Posts Tagged With: English

The Wire, in Swahili!

Last night mom and I were watching the second season of The Wire (yeah, I know we’re a bit late to this show, but don’t blame me, I wasn’t even born when this episode aired) before bed and were both shocked to hear Swahili!  I made mom rewind and watch again, and sure enough, there’s a guy speaking Swahili!

See for yourself:

The Wire, Season 2, Episode 3

Kiingereza

Kiingereza

Fanya kazi

Fanya kazi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, if you’ve watched the youtube link I posted above, you probably noticed a few things (or maybe not, I might just be more sensitive since I’ve spent the majority of my life in a Swahili-speaking country).

  1. Hooray for HBO and The Wire for using Swahili.  There were words and phrases that I could pick out so at least some of it is accurate.  However, maybe this guy is from Kenya or maybe he’s just an actor learning lines, but his Swahili accent certainly doesn’t sound like anyone I know from Tanzania.
  2. How is it at all plausible that a man from East Africa is employed on a boat that has docked in both Baltimore and Philadelphia and he doesn’t speak a word of English?  Even more crazy is that the boat is supposedly filled with lots of other workers.  How the heck do they communicate in order to get anything done?  I seriously doubt that a native Swahili speaker would ever be hired for a position without speaking ANY English, I mean, English is an official language of Tanzania (although you’d barely know it since so few people speak it well).
  3. The way that the detective responds to the Swahili-speaking man is just downright absurd.  Talk about cultural insensitivity (and I actually really LIKE this show).  The detective literally says, “Yabba dabba dobba doo”.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  This is a black man making fun of another black man using words from the Flintstones.  Need I say more?
  4. Lastly, while I don’t appreciate the delivery of the sentiment from the detective, he does have a point.  How WOULD someone travel half-way around the world and not speak a word of English?

Now that’s quite enough of my ranting for one day.  Just had to stick up for all my East African, Swahili-speaking buddies out there!  Now, back to The Wire…

Ni wakati wa kuangalia The Wire

Ni wakati wa kuangalia The Wire

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Swanglish

Everyone always assumes that Swahili is a difficult language.  For example, mom’s French teacher in high school used to make jokes about Swahili all the time saying that French was easy compared with the East African Bantu language.  Now, I can’t say that I know a single thing about French, but I do know a fair bit of Swahili after living in Tanzania for a year.

This is where people speak Swahili

This is where people speak Swahili

A French Swahili book

A French Swahili book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One simple rule to live by: when in doubt add ‘i’ to the end of any English word and chances are you’ll not be far off from the Swahili.  I’ve put together a list of some Swahili words here that are either: a) useful; b) easy; c) from the Lion King; or d) some mangled form of English and Swahili, ie. Swanglish.  You’ll all be speaking Swahili before you know it!

 

Swahili lessons in Tanzania

Swahili lessons in Tanzania

So let’s begin!  Also, every language teacher knows that it’s easier to remember vocabulary when paired with a picture so I’ll be “illustrating” this Swanglish lesson as we go.

First, some useful terms that everyone should know:

  • Karibu: Welcome
  • MamboWhat’s up?
  • PoaCool (also the answer to Mambo)
  • ShikamooSay this when addressing an older or superior person
  • MarahabaThe response to Shikamoo
  • Habari …..How is… (insert whatever here, such as morning (za asubuhi), work (za kazi), etc.)
  • NzuriGood (also the answer to any habari question)
  • Jambo: A grammatically incorrect way to greet someone and ask how things are going

 

Jambo on Store Signs

Jambo on Store Signs

Jambo on a plastic chair!

Jambo on a plastic chair!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now for some easy words that are more or less the same as English (remember the ‘i’ rule.  Also, Tanzanians are not big on spelling so go ahead and butcher words!  For example, mom’s name is spelled either Sarah, Sara, Sala, Sera, or Salah and as far as Tanzanians go, they’re all correct):

  • Krismasi: Christmas
  • Keki: Cake
  • Wiki: Week
  • Tunachagi Simu: We charge phones (sim cards)  
  • Polisi: Police

 

Twiga eating keki

Twiga eating keki

Krismasi in Tanzania

Krismasi in Tanzania

 

 

 

  • Bia: Beer
  • Intaneti: Internet
  • Mimi: Me
  • Treni: Train  
  • Sukari: Sugar
Twiga checks out the intaneti

Twiga checks out the intaneti

There's bia in my yard

There’s bia in my yard

 

 

  • Ofisi: Office
  • Hospitali: Hospital
  • Benki: Bank
  • Namba: Number
  • Rula: Ruler
My mom works at a rural hospitali

My mom works at a rural hospitali

 

There's an ofisi near my house

There’s an ofisi near my house

 

 

  • Penseli: Pencil
  • Baiskeli: Bicycle
  • Friji: Refrigerator
  • Vocha: Voucher 
We have a friji in our house

We have a friji in our house

 

Baiskeli on the road

Baiskeli on the road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know you all remember the movie ‘The Lion King‘.  Well, I bet you didn’t realize you were learning Swahili while you watched!  Here’s some words you might have heard in the movie (and also some other animal-related words too):

  • Simba: Lion
  • Rafiki: Friend
  • Hakuna Matata: No worries/problem
  • Asante SanaThank you very much
  • Pumbaa: Careless
  • Sarabi: Mirage
  • Shenzi: Barbarous
  • Mbwa: Dog (most important word EVER)
  • Twiga: Giraffe (second most important word)
  • Safari: Trip 
Twiga looks like a twiga and he's also my rafiki

Twiga looks like a twiga and he’s also my rafiki

I'm a cool mbwa!

I’m a cool mbwa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And lastly, a list of miscellaneous Swahili and Swanglish words:

  • Jift: Gift
  • Baridi: Cold (always good to know when ordering a bia!)
  • Mzungu: White person
  • Kwanza: January or First
  • Sista: Sister (or a general term for any woman/girl) 

 

Mwanza Kwanza Electronics, it must be the FIRST electronics store!

Mwanza Kwanza Electronics, it must be the FIRST electronics store!

Have a Coke baridi!

Have a Coke baridi!

Look!  I'm a jift!

Look! I’m a jift!

And there you have it.  Your first swahili vocabulary lesson!  Now don’t even ask me about grammar.  First of all, I hear Swahili grammar is super hard.  But also, I’ll remind you that my first language is Bark and there’s no grammar whatsoever, only intonation, which is also very important.  But maybe, just maybe, in a few months time I might be able to give ya’ll another lesson.

KWAHERI!

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