LESSON #79: Swahili Sounds #1 (“ch-“)

Am gonna try and cover all the common, important Swahili sounds so as to help you with your pronunciation of the different Swahili words you come across. Some sounds are more or less similar to their English counterparts eg. b, m, n, t etc. So we’ll ignore these and concentrate on the not so common ones.

As noted when I covered vowels, Swahili sounds’ best characteristic is their consistency, they hardly ever change. Very few would have more than one sound but as for vowels they are forever unchanging, same sound no matter what word they are found in.

The first sound I shall cover is “ch-“. First thing to note is that we do not have “C” as a standalone letter in Swahili, it is always attached to “H”. The 2nd thing to note is that most Swahili words do not have “hanging consonants” i.e. consonants followed by another consonant as opposed to a vowel. There’s a couple though like afya, mraba, imla etc which do have hanging consonants, but of course these are very much in the minority. It’s even more rare to encounter words ending with a hanging consonant, and if you do then chances are it’s a borrowed one (particularly from Arabic) That’s why am calling it the ch- sound with a hyphen at the end to indicate that a vowel should be there.

This sound is similar to the one in words like chair,  choke, choice, child etc but not chalet,  chauffer, characteristic, chrome  etc. So you have:




cha – che – chi – cho – chu



To finish off, a couple of Swahili words employing this sound:



Chai, Cheka, Chinja, Chozi, Chupa, Chapati, Chenza, China, Choma, Chuma

So that’s ch- for you and I hope you stick around for part 2 where I’ll be tackling a brand new sound. I wonder what it’s gonna be?! Tuonane punde!




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