Useful South African, Swahili, and Zulu Words and Phrases

Familiarizing yourself with the cultural landscape of Southern and East Africa is an important part of the preparation process for any safari traveler. It would behoove you to brush up on a few useful words and sayings before you embark on your next trip to Africa.

When going on safari, conquering the fundamentals of just two foreign languages, Zulu and Swahilu, will suffice for communication purposes throughout most regions. If your destination is Zimbabwe or South Africa, take into account that Zulu is the most widely spoken and understood language. If you’re traveling to East Africa, familiarize yourself with Swahili, a language that’s a blend of Arabic and Bantu. When traveling to Botswana, Namibia, or Zambia, it’s not necessary to use any foreign languages since English is the most common.

For starters, it’s always good to know the main starting phrases of any conversation: “Hello” and “How are you?” In Zulu, “Hello” or “Good morning” is “Sawubona” and “How are you?” is “Usaphilia?”

In Swahili, “Hello” is “Jambo” and “How are you?” is “Habari?”

Other basic Zulu words are: “Yes” (“Yebo”), “No” (Cha”), and “Thank you” (Ngiyabonga).

In Swahili, “Yes” is “Ndio,” “No” is “ Hapana,” and “Thank you” is “Asante.”

Some other useful Swahili and Zulu words and phrases include:

What is your name? – “Jina lako nani?” in Swahili and “Ubani igama lakho?” in Zulu

My name is— “Jina langu ni…” in Swahili and “Igama lami ngingu…” in Zulu

How much is it?—  “Ngapi shillings?” in Swahili and “Kuyimalini lokhu?” in Zulu

I need…- “Mimi natafuta” in Swahili and “Ngidinga” in Zulu

I don’t understand – “Sifahamu” in Swahili and “Angizwa ukuthi uthini” in Zulu

Excuse me – “Samahani” in Swahili and “Uxolo” in Zulu

Doctor – “Daktari” in Swahili and “udokotela” in Zulu

Food – “Chakula” in Swahili and “Ukudla” in Zulu

Water – “Maji” in Swahili and “Amanzi” in Zulu

Where is the bathroom? – “Choo kiko wapi?” in Swahili and “Likuphi itholethe?” in Zulu

Please – “tafadhali” in Swahili and  “Ngicela” in Zulu

Goodbye – “Kwaheri” in Swahili and “Hamba kahle” in Zulu

You’re Welcome – “Karibu” in Swahili and “Nami ngiyabonga” in Zulu

Some useful South African words include:

Hello (how is it?) – “Howzit?

Yes – “Ja”

Nice/Good – “Lekker”

And if all these words fail, a big smile is also understood in all languages. Happy Travels from everyone at Premier Tours!

Some useful Zulu and Swahili phrases - Zulu man looking over landscape
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