LESSON #44: Vowels (Vokali)

Swahili vowels (vokali) are similar to the ones found in the English alphabet but the big difference comes with the pronunciation. As you may know the 5 vowels in English have multiple ways of pronouncing them depending on a number of things like the letter found before or after them. eg. Man vs Make, Egg vs England, Indiana vs Iris, Post vs Cost, Unity vs Undo…….etc, you get the point. In the case of the Swahili language, the five vowels have just one way of pronouncing them (one sound) no matter where they are placed in a word.

So let’s learn how to pronounce these vowels using the following easy to understand examples:

a= Afrika, Alive, Sad, Alice, Clap, Among……..

e= Elephant, Beg, Envision, Bled, Egg……………

i= Ink, Pig, Immature, Cringe, Intel……………

o= Or, Cost, Lot, Pot, Dot…………

u= Push, Rude, Full……………

Now armed with that knowledge try saying these simple Swahili words, break a leg!

  • Pika [cook]                      
  • Kula [eat]
  • Gari [car]
  • Chai [tea]
  • Fanana [resemble]
  • Nunua [buy]
  • Uza [sell]
  • Pakia [load (v)]
  • Leta [bring]
  • Rudi [return]
  • Elewa [understand]
  • Awali [initially]
  • Ogopa [fear (v)]
  • Ita [call]
  • Uhuru [freedom]


A certain Mr Daniel Brown was kind enough to give us his 2 cents regarding this guide and I much appreciate it. The email below is self explanatory so just have a look and also head on to the very informative page via the provided link.  Many thanks to Mr Brown and I’ll be looking forward to more useful advice, corrections etc from students and experts alike in future-we can only improve.

I humbly ask that you please consider taking another look at the words used as examples for pronunciation LESSON #44: Vowels (Vokali)!

**When those words are spoken by an East African or a native speaker of Spanish, the vowel sounds would sound relatively correct.
However, the vowel sounds in the words given – when spoken by an American or someone else whose pronunciation of English vowels is different from East African pronunciation, the pronunciation would be completely incorrect or at least confusing. For the sound of “a” you offer the following:” a= Afrika, Alive, Sad, Alice, Clap, Among”.
Words such as “far, car or bar would be much better for the Swahili pronunciation of “a”.

There are similar problems with the words used for the other vowels.
The pronunciation guide found at: (http://kamusi.org/content/swahili-pronunciation-guide) is much better. Your guide causes confusion for the new lerner.