BootsnAll Travel Network



Easy Foreign Languages to Learn: Swahili

As an American with no foreign language skills whatsoever, I’ve found the meager amount of Swahili that I’ve picked up incredibly easy to learn.

Many simple conversations are a series of greetings, based upon age and singular or plural forms. When you are walking outside of the city, every person that goes past will probably greet you, and it’s helpful to know what to say in response.

Also, when people are walking and carrying a large load, it’s common to say “pole” to which they say something like “asante”. Pole, pole is very commonly heard when climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, and means, slowly, slowly. Pole on its own, however, means something like “I’m sorry for your suffering”. Asante is simply “thanks”. Other helpful words that I’ve picked up are those for no (apana), welcome (karibu), white person (muzungu – you’ll hear this a lot) and african (um afrika).

I’ve also come to recognize a number of words after being here for a week, so I can pick them out in conversation.

I think the reason that Swahili is so easy to pick up is because many conversations are repetitive and said over and over, and the pronunciation is not very difficult. Most things are said exactly as they are spelled, and although I’m sure muzungus have accents, they do not seem to be as noticeable as they are in English, Spanish or other languages I can somewhat decipher.



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