Thursday, September 13, 2007

Words they don't tell you in Swahili class!

I have quite a few expat friends who have decided to take Swahili lessons - basically it seems - in order to understand their house staff and try and get them to do things remotely resembling what they've asked for - BUT you have to realise that even though Swahili maybe the first language in Kenya, along with English -which is spoken in most businesses and throughout Nairobi - some of our upcountry folk have not been to school and therefore Swahili is not actually in their vocabulary either - so you might as well try Japanese!!

However i do think it's a great effort on their part to partake in these Swahili lessons - although they tell me that they generally end up in conversations with their teacher about football or his wife - who doesn't seem overly fond of! (Not sure if these kind of conversations are in Swahili or English, but in the detail they relate to me about the Swahili teacher, i would say its in English mainly - or he's a damn good teacher!)

The usual suspects that are taught to every tourist are generally things like; Jambo - hello, Habariyako - how are you? Kwaheri - goodbye, Asante Sana - thank you very much, Kifaru - rhino, Simba - Lion, Twiga - Giraffe, Kiboko - Hippo, etc, etc..

I grew up here, so Swahili was part of our syllabus along with English and we even got to do a GCSE (or 'O'Level in my day!) in the subject, but here's a few lines we weren't taught that i thought may be useful to someone out there somewhere!

'Askari ya matiti'
GENERAL TRANSLATION: Bra
LITERAL TRANSLATION: Soldier/Guard to look after your boobs.

'Kifuli ya chakula cha wazee'
GENERAL TRANSLATION: Knickers
LITERAL TRANSLATION: Padlock to the old man's food.

'Soksi ya rungu'
GENERAL TRANSLATION: Condom
LITERAL TRANSLATION: Socks for your truncheon

4 comments:

Finest said...

I speak swahili and your transalations...I just love them even more-cant stop laughing. And for sure...they are words they dont teach you in a Swahili class.

zed said...

ha ha ha

Harald Jensen said...

Dear LWKC:
I'm writing to you from Gautemala (in Central America). Las weekend (as in the last 6 editions) Kenyans took all first 5 places in the Coban Half Marathon. The Kenyans have become real celebrities for this yearly race. I would like to make some t-shirts and bumper stickers with the following: "Good bye, I will see you at the finish line". To have the desired effect, I would like this phrase writen in Swahili. Can you tell me if you could give me this translation? Hope you can help me. Best regards, Harald

Nats said...

I've just arrived in Nairobi and if I ever get a chance to use those words, I will be delighted!!

Cheers for your blog.