Learning Swahili in Tanzania

When we travel to a far off country, we like to learn a handful of words in the local language. Saying phrases like “The check please” and “No thank you” can make a waitress beam or a hawker walk away. While in Tanzania we learn Swahili.  We pick up the main words very quickly and we decide that Swahili would be easy to learn if given 6 months.

We greet people with Jambo (Hello) and they reply See Jambo (Hello to you, or something like that).  La La Salaam (Good night), Mambo (How are you?) and its response Poa (Good or Cool) get smiles from folks when we say them.

Assanti (Thank you) expands into Assanti Sanna (Thank you very much) or to Appana Assanti (No thank you). We used the last one many times while in Stonetown to discourage the hawkers and touts.

Kariboo (you are welcome) doesn’t really mean you’re welcome as said after thank you, but it means you are welcome to come into my shop.

A Kuna Matata (take it easy, easy does it or hang loose) was uttered by a few touts to Murray when Murray had to get terse with them to leave us alone. Isn’t the saying a song from the Lion King?

Pole-pole (slowly-slowly) as we hiked up and over Mt Makarot or crossing a busy street.

Dojo (hot) was Murray’s favorite and he said it many times as a start to a conversation. It always got a chuckle as Murray could not quite get the j to sound quite right.

We learned that there are many goodbyes in Swahili. There is a good bye for when you do not expect to see the person again and a goodbye for when you will – more like a see you soon. Unfortunately we cannot remember which one Wahari (g00dbye) is, so I will just say La La Salaam.

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