Zanzibar’s Favourite “Tourist Swahili” (and How To Level Up Your Language Skills)

There seem to be a handful of Swahili words that tourists learn pretty fast, because they’re the only words they see/hear during their visit to Zanzibar. They’re not the most practical words, they’re not the most common words, but they seem to be the words that have been engrained into the tourist culture. While they’re a fine starting point for speaking Swahili, they’re not really much more than that.

I love interactions where someone speaks in “tourist Swahili” to me, I reply with something just a little bit more advanced, and their eyebrows hit the roof in surprise. So, what I want to do here is give you a quick run-down of these “tourist” words, and also present a “leveled-up” alternative to improve your Swahili skills past “tourist level.”


“Jambo” literally means thing or issue, but is most commonly used as a greeting — mind you, a greeting for tourists. In a really interesting (honestly, must-read) 1995 article about tourists and Swahili, Carol Eastman (a Swahili speaker) describes the following interactions when she joined a tourist group and was perceived as a non-Swahili speaker.

“When the author, for example, would use fully grammatical sentences rather than simplified forms, she would be “corrected.” The greeting jambo is used on safari as both salutation and reply to a single individual or group. In coastal Swahili, one greets hujambo (sg.) or hamjambo (pl.) “How are you?” and answers sijambo (sg.) hatujambo (pl.) “I/We am/are fine.” On safari, it is jambo jambo everywhere.”

Frustrating, hey? In any case, her description includes the grammatically correct terms, which is one option to up your Swahili game. Alternatively, just consider using another Swahili greeting, in place of “jambo jambo.”

Hakuna Matata

I’m not sure if this entered the foreign lexicon via “The Lion King,” and then just reverberated back through the tourist circuits of Kenya and Tanzania, but it’s everywhere. “Hakuna matata” translates into “no problem,” which is a super useful phrase… except that this isn’t how locals would usually say “no problem.” The “leveled-up” options would be to replace “matata” with either “shida” or “mtatizo.” All three mean “problem/issue,” but a Swahili speaker would be much more likely to use “mtatizo” or “shida.”

If you want to double-up your Swahili skills, consider also replacing “hakuna” (there isn’t) with “hamna” (you don’t have). So, you could say “hamna shida” to mean “you don’t have a problem.” It sounds strange in English, but it’s quite natural in Swahili (much more so than “hakuna matata”). Think of it as “don’t worry, you don’t have a problem on your hands.”


Right off the bat, here’s a distinction all tourists should know right away: “pole” means “sorry” and “polepole” means slowly.

Okay, now that we’ve got that taken care off, while “polepole” is fine, I’ve got an alternative that will probably get some smiles and laughs from locals. There’s a great Swahili saying that goes “haraka haraka haina baraka” — hurry brings no blessing, meaning that there’s no reason to be in a rush. No prize for finishing first. So, the next time someone says “polepole” to you, just nod and reply thoughtfully “haraka haraka haina baraka.” Level up.


There’s also nothing strange about “karibu” — it’s the right word, used for tourists same as it’s used for anyone. The only thing to note is that when welcoming one person, you say “karibu,” and while welcoming a group, it’d be grammatically correct to say “karibuni.” In the same vein, when replying, if you’re thanking one host, you’d say “asante.” If there are multiple hosts to thank, you’d say “asanteni.”

If you’re looking to level up in your way of greeting someone, you can say “karibu, nimefurahi kukuona” (welcome, I’m happy to see you). If you’re looking to level up in your response, you can say “asante, nimefurahi kuwa hapa” (thank you, I’m happy to be here).

Karibu Tena

“Karibu tena” means “welcome again” (a phrase you’ll also often hear people say in English — they’re just trying to translate Swahili, even though the result might sound strange to a native English speaker), meaning “goodbye, you’re welcome back any time.” This is common with both tourists and locals, and is in and of itself a decent “level up” for Swahili-learners (it’s a nice phrase and usage of “karibu” with a completely new meaning, as a goodbye). Another option for a level-up here is “see you soon” (tutaonana hivi karibuni) or “see you later” (tutaonana badaaye).


“Rafiki” means “friend,” and is used for tourists and locals, so no issue there. As far as a level-up, I’d say to add the possessive pronoun and say “rafiki yangu” (my friend) instead of just “friend.” Usually, this word is useful to greet someone or address someone, even if you’re not sure of their name.

You can find a more detailed explanation of possessive pronouns (my, your, etc.) in Swahili at the bottom of this page.

Interested in learning more Swahili?

Using these basic “level ups” is a great start — if you want to keep learning more, check out how to introduce people in Swahili and how to conjugate verbs in Swahili! Happy language learning.

Amharic Immersion: Reading Signs in Fidel

When you travel, you can practice a language by reading street signs. Unfortunately, if you’re not travelling, it can be harder to get that “immersion” experience. So, for all you Amharic-learners at home, I’m bringing the street signs to you! Here are several street signs in Amharic, from across Ethiopia, to give you the chance to practice your fidel. Happy reading, and please comment if you have any questions about anything!

If you don’t yet know, here are some resources to learn fidel (the script used to write Amharic and several other Ethiopic languages)!

ADDIS ABABA: This Amharic-English sign advertising office services is great practice, because the first four words on the list are simply English words written in Amharic fidel, so you can understand it, even if you don’t know the vocabulary. Here are some notes on each:

  • ፎቶ ኮፒ: photocopy, nothing special here.
  • ፕሪንት: shortens “printing service” to simply “print”
  • ስካኒግ: reads “scannig” (hard g, like “good”), since there’s no “ng” sound in Amharic.
  • ላሚኔቲንግ: takes a different approach to representing “ing” than the line above… technically reads “laminating,” although the ንግ combo in Amharic would be pronounced with a hard “g,” like “good,” so it’s a little strange. But hey, they’re doing their best with sounds that don’t exist in fidel.

The last two (መጠረዝ and የዕህፈት ስራ) are actual translations into Amharic vocabulary.

Image Credit: “Firefox” by Fran Villena (villano), CC BY 2.0 (has been cropped and edited for brightness)

BAHIR DAR: These signs for cosmetic shops are great reading practice, too! If you can read fidel, you can read the main part of the sign (ቶፕ ሌዲ) without knowing any Amharic vocabulary (hint, it’s in English, too), and then the “subtitle” on the sign (የስጦጣ የውበት ዕቃዎች መሽጫ) is great reading practice, too. Here’s a breakdown of the vocabulary from the “subtitle” –

  • ስጦጣ: gift
  • ውበት: beauty
  • ዕቃዎች: things/items
  • መሽጫ: shop

Finally, notice the sign to the left — it’s spelled in fidel (ኮስሞቲክስ) according to their spelling in English, so even the Amharic version reads “cosmotics.” Perhaps it’s space themed?

Image Credit: “Scenes from Bahir Dar, Ethiopia” by A.Davey, CC BY 2.0 (has been cropped and edited for brightness)

ADDIS ABABA: This stationary shop has a lot of signage. It always amuses me when there’s extensive signage in Amharic, and then minimal translation into English. While the English simply says “Medhin Stationary,” here’s what the Amharic version actually reads:

  • መድሕን፡ Medhin
  • (የ)ፅህፈት: Writing
  • መሣሪያ(ና): Tools (and)
  • (የ)ኮምፒውተር: Computer
  • እቃዎች: Things/Items
  • መደብር: Store

You might have to zoom in to see some of the smaller signs to read them, although it’s a good approximation of how hard it is to read signs zooming past on a bus! Being able to read signs at a glance is a good sign you’re getting quite skillful with your fidel.

Image credit: “Streets of Addis” by Irene200CC BY 2.0 (has been cropped and edited for brightness)

Swahili Pronunciation: A Crash Course

I just spent several months leading tourists on a trip around East Africa, and spent a good chunk of time helping foreigners become comfortable pronouncing and speaking Swahili. I thought I’d share a few of my pro-tips for pronouncing Swahili (many of which I learned from my university Swahili teacher, shoutout Mme Dumeril!).

I digress, and here we go!

Emphasize the Second-To-Last Syllable

If you remember (and internalise) nothing else, remember this: in Swahili (and most Bantu languages), you generally emphasize the second-to-last syllable in a word.

What does that mean?

For example, in the word chakula (food), it would be pronounced as “cha-KU-la” (and not “CHA-ku-la” or “cha-ku-LA”). The second-to-last syllable gets the emphasis. As another example, we can take the word nakupenda (I love you). This would be pronounced as “na-ku-PEN-da,” with the second-to-last syllable getting the emphasis.

If a word only has two syllables, the same rule still applies. For example, the word maji (water) is pronounced as “MA-ji” — still emphasis on the second-to-last syllable, even though the second-to-last syllable is now also the first syllable. Another example is simu (phone), pronounced “SI-mu” and not “si-MU.”

Bonus Point: An interesting thing to note here is that even in related words, the emphasis changes when additional syllables are added. Karibu (welcome, to one person) is pronounced as ka-RI-bu, with the emphasis on the “RI.” However, when the plural suffix is added, forming karibuni (welcome, to multiple people), it’s pronounced as “ka-ri-BU-ni.” The emphasis shifts to the “BU” instead of the “RI” because that’s now the second-to-last-syllable.

That’s it! This is a rule you need to internalize, since you’re not going to be counting syllables and thinking this through as you read or speak. Don’t worry, it becomes second nature soon enough.

The Vowels Don’t Change: Learn Them

If you’re a native English speaker, here’s a pleasant surprise: vowels in Swahili are pronounced one way, and they don’t change. They don’t combine, there aren’t exceptions, they’re just there. So, to pronounce Swahili, just learn them, and say them. Here they are:

  • A: like in “avocado”
  • E: “ay” sound, like “day” or “way”
  • I: long “e” sound, like in “feet”
  • O: long “o” sound, like “oh no”
  • U: rhymes with “too” or “you”

So, as an example, wali (cooked rice) rhymes with the animated movie name — WALL-E. Easy, right?

Finally: The Consonants

Swahili takes a lot of words from other languages (Arabic, German, Portuguese, Bantu languages… the list goes on), and so there are oftentimes sounds you wouldn’t necessarily expect. That being said, the spellings are amazingly consistent, and there are no pronunciation exceptions or weird words (what an amazing language).

I’m not going to go through the entire alphabet, as most as the same as English. I’ll just highlight a few key points for beginning language-learners. My motto is that pronunciation shouldn’t stress you. As a language-learner, especially as a beginner, an accent is inevitable to start. It will dissolve with time — no use trying to eliminate it completely before you even know words. Plus, focusing so much on “exact” pronunciation of foreign sounds is intimidating and can crush your confidence, which is exactly what we’re trying to build up!

  • Swahili doesn’t use an independent “C,” so don’t worry about it. You’ll only see “c” as “ch,” and it’s pronounced the same as English.
  • Some teachers fuss about “J.” Politely ignore them. For your purposes as a language-learner, it’s pronounced the same as in English, and you’ll get used to the accent as you progress.
  • “DH” seems to stress some students, as does “GH.” First of all, these are relatively uncommon (although tafadhali/please and ghali/expensive come up pretty early), so don’t stress too much. As a beginning language-learner, just pronounce them as “D” and “G” — you’ll be understood.
  • “SH” is the same as English.
  • “G” is always hard when alone (always like “good” in English, and not like “giraffe”).
  • “NG” is like at the end of “thing,” and can sometimes take some practice for English-speakers who aren’t used to seeing it at the beginning of words. Some people will laugh at foreigners as they try to pronounce ng’ombe/cow. Have patience with yourself.
  • “NY” is pronounced like ñ in Spanish. English speakers might be familiar with the sound from the word mañana (which would be spelled in Swahili as “manyana”).

That’s it!

Swahili is a very regular language in terms of pronunciation, which makes it great for language-learners! Just follow those rules, and you will honestly be able to read anything, even a full article, and sound like you’re completely fluent. Next step is to learn some vocabulary!

25 Swahili Verbs: A Base List

It’s impossible to learn all the Swahili verbs right at the beginning — but, you’ve got to start somewhere. Here’s my base list of Swahili verbs, for someone just working towards a basic proficiency in Swahili (cough cough, myself, cough).

I’ve split the Swahili verbs into “functions,” or different situations where they’d be useful. Without further to do, here we go!

Swahili Verbs for Greetings and Introductions

  1. kushinda (various meanings, including “to spend a day,” so it’s often used in the greeting “umeshindaje?” asking “how was your day?”)
  2. kuamka (to wake up, used in the greeting “umeamkaje?” asking “how did you sleep/wake?”)
  3. kukutana (to meet, such as “tumekutana” meaning “we met.”)
  4. kukaribu (to welcome, often used in the imperative “karibu” and “karibuni,” telling people to be welcome).
  5. kutoka (to come from, used to ask where someone is from and say where you’re from… “unatoka wapi? mimi ninatoka…”)

Swahili Verbs for Understanding and Knowledge

  1. kujua (to know, ubiquitious as “sijui” — I don’t know)
  2. kukumbuka (to remember, “nakumbuka” means “I remember)
  3. kusahau (to forget, you can say “I forgot” as “nimesahau”)
  4. kujifunza (to learn, useful to say “ninajifunza” as a response if someone asks if you speak Kiswahili)
  5. kuelewa (to understand, very useful as a language learner to say “I understand”/ninaelewa or “I don’t understand”/sielewi)

Swahili Verbs about Coming and Going

  1. kwenda (to go, such as “twende” for “let’s go!”)
  2. kujaa (to come, although you’ll often hear it in the irregular imperative of “njoo” for “come here!”)
  3. kurudi (to return/come back, useful to tell someone “I’m coming back!” which would be “ninarudi!”)
  4. kukaa (to sit/stay, useful to kindly ask someone to “stay here” by saying “kaa hapa”)
  5. kusafiri (to travel, which is generally useful for travellers to say things like “ninasafiri” to say “I’m travelling”)

Swahili Verbs for Requests

  1. kutaka (to want, such as “nataka” for “I want”)
  2. kuhitaji (to need, such as “tunahitaji” for “we need”)
  3. kuomba (to ask for, often used as a polite “could I have,” such as “naomba”)
  4. kuleta (to bring, used in the polite request form as “lete” and then the item you’re requesting, preferably with “tafadhali”/please)
  5. kuwa (to be, often used to talk about the future state of things, so could be used in response to a request, such as “ilikuwa” for “it will be”)

Swahili Verbs about Food

  1. kula (to eat, useful for sharing dietary restrictions with “I don’t eat,” which is “sili”)
  2. kunywa (to drink, such as “wananywa” for “they drink”)
  3. kupika (to cook, to defend your own cooking abilities by saying “napika!”)
  4. kununua (to buy, to say that you can’t cook, but “I will buy,” as “nitanunua”)
  5. kupenda (to like, useful to say “ninapenda” for “I like” — show some appreciation for this delicious food you’re eating!)

Whelp, that’s about it for now! Comment if you have other basic verbs in Swahili you use all the time, that you think should be included in a list like this. Good luck with your Swahili studying!

Introducing People in Kiswahili (Crash Course)

We’ve got no time for fluff today, so here’s the deal: I studied Swahili for two years in university, and lived for six months in Kenya. I’ve never been fluent or advanced in Swahili, but my proficiency used to be a lot better than it is now. Soon, I’ll be headed back to east Africa, so I’m trying to bring my Swahili language skills back up to a functional level.

Whether you’re trying to review yourself, or teach yourself for the first time, I hope this can be helpful (and not too overwhelming — it is a crash course, after all, not a doctoral thesis).

Personal Subject Pronouns (I, You, We, They, He, She)

Use these are the beginnings of sentences, although they are more “optional” than in English (as the subject is often already implied according to the verb conjugation in Swahili). My old Swahili teacher (shoutout to Mme Dumeril) often translated “mimi” as “as for me, I” (instead of just “I”).

IYou (s)He/SheWeYou (pl)They

Ni: The Verb “To Be” (Am, Is, Are)

Here’s a gift: the verb “to be” in Swahili, conjugated for anyone in the present tense, is simply “ni.”

I amYou (s) areHe/She isWe areYou (pl) areThey are
Mimi niWewe niYeye niSisi niNyinyi niWao ni

Words About People That Start With “M-” (ie. Singular)

If you’ve heard about Swahili noun classes, that’s wonderful, but for this crash course, we’re not going to get too far into that. For now, let’s just start with Swahili words about people (nouns, specifically) which begin with the letter “m.”

  • Mkenya = Kenyan person
  • Mtanzania = Tanzanian person
  • Mwafrika = African person
  • Mmarekani = American person
  • Mzungu = foreign/white person
  • Mwanafunzi = student
  • Mwalimu = teacher
  • Mhandisi = engineer
  • Msafiri = traveller
  • Mwandishi = writer
  • Mwanasiasa = politician
  • Mkulima = farmer

Feel free to add any other vocabulary you’d like, depending on your situation and what’s useful to you.

Now, we can easily make sentences.

  • Mimi ni Mmarekani = I am American.
  • Yeye ni mwalimu. = She is a teacher.
  • Wewe ni mwandishi. = You are a writer.

As a note: there is no separate word for indefinite pronouns in Swahili (ie. no “a” or “an” before nouns), so you can just omit it when translating.

Word About People That Start with “Wa-” (ie. Plural)

Spoiler alert: when the “m-” changes to “wa-,” the word changes from singular to plural (like adding an “s” to the end of English words).

  • msafiri = traveller, wasafiri = travellers
  • mkulima = farmer, wakulima = farmers
  • Mkenya = Kenyan person, Wakenya = Kenyan people

So, you’ll use “m-” nouns with the singular subject pronouns (mimi, wewe, and yeye) and “wa-” nouns with the plural pronouns (sisi, nyinyi, and wao).

  • Mimi ni mwanafunzi. = I am a student.
  • Wao ni Watanzania. = They are Tanzanian.
  • Yeye ni mhandisi. = She is an engineer.
  • Nyinyi ni wanasiasa = You (all) are politicians.

Words About People That Don’t Start With “M-” or “Wa-” (Family Vocabulary)

A lot of family related words don’t start with “m-” or “wa-,” and they’re their own grammatical category.

  • mama = mother
  • baba = father
  • kaka = brother
  • dada = sister
  • bibi = grandmother
  • babu = grandfather
  • shangazi = aunt
  • mjomba = uncle
  • binti = daughter
  • mwana = son

Possessives (My, Your, His, Her, Our, Their)

Possessives in Swahili are formed with a possessive marker (an extra word), which comes after the noun. You can think in your head that you’d say “mother my” instead of “my mother.”

The possessive marker has two parts. Let’s start with the ending, because that’s the part that translates to English. I’m writing the Swahili word with a dash in front, to remind you that this is only the second part of the word.

MyYour (s)His/HerOurYour (pl)Their

The beginning of the possessive marker comes from the word that is being “possessed.” For example, if you’re trying to translate “my teacher,” the first part of the possessive will come from “teacher.”
Here’s what the first part will be:

  • If the word is a word about people that starts with “m-” (singular) OR “wa-” (plural), the possessive starts with “w-.”
  • If the word is a family-related word that doesn’t start with “m-” or “wa-,” and it’s singular, the possessive starts with “y-.”
  • If the word is a family-related word that doesn’t start with “m-” or “wa-,” and it’s plural, the possessive starts with “z-.”

Here are some examples:

  • mama yangu = my mother
    y- from mama, -angu for “my”
  • mwalimu wake = his teacher
    w- from mwalimu, -ake for “his”
  • binti zao = their daughters
    z- from daughters, -ao for “their”

You can also use this in full sentences.

  • Yeye ni dada yangu. = She is my sister.
  • Wao ni wanafunzi wetu. = They are our students.
  • Shangazi yako ni mhandisi. = Your aunt is an engineer.

And keep going from there!

Obviously that’s not everything you’ll ever need, but it’s a crash course! Let me know if you have questions or specific requests about other topics/sections to cover.

One Backpack (Beginner’s Swahili Reading Practice)

With a trip to eastern Africa soon approaching, I’ve been working to dust off my very rusty (and, at this point, frankly quite mediocre) Swahili. Regardless of the current condition of my language skills, work pays off, so it’s time to but in the elbow grease!

So, I’ve written the following passage in Kiswahili, as a writing exercise for myself. It’s quite basic, but I figured it could be decent reading practice (just like it was good writing practice for me). If you’re also a beginner, hopefully this is good practice, and if you’re fluent/advanced, please feel free to comment with any suggestions/corrections!

“Mfuko wa Begani Mmoja” (One Backpack)

Kwa safari yangu ya Afrika Mashariki, nina mfuko wa begani mmoja. Katika mfuko, nina nguo, sabuni, vitabu, na kilalio. Sina nguo nyingi, kwa sababu mfuko si mkubwa sana. Nitabeba mfuko mwenyewe wakati wa safari hiyo, kwa hiyo sitaki mfuko mkubwa.

Kabla ya safari, wasafiri wanafikiri mengi kuhusu mifuko yao. Lakini, baada ya safari kuanza, hawafikiri juu ya mifuko yao. Mifuko si muhimu sana, na mimi nimechoka kufikiri juu ya mifuko yangu! Nimechoka kusubiri. Niko tayari kwenda, na ninataka kupata ndege!

For my trip to East Africa, I have one backpack. In the backpack, I have clothing, soap, books, and a sleeping bag. I do not have a lot of clothing, because the bag is not very big. I will carry the bag myself during the trip, so I do not want a heavy bag.

Before a trip, travellers think a lot about their bags. But, after the trip starts, they don’t think about their bags. Bags are not so important, and I am tired of thinking about my bag! I am tired of waiting. I am ready to go, and I just want to get on the plane!

ትግርኛ (Tigrinya) Language-Learning Resources

Lately, it seems as though all search results for Tigray come back with “war,” but Tigray also has a rich history as a cultural, religious, and artistic hub (not to mention the gorgeous landscapes).

Here are a few resources for anyone interested in learning Tigrinya, the language of Tigray (the northern region of Ethiopia) and parts of Eritrea. Tigrinya is a Semitic language, closely related to Amharic, and is written using a script that is very, very similar to the Amharic script (with a few extra letters)

Basic Phrases/Phrasebooks

  • Omniglot has their standard phrasebook, which is often a good place to start (everything is written in English letters and Tigrinya’s script).
  • has a solid set of basic phrases, questions, and vocabulary (albeit only transcribed into English, and not written in the Tirgrinya script).

Basic Vocabulary Sets

  • UCL’s website has the Tigrinya numbers, with audio recordings to help your pronunciation.
  • Geez Experience has a great collection of vocabulary sets, with audio recordings, available on their site. Some pages seem to still be under construction, but still a great resource.
  • Memhr also has a great collection of organised vocabulary sets, with some practice exercises as well.
  • This Tigrinya Picture Dictionary (PDF) is a great tool for beginners, and is easy to print to study offline.

Basic Grammar Guides

  • Memhr also has a good set of basic grammar lessons on their site, along with their vocabulary sets.
  • Swarthmore’s Wiki has a good run-down of some grammar topics for the experienced language-learner, but it’s not very intuitive for beginners.

Further Resources (Intermediate/Advanced)

  • Goethe-Verlag has an extensive collection of Tigrinya conversational situations on their website, with audio recordings.
  • u/dorinodino on Reddit has posted this Google Drive with some cool resources for listening in Tigrinya, as well as a document with a variety of sentences translated between English and Tigrinya.
  • Aethiopica has a cool article about using proverbs for language-learners. The second half of the article is full of Tigrinya proverbs organised to support different language-learning points, which is an amazing resource for the intermediate Tigrinya-learner.

As always, if you know of any other resources that should be added to this list, please let me know! Happy language-learning.

Somali Household Vocabulary

PS. I’ve marked the part of speech as either (n) for noun or (v) for verb.
PPS. Shoutout to u/xaayow on Reddit for helping me clarify several of today’s vocabulary words!

  • dhaq (v) = wash (1)
  • fur (v) = open (2)
  • xidh (v) = close (3)
  • dhar (n) = clothing (4)
  • dharka gash (n-v) = get dressed (5)
  • ilko cadee (n-v) = brush teeth (6-7)
  • istaag (v) = stand up (8)
  • caday (n) = toothbrush (9)
  • hurdo (v) = sleep (10)
  • gal (v) = enter (11)
  • bax (v) = leave (12)
  • guri (n) = house (13)
  • qubeyso (v) = shower/bathe (14)
  • albaab (n) = door (15)
  • sariir (n) = bed (16)
  • kac (v) = wake up (17)
  • daqaad (n) = window (18)
  • kursi (n) = chair (19)
  • musqul (n) = toilet (20)
  • fadhiiso (v) = sit (21)
  • seexo (v) = lie down/sleep (22)

Basic Saho Vocabulary

Saho is a language spoken in Ethiopia (mostly in Tigray), Sudan, and Eritrea. It’s a Cushitic language, related to Qafaraf (the Afar language).

The other day, I was looking for a basic Saho vocabulary list, to support some Saho-speaking English-learners. While I found a few dictionaries, and plenty of academic/grammatical analyses, I couldn’t find any sort of basic vocabulary list, organised by topic. So, I made one (based on a few of the dictionaries)! It’s not a complete language guide (not by a loooooong stretch) — but, it’s a start!

Note: I am not a Saho-speaker. If you see anything which needs to be corrected, please let me know in the comments!


  • attobus = bus
  • roblaano = airplane
  • tikket = ticket
  • tsirga = road
  • cibri = boat


  • sekkendi = second
  • daquiiqha = minute
  • saaca = hour
  • kado = now


  • kumal = yesterday
  • kaafa = today
  • beera = tomorrow
  • erekkaso = the day before yesterday
  • beexa = the day after tomorrow
  • sanii = Monday
  • saluus = Tuesday
  • rabac = Wednesday
  • xamus = Thursday
  • jumcat = Friday
  • cindha sambat = Saturday
  • naba sambat = Sunday


  • limo = cost/price
  • dago limo = cheap
  • qaali = expensive
  • foyyah = free (nothing)
  • fida = refund
  • ikfile = pay


  • abo = grandfather
  • aboyya = grandmother
  • awkä = girl
  • awka = boy
  • sacal = brother
  • sacla = sister
  • ina = mother
  • abba = father


  • carat = bed
  • shiquaaqh = toilet
  • difeena = chair
  • thawla = table
  • farnello = stove
  • bumba = faucet
  • finistira = window


  • baani = bread
  • xarich = flour
  • lay = water
  • kudaar = vegetables
  • xazo = meat
  • lalim = egg
  • daro = fruits
  • ruuz = rice
  • qurse = breakfast
  • dirar = dinner
  • dhacamto = snack
  • maaddi = meal