Breaking Fast Swahili Style

Many cultures have different foods they prefer for their meals, eg. I got the shock of my life when I first started watching Asian dramas, movies etc and would see people having rice for breakfast… like really?!! It was such a foreign concept to me but of course now am very used to it.

Same thing for us in Tanzania and most of East Africa I think, when it comes to breakfast a huge percentage of people would have tea and bread (chai na mkate)-that’s like the basics. Others would have chapati, maandazi, vitumbua etc but they would always be accompanied with tea. Tea is such an important part of breakfast that usually the phrase ‘drinking tea’ is taken to mean having breakfast. For example if someone wants to ask you if you’ve had your breakfast they would usually say, umekunywa chai? (have you had tea?) Even if you had porridge or soup or whatever else for breakfast you’ll still answer, ndio nimekunywa chai (yes I’ve had tea).

A cultural note especially for foreigners, offering a guest tea without milk (chai ya rangi) is taken by most people as an insult, it’s like you are giving them low quality tea! In other cultures of course, especially in England where they just love their tea, people don’t feel offended at all and most hosts would ask how you take your tea, with or without milk but even if they give you without milk no one takes it personally. The whole idea behind why we put such importance on the type of tea is that milk to some may be hard to afford hence if someone offers you tea with milk (chai ya maziwa) that means you are important to them/they respect you.

So yeahs keep this in mind next time you offer someone tea, just have milk ready and then ask them how they like their tea and I can assure you most people would say with milk-it’s a status thing ha ha! We also make our tea very differently from our English counterparts who use tea bags. We prefer to actually cook it with plenty of viungo (spices) added to it-comes out oh so refreshing! But that’s another post for another day.

Breakfast today: vitumbua, karanga na chai-with milk of course!!)

Another batch bites the dust!

So I’ve been teaching a bunch of gentlemen from Estim Construction (my clients for a third consecutive year now), and we just finished the course the other day-see how happy they all are (to finally be rid of me I bet ha ha!)

It was a fun 3 months guys, hope you enjoyed it at least half as much as I did! See you around-asanteni na kwaherini!

LESSON #104: Je, wajua? (#13)

First of all, we are back and this time for good-yay!

Onto the lesson, as you may or may not know Swahili is mainly made up of Arabic vocabulary and also in small part vocabulary borrowed from other languages mainly English (the name of the language itself is Arabic, Sahil, meaning coast). But generally Swahili tends to borrow from numerous languages and that I have managed to prove over the years as I’ve been teaching students who speak different languages.

I knew a couple of words that were from other languages but the other day I was teaching a class about N class nouns (which as you may or may not know are mostly borrowed nouns i.e. from other languages). Funny thing is when I started listing common nouns my students kept telling me the meaning even before I asked and it turns out not only do we borrow lots of words from Arabic & English but Indian languages as well (mostly Gujarati).

Now here’s the thing, most English words can be ‘Swahilinized’ by adding an I at the end (as a suffix), this is usually done for words ending in a consonant, however if they end in a vowel then the ‘Swahilinization’ is slightly different. So if you are ever in a fix it’s ok (but not encouraged) to ‘Swahilinize’ whatever English word you need to use (all my students get really excited when I tell them this-lazy mode activated ha ha!)

So this is more of an FYI post, am gonna list a number of words that we have managed to borrow from other languages and if you happen to know of others please add them on the comment section. This list is by no means exhaustive and will probably get updated from time to time. Excuse the apparent ignorance but am just gonna classify all Indian origin languages under ‘Indian’ which I know is not a language but hopefully you get what I mean.


Bendera – flag 





Shule – school

Helacoin/s (although generally it just means money)


Motokaa motorcar

Koti coat











Bunduki gun, rifle

Memsabu – madam 

Dawa medicine 

Chupabottle/glass used to make bottles






Sandukutrunk, suitcase, box 




Sita, Saba, Tisasix, seven ,nine

By the way I like to give due credit so instead of sounding oh so knowledgeable (ha ha!) here’s a big list of more Swahili words of Arabic origin


Happy 4th anniversary to funlughaswahili-long live!!!

So the website’s been down this past couple of days and I was getting really antsy trying to get my host to sort me out. Well they did and just in time for our 4th anniversary too-yay!

Can’t believe it’s been 4 years already like where did the time go?!! I remember sitting on my bed in my sister’s house in Glasgow and having to tell her to shush it cuz I was about to record another audio lesson-using her laptop! She would laugh-as all good sisters are wont to do, and I would always tell her this is what am gonna for work from now on! Sure enough 4 years down the line and I am so chuffed that this little Swahili teaching blog has led to the creation of the biggest language service provider database in the region, Fun-Lugha, which has also become my full time job-well done me ha ha!

So am hoping to keep continuing doing this for the next many years and get more and more people learning my beautiful language that is Swahili.

Asanteni sana & please keep coming back to ‘longa nami Kiswahili’


Lesson Update: Lesson #75


Just an update on lesson #75 about understanding directions in Swahili. A certain Vola commented and asked for an accompanying podcast-I haven’t done one of those in a while! So yeahs it took a bit of time but I eventually got to it. You can listen to it here.

Similarly, if you need an audio accompaniment for any other lesson simply ask and thou shalt receive. Amen to that!

Diamond’s ‘Salome’

Haven’t posted one of these in a while but the song am doing today is the current hit in TZ and indeed East Africa, called ‘Salome’, from our resident hit maker Diamond.  Am a huge fan-there I said it, the guy certainly knows how to produce those hits I’ll give him that!

Now this tune-Oh dear what to say?!! If you remember this post about the ‘unsayables’ in Swahili and how we use better terms to refer to them (see here) then this song is the perfect example of the use of ‘clean’ Swahili to cover up the ‘unsayables’-Oh boy I blush!! 😉 😉 😉

Anyways I don’t have the balls to explain, hope you can get someone to explain to you what this song is REALLY about (if curiosity is just about killing you that is) but in the meantime just enjoy the tune because it’s certainly very catchy. ps: Parents not around at the moment so I’ve been playing this in the house all day, but the moment they return, it’s back to using my earphones-I think you get the drift he! he!

Also note this is the remake to one Saida Karoli’s mega hit years ago called ‘Mapenzi Kizunguzungu‘ (meaning ‘love is one big headache’ basically or something along those lines!), you can watch it here.


Leo tujifunze lugha teule ya Kiswahili!

I came across the below list on social media titled as seen above. Basically it was challenging Swahili speakers like myself to see just how much proper Swahili we knew and used in our everyday vocabulary. I confess I only know a couple of words out of the whole list, mostly because most of the time it’s easier to just use the English equivalent especially for new-ish technology. There’s 39 names in the full list so we’ll do ten each time, give you a chance to memorize. Enjoy!

1) Password – nywila 

2) Juice – sharubati

3) Chips – vibanzi

4) PhD – uzamifu

5) Masters – uzamili

6) Degree – shahada

7) Diploma – stashahada

8) Certificate – astashahada

9) Keyboard – kicharazio

10) Scanner – mdaki

Hand on heart, how many did you already know? Me, 3 (hides face in shame!!!)


Haggling culture in Tanzania

First things first, I am a terrible ‘haggler’ (is that even a word?!!) I honestly don’t know how I’ve managed to keep my business afloat being so terrible at this practice, but yeahs I guess am just so darn good at what I do that it doesn’t affect me 😉

Now unlike in many western countries whereby everything is labelled hence you pay what you see on the product-no more no less, here in Afrika, and particularly in my good country of Tanzania, there’s nothing like a fixed price! And if the fixed price has to apply then the customers usually introduce the very interesting ‘payment by installments’ concept-traders just cant seem to win hey?!

The only places whereby fixed prices are generally accepted by consumers are the likes of grocery stores, supermarkets, gas stations and eating/drinking establishments. Although depending on your skills and persuasion prowess you can even get a discount on food. eg. the other day I went to this little restaurant in town and they didn’t have my favourite mboga (side dish); maharage (beans). I ordered wali na nyama (rice and meat) which was supposed to be accompanied by maharage na mbogamboga (veggies). So I stood up to walk away and the nice lady was like, unaongea tu tunaelewana (we can just talk about it and come to an understanding). So yeahs I ended up paying 3000, instead of 3500-didn’t enjoy my meal as much but the discount was well worth it!

Apart from the few places, believe you me, you can and should haggle everywhere else! Traders tend to go really hard on especially foreigners, as is the norm in most countries not just in Afrika, but live here long enough and you pretty much get the gist of it and you find yourself paying the ‘local price’-or close to it! Another thing is, if you go to the market well dressed, you are sure to get overcharged-even if you are a local! Personally, I learnt from a young age that when you go shopping in certain places you dress shabby-well not too shabby but go for a very simple look. Also if you can speak Swahili, that’s a plus for you especially for fellow Africans not necessarily from Tanzania because then you will be treated like a local. but you go there with your Kizungu (slang for English) and you’ll see how that will play out!

So next time you go to Kariakoo market to get your supplies or for ladies if you go shopping to upgrade your wardrobe don’t just pay what you are told, usually they’d add a good few thousands to the ‘real’ price eg. if a pair of shoes costs say 50,000-I would usually pay about 45,000 but the ‘real’ price could even be as low as 35,000-it all just depends on your sweet tongue, patience and determination-which I clearly don’t possess but good luck to you and happy haggling!



The famous Kariakoo market in Dar whereby you can get anything you are looking for, you just need enough strength to handle the crazy crowds and scorching heat 🙂

Translation Challenge #10… (eng>Swa)

(Goodluck with some of the vocabulary-we both gonna need it!) 😉

The Simpsons is an American sitcom that shows middle class lifestyle in cartoon form. The half-hour episodes take place in and around the fictional town of Springfield and make fun out of American culture and society.

Since the show started in 1989 the Simpsons have been broadcast over 500 times. This makes it the longest running sitcom in American television history. In 2007 a full-length movie, The Simpsons Movie, made over half a billion dollars.

The Simpsons has won many prizes, concluding the Emmy Awards. In the year 2000 Time magazine named it the best television series of the century and the cartoon characters of The Simpsons received their own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

The Simpson family consists of 5 main characters. Homer is the rather clumsy, beer-drinking father. He works at a nuclear power plant in Springfield and is married to Marge Simpson, a typical American middle class housewife. The couple has three children. Bart is a ten-year old who constantly gets into trouble. Lisa is a highly intelligent eight-year old who has become a vegetarian and a Buddhist. Maggie, the family’s baby, is often shown with a pacifier. The Simpsons have two pets, a dog named Santa’s Little Helper and Snowball, a cat.

Even though the series focuses around animated characters, many human celebrities have starred on The Simpsons in the past, for example, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Tom Jones or Mel Gibson.