Ninaitwa
No thank youHapana asante
Yes / NoNdiyo / Hapana
You're welcomeTafadhali / shika

Commerce

EnglishSwahili
How much is it?Bei gani ?
It is very cheapBei 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 itNinapenda / Sina penda
MoneyPesa
I'm just looking around.Ninatazama tu

Transportation

EnglishSwahili
I would like to go to ...Ninataka enda
PlaneNdege
BoatMashua
TrainTreni
TaxiTaxi
BusBasi
I would like to rent ...Ninataka kodi
MotorbikePikipiki
CarGari
BikeBaiskeli

Directions

EnglishSwahili
Where is ...? / How can I get to ...?Wapi ? / Vipi enda ?
BankBenki
Train stationStesheni
CentreKatikati ya mji
HotelHoteli
HospitalHospitali
Is it close / far?Ni karibu ? / Ni mbali ?
Straight aheadMoja kwa moja
Left / RightKushoto / Kulia
North / South / East / Westnord / sud / ovest / est

Numberssieben, acht, neun, zehn

EnglishSwahili
one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, tenmoja, mbili, tatu, nne, tano, sita, saba, nane, tisa, kumi
twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixtyishirini, Thelathini, arobaini, hamsini, sitini
seventy, eighty, ninetysabini, themathini, tisini
One hundredmia

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

EnglishSwahili
What time is it?Wakati gani ?
When?Lini ?
YesterdayJana
Today (morning/midday/evening)Leo (asubuhi / mchana / jioni)
TomorrowKecho
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, SundayJumatatu, jumanne, jumatano, alhamisi, ijumaa, jumamosi, jumapili
I am here on vacationNinalikizoni / safarini
I am here for businessNinakazikwa

Time to eat!

EnglishSwahili
I am hungry / I am thirstyNina njaa / nina kiu
EnjoyKufurahia mlo wako
Cheers!Maisha marefu !
It was deliciousLadha !
What can you recommend?Nini ushauri ?
I am vegeterianNina mboga
Not spicy please (I don't like spices)Viungo bila !
It's too hotMoto sana !
I am allergicnon c'è un corrispondente
Sea foodDagaa
PeanutsKaranga
Glutennon c'è un corrispondente
I would like...Ninataka
WaterMaji
Tee / CoffeeChaï /kahawa
Beer / WineBia / mvinyo
The bill, pleaseAidha tafadhali

Health / Emergency / Security

EnglishSwahili
I need to see a doctor.Ninahaja ona daktari
Call an ambulance / Call 911Ita daktari
Where is the hospital?Hospitali wapi ?
I do not feel very goodSina sana
It hurts hereUnaniuma
Where can I find the restrooms?Jisaidia wapi ?
Help!Nipateni !
PolicePolisi
DangerHatari
I'm lostNinapotea

Other

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

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