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Ugandan Swahili Survival Phrases

On this page are handy Ugandan Swahili survival phrases ... And not that you will find any significant difference in meaning from the Swahili spoken in Kenya and Tanzania ... but the phrases here will pretty much guarantee you survival in Uganda without complicating stuff.

But before we get busy, just one thing though, you will notice that I have tried to keep the translations as close as possible to the literal meaning to give you an insight of the actual sensitivity and feeling attached to the phrase.

Ugandan Swahili Survival Phrases - GREETINGS;

Note: Quite often, greetings are very important. They are used to start-up conversations. Here are some short conversations;

Morning greetings; (Formal)

A: Habari ya asubuhi? - literal meaning; Any news this morning? ...otherwise, How are you this morning?

B: Nzuri, asante - Fine, thank you.

Afternoon and Evenning greetings; (Formal)

A: Habari ya mchana? - How are you this afternoon?

B: Nzuri, asante - Fine, thank you.

A: Habari ya jioni? - How are you this evening?

B: Nzuri, asante - Fine, thank you.

Greetings Cont'd; (Informal)

Beth: Jambo - Hello (This is usually a quick hello to a friend, your accomplice - if you like. It's quite informal at that. It's not one you would use for someone you don't know so well)

Robert: Mzuri / Safi - Fine / Good

A: Hujambo? - Hello, how are you?.(this changes to 'Hamjambo' if you are greeting a group)

B: Sijambo - I am fine.(Response for a group - 'Hatujambo')

Simon: Habari / Habari yako? / Habari ya leo? - literal meaning; Any news? / What's your news? / What's today's news? Robert: Mzuri - Fine

Ugandan Swahili Survival Phrases - HOW TO INTRODUCE YOURSELF:

Note; As a common practice in Uganda, it's always good to start with a greeting especially if you are meeting someone for the first time.

Robert: Jina lako ni nani? - What is your name?

Beth: Jina Langu ni Beth. - My name is Beth.

Robert: Unatoka wapi? - Where are you coming from?

Beth: Ninatoka nchi ya Denmark - I come from the land of Denmark

Robert: Mimi ni daktari. Unafanya nini? - I am a doctor. What do you do.

Beth: Mimi ni mwalimu kutoka Denmark. - I am a teacher from Denmark.

Daktari - Doctor

Mwalimu - Teacher

Ugandan Swahili Survival Phrases - SAYING GOODBYE;

Kwaheri - Goodbye.

Usiku mwema - Good night

Lala salama - sleep well

Tuonane baadaye - Literally; Let us see each other later (See you later)

Tuonane kesho - Literally; Let us see each other tomorrow (See you tomorrow)

Badaaye - later

Kesho - Tomorrow

Kuwa safari salama - Have a safe journey

Safari - Journey / Trip

Ugandan Swahili Survival Phrases - More handy phrases;

Tafadhali - Please

Asante (sana) - Thank you (very much)

Samahani - Excuse me (frequently used if you want to get someone's attention)

Karibu - You are welcome

Siwezi kusema Kiswahili - I can't speak Kiswahili

Saa ngapi - What time is it?

Polepole (sana) - Slowly (very); Quite handy if you are travelling on the 'taxi' mopeds - those riders can be quite fast at times.

Kwenda polepole - go slowly

Sitaki - I don't want (Very handy especially if you don't want to buy something from the street vendors)

Sitaki Kahawa - TomorrowI don't want coffee.

Nataka soda - I want soda / Coke / Pepsi / Fanta

Sina pesa. - I have no money.

Ndiyo - Yes

Hapana - No

Sijui - I don't know

Sikuelewa - I didn't understand.

Kiswahili changu ni kibaya sana - My Swahili is very bad.

Mimi nasema swahili kidogo - I speak a little swahili

Unazungumza Kiingereza? - Do you speak English?

Ugandan Swahili Survival Phrases - SAYING SORRY AND SYMPATHY;

Samahani - I am sorry (quite often for something minor).

Nasikitika - I am sorry about the lose, the bad news, tragedy ... something more serious.

Tafadhali - Forgive me / Which is also used as 'please'

Ugandan Swahili Survival Phrases - ASKING FOR DIRECTION;

Iko wapi choo / bafu - Where is the toilet / bathroom (these are quite specific not interchangeable.

Iko wapi polisi? - Where is the police?

Kusaidia - Help

Kusaidia mimi tafadhali - Help me please

Nimepotea - I am lost

Iko wapi John? - Where is John?

Sijui - I don't know

Subiri - Wait

Subiri kidogo - Wait a bit

Subiri kidogo tafadhali - Wait a moment please

Kushoto / Kulia - Left / Right

Ugandan Swahili Survival Phrases - IN THE RESTAURANT;

Nini chakula gani? - What food do you have?

Ninaweza kuangalia menu, tafadhali - Can I look at the menu, please?

Mimi ni mla mboga - I'm a vegetarian. (take caution with 'vegetarian' - quite often the interpretation will be 'one who eats only vegetables' ... and you might still miss out on a few vegetables like 'beans'. Best is to be specific with what you exactly don't eat - 'I don't eat beef but I eat fish')

Nataka matoke na nyama - I want matooke (plantain) and beef.

Je, una bia? - Do you have beer?

Nataka bia baridi - I want a cold beer

Nataka maji. - I want water

Nipe soda - Give me soda / Coke / Fanta

Pesa ngapi? - How much money?

Asante (sana) - Thank you (very much)

Kwaheri - Goodbye

That's it! - go out confidently with an open mind and explore Ugandan Swahili - You will quite easily continue learning Swahili - if you wish. It's that simple!

Asante sana , mpaka basi (thank you very much, until then ...)

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