LESSON #92: Ati nini?!! (say what?!)

Just like English, Swahili has many variations. Of course there’s the ultimate standard Swahili, just like we have the Queen’s English and since I come from the birthplace of Swahili itself am gonna list a couple of things that have different names from the ones we know on my side of the border. We also have words that have different meanings depending on whether you are in the land of naomba or the land of hakuna matata.

Lets get cracking:

  • Grandmother/old woman, wife, tomato – yup, these are all related, just stay with me on this one. Starting with grandma, in Tanzania we call her bibi but in Kenya they call her nyanya. Here’s where it gets interesting though. If you go to Kenya and introduce your grandma as bibi you are sure to get funny looks because you just introduced her as your wife! Am not finished yet, if a Kenyan goes to TZ and introduces their grandma as nyanya then they’ll get even funnier looks as they just referred to the poor woman as a tomato! Confused? Ok let’s break it down, in TZ a grandma= bibi whilst a tomato= nyanya. In Kenya a grandma= nyanya whilst a tomato =…well still nyanya! So double meanings there. At the same time a wife= bibi  in Kenya whilst in TZ its= mke. Alright catch your breath then read on…

  • Electricity – not too complicated this one, just 2 different words. In TZ it’s umeme whilst in Kenya it’s stima.

  • Sweets/candy – in TZ it’s pipi whilst in Kenya particularly in the coastal area where their Swahili is pretty much on par with ours they call it peremende. Everywhere else most people just say sweet/s. Candy isn’t that common as British English is the standard around those parts.

  • Batteries – again not too complicated.  In TZ we swahilinize it and say betri whilst in Kenya they say makaaor sometimes mawe. Ok I’ll complicate that just a teeny weeny bit, i

    n TZ mawe means stones.

  • Skirt – very slight difference here, just a vowel’s worth. We both swahilinized this word so whilst in TZ we say sketi my cousins the Kenyans prefer skati.

  • Shirt – same idea as skirt,  so its sheti for TZ and shati for Kenya.

There’s plenty more of course which as always you can point out to me on the comments section and if you have any questions let me know as well. Tukutane punde!



LESSON #87: Ipi ni ipi?…#12



Whip/ lash (acquired the name from the material used to make it-hippo hide)

Lastly, this more of a slang word, we usually refer to a great/awesome/amazing…person as kiboko. I’d like to think I too fall under that category 😉

Je, umelewa, umeelewa au umeolewa?

Got you good didn’t I?!

So that’s 3 totally different verbs that for your sake I pray you never get  mixed up, otherwise- trouble!

Kulewa‘ is what happens when you have had one too many! So for me who only sticks to the juices and the fantas (and the teas!) my answer to the above question will always be, “hapana, sijalewa”.

Kuelewa‘ is simlpy Read More

LESSON #47: Ipi ni ipi?…#7

Word to learn: mbuzi

  • Mbuzi, is the Swahili name for a ‘goat.’

mbuzi mnyama

  • Mbuzi is also a ‘coconut grater’ which is a very common equipment you’ll find in most Swahili kitchens as we love our coconut milk and add it in just about anything and everything.

mbuzi nazi
So you basically sit in the middle and get grating!

LESSON 43: Ipi ni ipi?…#6

Word to learn: Uma

Click on the link below to learn the different definitions of the above word…

EPISODE 38: Ipi ni ipi…#6.

(So yeahs our ‘which is which’ segment has been renamed to ‘ipi ni ipi’ which is simply its Swahili translation…)