Spanish-Swahili Shared Vocabulary (Cognates)

I’m currently beginning to learn Spanish, having already studied Swahili for several years. I always find that one of the easiest ways to learn vocabulary in a new language is to find similar words in a language I already speak. It roots it immediately in my brain, making the new words feel intuitive.

So, this is a little collection of words that are similar-sounding (cognates) in Swahili and Spanish. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re directly etymologically linked — Portuguese had a stronger impact on the development of Swahili, because of the Portuguese presence along the coast of east Africa. But, because Portuguese and Swahili are related, and Portuguese and Swahili are related, there are some Spanish-Swahili cognates that can help me out as a language learner.

ENGLISHESPAÑOL (SPANISH)KISWAHILI (SWAHILI)
tablemesameza
money (generally)peso (also refers to weight)pesa
flagbenderabandera
winevinomvinyo
pistolpistolabastola
boxcajakasha
trumpettrompetatarumbeta

If you know of any others to add to the list, please comment below!

Somali Daily Routine Vocabulary

I am in Somaliland! Travel went smoothly, and now I’m getting settled in. I’ve realised already that because my work context is in English (compared to Ethiopia, where it was in Amharic), I’m going to have to go out of my way to practice and use Somali on a daily basis. Of course, that’s my plan — I can’t imagine spending a year here and not continuing to study and learn Somali!

In any case, I think the next set of useful vocabulary will be about daily routines. I’ve learned how to conjugate the past tense for most verbs, so I’m going to try and learn vocabulary which can be useful (in connection with that).

  1. eat (verb) = cun
  2. breakfast (verb/noun) = quraac
  3. lunch (noun) = qado
  4. dinner (noun) = casho
  5. clean (verb) = nadifiin
  6. work (noun) = shaqo
  7. work (verb) = shaq
  8. make (verb) = samee
  9. read (verb) = akhri
  10. write (verb) = qor
  11. tea (noun) = shaah
  12. flatbread (noun) = laxoox
  13. bring (verb) = keen
  14. arrive/reach (verb) = gaadh
  15. be quiet (verb) = aammus
  16. then = dabadeedna
  17. teach (verb) = bar
  18. learn (verb) = baro
  19. take (verb) = qaad
  20. be sick (verb) = bug
  21. now = imminka
  22. talk = hadal

Ta-da! Hopefully those will help me communicate about my daily routine, and things that I did.

(More) Somali Household Vocabulary

I know I’ve already done one post about household vocabulary in Somali, today’s set of vocabulary is MORE household item vocabulary.

The Vocabulary List

  1. purse = boorso
  2. pencil/pen = qalin
  3. paper = warqad
  4. water bottle = dhalada biyaha
  5. bottle = dhalo
  6. cup = koob
  7. plate = saxan
  8. fork = fargeeto
  9. spoon = qaaddo
  10. knife = mindi
  11. book = buug
  12. phone = telefoon
  13. computer = kombiyuutar
  14. table/desk = miis
  15. trash/garbage = qashin
  16. electricity = korontada
  17. water = biyo
  18. soap = saabuun
  19. candle = shumac
  20. shampoo = shamboo
  21. blanket = buste
  22. mattress = joodari/furaash

Somali Town Vocabulary

  1. restaurant = makhayaad
  2. market = suuqa
  3. school = dugsiga
  4. university = jaamacad
  5. pharmacy = farmashiyaha
  6. office = xafiiska
  7. shop/store = dukaan
  8. hotel = hoteel
  9. bar = baar
  10. police station = saldhigga booliska
  11. mosque = masaajid
  12. hospital = isbitaal
  13. intersection = isgoyska
  14. farm= beer
  15. sports field = garoonka ciyaaraha
  16. post office = xafiiska boostada
  17. government office = xafiiska dawladda
  18. jail = xabsi
  19. yard/compound = dayrka
  20. fence = deedka
  21. gate = albaab
  22. river = webi

Essential Language for Travel Anywhere

If you’re travelling to a place where people speak another language, it’s your responsibility to figure out how to communicate! Depending on the place, you might also expect people to speak your language. Depending on what your language is, they very well might! Remember, however, that nobody is required nor expected to speak your language just because you do.

So, it’s up to you to communicate. Sometimes, that means hiring an interpreter, checking whether your smartphone translates that language, or (if you have certain sentences you need people to understand (such as communicating a severe food allergy to every restaurant you enter), making cards with those sentences in the language.

Whatever other methods you use, I’m also a strong believer in the importance of language-learning for travel. That’s right: try and learn the language (at least a little bit). Whether you’re visiting for five days or five weeks, being able to communicate — even on the most basic level — is essential to being a respectful traveller and having positive interactions during your trip.

Never fear, if you’re a novice language-learner: I’ve put together some simple recommendations of which words you might want to learn for your trip. If you’re just trying to learn a few words for a short trip, we won’t worry about grammar or full sentences — this is all about simplicity (even if you will occasionally sound very strange).

Top 10 Essential Words/Phrases

  1. Hello: Regardless of where you’re going, learn a greeting! Some languages have complex greetings, depending on the person and time of day — don’t worry about this. Just find a greeting that works for anyone, at any time, and use it with everyone!
  2. Good: Knowing how to say “good” is the easiest way to give a compliment (you can point to your meal and tell the waiter that it was good), or assuage any concerns (you can ensure concerned people that you are indeed comfortable and good in your bus seat). It’s useful in a thousand different circumstances. If you’re feeling extra motivated, learning the words for “delicious” and “beautiful” is also a great idea.
  3. Thank you: Some cultures use “thank you” less commonly than others, but it’s still a great phrase to know and use. When you’re travelling, you’re constantly a guest in someone else’s territory, and it’s good to share your gratitude for any welcome you receive. Bonus: if you’re up for learning another word, “please” is also polite.
  4. Sorry (Excuse Me): If you’re travelling somewhere you’re unfamiliar with the customs, norms, and simple traffic patterns, you’re bound to mess up at some point. If you bump into someone or accidentally do something rude, you’ll want to know a quick apology. It’s just manners.
  5. Bathroom: Just learn it. You don’t want to play charades.
  6. Restaurant: Whether you’re wandering around a city trying to find a place to eat, or confused as to whether the place you just entered actually serves food (this happens surprisingly often), being able to ask, “restaurant?” is incredibly helpful.
  7. How much?: You’re going to want to ask the price of something. Of course, you’ll also want to understand the answer; if you’re up for it, also consider learning numbers. This can really smooth out your interactions (especially when exchanging money).
  8. When?: When arranging transportation or planning anything, it’s super helpful to know how to ask the time. Even if you sound a little strange, saying “when bus Addis Ababa?” will get your point across. Again, knowing some numbers to understand the answer is also helpful.
  9. Where?: Here’s a great word to combine with some of your other words (remember, we’re ignoring grammar). You can ask “where hotel?” or “where restaurant?” or “where bus?” — super useful.
  10. ## People: Whether you’re trying to get a table in a restaurant or seats on a bus, it’s helpful to be able to communicate the number of people in your party. Just learn the number for how many you are and the word for “people.”

አማርኛ (Amharic) Landscape Vocabulary

አፋፍ/afafpeakኩረብታ/kuräbtahill
እሳት ጋሞራ/ïsat gamoravolcanoማማ/mamaisolated place on the top of a mountain
ገደል/gädälcliffጅረት/jïrätfloodstream
ዳግት/dagtsteepnessረግረግ/rägrägbog
ዋሻ/wašacaveሽርሽራ/šïršïraerosion

EXERCISE: Fill in the blanks using the given vocabulary words.

  • ዳግት/dagt
  • ዋሻዎች/wašawoc
  • ጅረት/jïrät
  1. አትሀጅም፤ መንገዱ __________ ነው፣ ይዳክማሻል።
    athejm; mängädu __________ näw, yïdakmašal.
  2. በጥንታዊ ጊዜ፣ ከጥንት አባቶች __________ ውስጥ ኖሩ።
    bät’ïntawi gize, kät’ïnt abatoč __________ wïst’ noru.
  3. ክራምት፣ዝናብ ሲዘንብ፣ __________ ይኖራሉ።
    kïramt, zïnab sizänb, __________ yïnoralu.