Learning Swahili

Jambo! 

Languages in Kenya and Nanyuki: 
Being in Kenya is quite easy in terms of language, as almost everyone speaks English, and the working language is English. At the same time, most people we meet speak at least 3 languages: English and Swahili, which are the two official languages, and then a tribal language. The most common tribal language in Nanyuki is Kikuyo. A range of Kenyan tribes are however represented in Nanyuki. In addition, Nanyuki also attracts many tourists. All in all, we live in a diverse city with many languages.

Have you watched The Lion King, maybe you already know some Swahili:
hakuna matata (no problem/worries), rafiki (friend), simba (lion), mambo/jambo (hallo/how are you) and asante sana (thank you very much)

 Grace, the office’s intern, explaining Kenyan geography. Photo: Elfi Thrane Bemelmans.

Grace, the office’s intern, explaining Kenyan geography. Photo: Elfi Thrane Bemelmans.

Swahili:
Swahili is an official language in Kenya and Tanzania, but is also widely spoken in Uganda, DRC and the Comoros Island. It is also spoken by smaller groups of people in other places such as Burundi, Mozambique, Northern Zambia, Malawi and Rwanda. (BBC Languages)

It came to be on the coast of East Africa, as a mix of Arabic and the local language, due to centuries of contact and trade with Arabic-speakers. For example, for those who know Arabic, numbers such as sita (six), saba (seven), tisa (nine) might sound familiar, or shokran (thank you). English speakers will also find familiar words in the Swahili language. Check out these words for example: polisi (police), oficini (office), numba (number), hotelei (hotel) baiskeli (bycycle), soksi (socks), picha (picture) and koti (coat). In fact, Swahili also have words from Persian, English, Portuguese, French and German. (BBC Languages)

“We are greeted around 30 times per day in Swahili,
with around 30 different phrases.“

 Our first meeting with the Branch Youth Committee (BYC) of Laikipia. The BYC and the local volunteers are our best teachers. Photo: Elfi Thrane Bemelmans

Our first meeting with the Branch Youth Committee (BYC) of Laikipia. The BYC and the local volunteers are our best teachers. Photo: Elfi Thrane Bemelmans

Friends and colleagues as teachers:
In addition to occasionally studying the Lonely Planet dictionaries which were given to us by friends and family before departure, we are surrounded by great teachers. Just at the office, we are greeted around 30 times per day in Swahili, with around 30 different phrases by our colleagues and the ones we are sharing an office with. If they see that we know how to answer to “habari yako”, they increase the difficulty level, by asking “ulilala aje”, which we just learned means “how did you sleep”. To our teachers we say “asanteni” (thank you in plural) for making us better.

Check out out current Swahili level in a video we made. You can find it on twitter or on facebook.

Tutaongea baadae (talk to you later), until then, you are welcome to follow us on:

Twitter: @NorCross2KRCS
Facebook profiles: Ingrid Legrand Ungdomsdelegat & Elfi Ungdomsdelegat
Facebook pages: https://www.facebook.com/rcyouthdelegates/
Instagram: redcross_youthdelegates