Kiswahili Recap

Kiswahili is in one sense simple – each letter has one sound and one sound only.
In another sense it is incredibly difficult to learn which I will attempt to explain below.

  1. Nouns belong in classes (analogous to the masculine and feminine in French but more complex). The classes are designated by a noun prefix which changes (or doesn’t!) when in plural. I have so far been introduced to
    1. Ki-Vi Class

      1. Kisu / Visu (Knife / Knives)
      2. Kiti / Viti  (Chair / Chairs)
      3. Kiazi / Viazi (Potato/ PotatoesSo far so good – but there are other words in this class which have different prefixes
      4. Chumba / Vyumba (Room / Rooms)
      5. Chombo / Vyombo (Dish / Dishes)
      6. Choo / Vyoo (Toilet / Toilets)
    2. M-Mi Class

      1. Mto / Mito (River / Rivers or Pillow / Pillows)
      2. Mti / Miti (Tree / Trees)
      3. Mkate / Mikate (Bread / Bread (pl)Other words in this class
      4. Mwaka / Miaka (Year / Years)
      5. Mwezi / Miezi  (Month / Months)
    3. Ji-Ma Class

      1. Jino / Meno (Tooth / Teeth)
      2. Jiko / Meko (Stove / Stoves)
      3. Jina / Majina (Name / Names)Then it gets more random
      4. Dawa / Madawa (Medicine / Medicines)
      5. Kabati / Makabati (Cupboard / Cupboards)
      6. Ziwa / Maziwa (Lake / Lakes but Maziwa also means Milk)
    4. N Class

      1. Meza / Meza (Table / Tables)
      2. Barua Pepe / Barua Pepe (Email / Emails)
      3. Mbwa / Mbwa (Dog / Dogs)N class w0rds are the same in plural and singular (like Sheep in English)
    5.  M-Wa

      1. Mtoto / Watoto (Child / Children)
      2. Mwalimo / Walimo (Teacher / Teachers)
      3. Megeni / Wageni (Guest / Guests)
    6. Odd Words
      These don’t fit into anycategory above and are singular nouns

      1. Mimi (I)
      2. Wewe (You)
      3. Yeye (He / She –  there is no difference)
      4. Sisi (We)
      5. Ninyi (You all)
      6. Wao (They)
  2. Adjectives to have prefixes whichare determined by the noun classes above and the prefix is further determined by whether the word starts with a consonant or a vowel
    1. Ki-Vi class
      1. Kisu kidogo  / Visu vidogo  (Small Knife / Knives)
      2. Kikombe cheupe / Vikombe vyeupe (White cup / cups)
    2. M-Mi class
      1. Mti mrefu / Miti mirefu (Tall tree / trees)
      2. Mzigo mwepesi / Mizigo myepesi ( Light package / packages)
    3. Ji-Ma class
      1. Gari kubwa / Magari makubwa (Big car / cars)
      2. Sanduku jeusi / Masanduku meusi (Black trunk / trunks)There is an exception for the adjective (-pya meaning new)
      3. Tunda jipya / Matunda mapya (New fruit / fruits)
    4. N class
      1. adjectives beginning d,z,g or j the adjective starts with n
        1. Zawadi ndogo (small gift)
      2. adjectives beginning b the adjective starts with m
        1. Ndizi mbivu (ripe banana)
      3. adjectives beginning with other consonants – no prefix
        1. Sufuria kuu kuu (old cooking pot)
      4. adjectives beginning with a vowel start ny
        1. Chai nyeusi (black tea)
    5. M-Wa class
      1. Mtoto mzuri / Watoto wazuri (good child / children)
      2. Mzee mwepesi / Wazee wepesi (swift elder)
  3. There are changes to nouns when put intoMahali class – this is all to do with place andposition
    1. The nouns gain an  -ini ending  if theywere intended for storage (putting things or people inside) orlocation
      1. kitanda (hut) becomes kitandini
      2. mto (mountain) becomes mtoni
      3. duka (shop) becomes dukani
      4. nyumba (house) becomesnyumbaniThings which were never intended for storage but are used as such need to have the word kwenye added ahead of the noun
      5. kwenye gari (car)
      6. kwenye sufuria (cooking pot)
    2. The nounis followed by a place marker and the suffix-na
      1. kuna indicates in the area of
        e.g. nyumbani kunapendeza – the area of the house is beautiful
      2. pana indicates the exact location
        e.g. nyumbani panapendeza – the house is beautiful
      3. mna indicates inside
        e.g. nyumbanimnapendeza – the inside of the house is beautifulAdding ha in front indicates the opposite
        e.g. hakuna , hapana, hamna
  4. Thefinal grouping of words indicates you are with something (there is no concept of ownership in Swahili – you own nothing you are justin possession of it) butcan be seen as equivalent to I have etc
    1. Nina kompyuta (I have a computer)
      Sina kompyuta (I have no computer)
    2. Una gari (You have a car)
      Huna gari (You have no car)
    3. Ana twiga ( He/she has a giraffe)
      Hana twiga (He /she has no giraffe)
    4. Tuna maembe (we have mangoes)
      Hatuna maembe (we have no mangoes)
    5. Mna ajali (you all  have an accident)
      Hamna ajali (you all have no accident)
    6. Wana maziwa (they have milk)
      Hawana maziwa (they have no milk)

      Some confusion here as the word Hamna means not inside as well as You all have no. So you have to know the context.

This is a summary of many weeks of study at the language school – but illustrates the complexity of learning a language which is so different to English. If you have read this far well done. For me this has been a blog and a revision session in one.

One response to “Kiswahili Recap

  1. Reminds me of the rote we used to have to memorize in primary schools Kiswahili class. it goes something like this . M-Wa, M-Mi, Ki-Vi, Ji-Ma, N-N, Ku, Mahali (Pa-Mu-Ku)


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