Monday, March 22, 2010

Tanzania: Languages

Tanzania has more than 126 ethnic groups and each ethnic group has its own language. “Talk” about a lot of lingo! Although no language is official, Swahili is the national language. English is Tanzania's commercial language, as well as the main teaching language for all scientific subjects in secondary schools and higher education.

There are several Swahili dialects, but standard spoken Swahili is based on the language of Zanzibar town. Written Swahili is based on the language spoken on the east African coast and Arabic is widely spoken in the coastal areas, particularly in Zanzibar.

Many East Africans speak some English or French, so knowing a few words of Swahili will really help you out in the more rural areas and along the coast. Since Swahili is a second language to most East Africans, they'll understand a little broken Swahili, and they'll certainly appreciate your efforts!

Greetings are important in East Africa, so try to always begin a conversation with "Hello, how are you?"

A few words and phrases that will get you started:

Hello: Jambo / hujambo / Salama
How are you: Habari gani
Goodbye: Kwaheri
I understand: Naelewa
I do not understand: Sielewi
Please write it down for me: Waweza kuiandika?
How much is this?: Hii ni bei gani?
No worries: Hakuna Matata…..and no it’s not something Walt Disney invented for The Lion King. It really does mean “No worries” in Swahili and people there really use it!!

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