LESSON #51: Learn how to respond when called in Swahili

So there’s two main ways of responding when your name is called in Swahili. Men and women answer differently although I know a few women (ok notably one woman I happen to call mom!) who uses the male way of responding for some unexplainable reason (can’t blame her though she’s Kenyan-just kidding!)

For women, when ur name is called you can respond in a number of ways:

‘labeka!’, ‘labe!’, ‘bee!’, ‘abee!’– all these mean “yes sir! ” or “yes ma’am!” but we use them even in informal situations eg. when answering to parents.  So you wouldn’t really call dad and mom sir or ma’am but its just a form of respect for elders.  You can also respond this way to your peers if you wish. The most commonly used of these four are ‘bee and ‘abee (the other two are a bit too old fashioned) Note:  be sure to pronounce the ‘e‘ in the proper Swahili way or else you’ll end up saying things you dont quite mean! Click here to refresh your memory.

As for men the response is ‘naam!’ Again it means “yes sir!” or “yes ma’am!” but it can be used pretty much in any situation just like its female counterpart.

Naam!’ also means ‘certainly’, ‘of course’ or ‘definitely’, so if you are agreeing with someone or something you can also say ‘naam!’

And if you can’t be bothered like myself, you are welcome to use the many different universal ways of responding like eeh! aahmmh!…… etc which are pretty much acceptable especially in informal situations.


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2 Responses to LESSON #51: Learn how to respond when called in Swahili

  1. Boga says:

    That reminds me of my first visit in Tanzania. As i was learning much of my swahili on the streets(barabarani) by interacting with others, I heard that many people, they answered with ABEE when someone was calling their name. But then me as a men I just earned big laughter when I used ABEE when somebody was calling my name. But the reason for the laughter I was not able to find out, I was thinking of bad pronounciation or something else, and also the people who I asked why they are laughing they didn’t help me with an explanation for their laugther because they wanted to kid me. I need many time to realise that me as a man I can’t use this because it is just used by women. In the european languages which I know there is no such big difference between the different gender. But luckily finally I realised that all the mens are just saying NAAM and not using ABEE.

  2. lisensei07 says:

    ha ha! Looks like they had quite a laugh at your expense! But at least that means you’ll never forget those 2 words!

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