How To Learn Swahili: Swahili Language Words For Beginners

July 20, 2023 1 Comment
Untitled design 2023 07 20T132826.417

You’ve decided to embark on the exciting journey of learning Swahili. Kudos to you! Swahili is a beautiful language spoken by over 100 million people, opening you up to a whole new world of cultural experiences. However, any new language comes with challenges, and Swahili is no exception. Learn Swahili Language Words For Beginners

As you dive into this new linguistic adventure, be prepared to overcome some significant hurdles. The good news is, with determination and the right mindset, you can conquer them. Let’s take a look at the 3 biggest obstacles you may face in learning Swahili so you can be ready to succeed. Jambo! The Swahili adventure awaits.

The Complex Sounds of Swahili

Learning Swahili words opens you up to a whole new world of culture, community and unique sounds. The language has a vibrant musicality and expressiveness that will ignite your sense of adventure. However, there are a few hurdles you’ll need to overcome to master this fascinating tongue.The biggest challenge by far is navigating Swahili’s complex phonetic system.

Swahili has over 20 vowel sounds and additional consonant sounds that don’t exist in English. Many of these are pronounced in the back of the throat or with a rolling ‘r’. At first, these unfamiliar sounds can twist your tongue in knots!

With regular practice, the rare sounds of Swahili will become second nature. Start by listening to native Swahili speakers and trying to imitate the sounds. Focus on pronouncing vowels and consonants accurately before worrying about grammar or vocabulary. Even mispronouncing a single sound can change the meaning of a word or phrase.

Another hurdle is the lack of written resources for learners. While audio resources abound, books for beginners are rare. The good news is that once you have a handle on pronunciation, Swahili is actually quite learner-friendly. Its rules of grammar, syntax and spelling are very straightforward with few exceptions.

The key is not to get discouraged. Stay determined, be patient with yourself, and celebrate small wins. Find a language partner or tutor and immerse yourself in the culture as much as possible. With passion and persistence, you’ll be conversing comfortably in Swahili in no time! The rewards of overcoming these challenges will be life-changing. Now go unleash your inner adventurer!

The Foreign Script of Swahili: Swahili Language Words

 Swahili Language Words

Learning Swahili Language Words is challenging enough, but Swahili takes it to a whole new level. The Swahili alphabet consists of 23 letters, all consonants, and 5 vowel symbols. To make things even trickier, Swahili is not written with the Latin alphabet we’re used to – it uses the Arabic script instead!Don’t let this intimidate you. With regular practice, the Swahili alphabet will become second nature. Start by familiarizing yourself with the shapes and sounds of each letter. The vowels in Swahili are:

  • A as in ‘father’
  • E as in ‘egg’
  • I as in ‘ski’
  • O as in ‘go’
  • U as in ‘flute’

The consonants can be a bit trickier to pronounce, but take your time and listen to audio examples. Pay extra attention to letters like ‘dh’ which sounds like ‘th’ in ‘this’, or ‘gh’ which is silent.Once you’ve got the sounds down, start putting letters together into simple words and short phrases. Flashcards are fantastic for memorizing the Swahili alphabet. Write the letter on one side and the pronunciation on the other.

Practice every day, even if just for a few minutes. Before you know it, you’ll be reading Swahili effortlessly! The key is to dive in enthusiastically, stick with it, and maintain a positive attitude. You’ve got this! Staying motivated and consistent will help overcome this challenging first hurdle. Keep your eyes on the prize – fluency in this beautiful language – and the Swahili alphabet will be second nature in no time.

Swahili Grammar: Understanding Nouns, Verbs and Sentence Structure

Learning Swahili Language Words is rewarding but challenging. Swahili grammar, in particular, can be tricky to pick up. But don’t worry, with regular practice you’ll be chatting comfortably in no time!


Swahili nouns have prefixes and suffixes that change based on their role in the sentence. The prefix ‘ki-’ or ‘vi-’ is used for most nouns, like ‘kitabu’ (book) or ‘vijana’ (youths). Nouns referring to people use the prefix ‘m-’ for singular and ‘wa-’ for plural, such as ‘mtoto’ (child) and ‘watoto’ (children). Pay attention to the correct prefix and you’ll ace Swahili nouns.


Swahili verbs also have prefixes, known as subject markers, which must agree with the subject of the sentence. For example, ‘ninakula’ means ‘I eat’, ‘unakula’ is ‘you eat’, and ‘anakula’ is ‘ They eats’. Verbs in the present tense often end in ‘-a’, like ‘soma’ (read) and ‘cheza’ (dance).Verbs in Swahili are also either stative or dynamic. Stative verbs express a state of being, using ‘ni’ (to be), like ‘ni mzuri’ (I’m well). Dynamic verbs express an action, using prefixes like ‘na-’ (present) or ‘li-’ (past), such as ‘nalala’ (I sleep) or ‘nililala’ (I slept).

Sentence Structure

Swahili sentences typically follow a subject-verb-object structure. For example, ‘Mimi ninapenda chakula’ (I like food). Questions are formed by changing the intonation, like ‘Unakwenda shule?’ (Are you going to school?).Swahili grammar may seem daunting, but with regular practice, these rules will become second nature.

Focus on learning nouns, verbs and basic sentence structure. Listen to Swahili radio, watch Swahili TV shows, and speak with others. You’ll be chatting with locals comfortably in no time! Stay enthusiastic and keep at it. Once you overcome this challenge, the rest of your Swahili learning journey will be smooth sailing.

Finding Swahili Language Partners and Resources

Swahili Language Words

Finding language partners and resources is key to overcoming the hurdles of learning Swahili. Don’t worry, with the power of the internet, it’s easier than ever!

Online Language Exchanges

One of the best ways to learn a new language is by talking with native speakers. Websites like Conversation Exchange, Speaky, and HelloTalk allow you to find language exchange partners from around the world. You can chat via text, audio or video call, teaching each other your native languages. How cool is that?

Take a Class

If you prefer a more structured approach, consider taking a Swahili class on a site like Udemy, Coursera or Memrise. They offer courses at various skill levels, from beginner to advanced. Studying with an experienced teacher and other enthusiastic students will boost your motivation and accelerate your learning.

Follow Swahili Social Media

Immerse yourself in the Swahili language as much as possible. A great way to do this is by following Swahili news outlets, organizations, influencers, music artists, and entertainment channels on social media. Platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are filled with Swahili content. You’ll soak in cultural context and learn informal Swahili in an engaging way.

Use Interactive Apps and Websites

Supplement your learning with interactive apps and websites. Some highly-rated options for learning Swahili include Drops, Memrise, Duolingo, Swahili Magic, and Anki. They provide fun ways to learn new words and phrases through engaging activities like flashcards, quizzes, games and podcasts.Listen to Swahili RadioStreaming Swahili radio is an easy way to train your listening comprehension.

Many stations like Clouds FM, Radio Jambo and Radio Citizen offer live streams on their websites and mobile apps. You can also find Swahili talk shows, music, and news clips on YouTube, Spotify and Soundcloud. Listening regularly, even passively in the background, will attune your ear to the language.

With persistence and the many resources available, you’ll be chatting comfortably in Swahili in no time! The challenges may seem daunting, but focus on having fun while learning. Stay motivated and don’t get discouraged easily. You’ve got this! Now go start talking!

Staying Motivated While Learning Swahili

Staying motivated while learning Swahili can be challenging, but don’t lose hope! There are several tricks to keep yourself excited about this rewarding journey.

Set small, achievable goals.

Don’t aim to become fluent in a week. Set small milestones, like learning 5 new words a day or having one conversation each week. Achieving these little goals will give you a sense of progress and keep you fired up for more. Start with basic greetings, questions, and phrases. Then build up from there.

Find an accountability partner or tutor.

Learning with another person can help keep you on track. See if you can find a friend to learn with, or hire an affordable tutor on italki. Set up regular meetings to practice speaking, teach each other new things you’ve learned, and cheer each other on.

Listen to Swahili radio or music.

Exposure to the spoken language will boost your motivation. You can find Swahili radio stations that stream online, or download Swahili music and podcasts. Listening, even passively, will help train your ear and make the language feel more familiar. You may even pick up new words and phrases without realizing it!

Travel to a Swahili speaking country.

Swahili Language Words

Nothing is more valuable than immersing yourself in the culture and interacting with native Swahili speakers. Travel to Tanzania, Kenya or another East African country. Hearing Swahili spoken all around you, bargaining in the local markets, and striking up conversations with new friends will ignite your passion for learning. You’ll return home far more fluent and motivated than ever before.

Celebrate your milestones.

Learning a new language is an accomplishment, so reward yourself along the way! Go out for ice cream after completing a unit in your textbook. Buy yourself a new Swahili dictionary or other resource when you reach a certain level of fluency. Keeping yourself motivated and excited will ensure you achieve your goal of learning Swahili. Stay dedicated and you’ll be conversing comfortably in no time!

Managing Expectations: How Long Does It Take to Become Fluent?

Learning a new language is exciting, but becoming fluent in Swahili will definitely take dedication and hard work. Don’t worry, though—with realistic expectations about the time required and a positive mindset, you’ll be chatting away in no time!

It can take 600 to 1,000 hours to become proficient in Swahili.

That may seem like a lot, but think of it as a fun challenge instead of an impossible obstacle. Focus on enjoying the journey, not just the destination. Set small, achievable goals and reward yourself for milestones along the way. Staying motivated and consistent will get you there, so try learning for at least 30 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week.

Find ways to immerse yourself.

Listen to Swahili radio, podcasts or music. Watch Swahili TV shows and movies. Read books, magazines or blogs in Swahili. Immerse yourself as much as possible in the language and culture. Look for opportunities to speak with others, whether with a language exchange via video chat, or with a local Swahili meetup group. Speaking is the best way to become fluent.

Don’t get discouraged if you make mistakes.

Everyone learning a new language struggles at first. View mistakes as a natural part of learning instead of failures. Laugh at yourself when you mess up, then move on. Stay positive and keep practicing. Your fluency will come with time and experience.

Consider working with a tutor.

Speaking with a tutor, whether in person or online, is one of the most valuable tools for learning Swahili. A good tutor can give you direct feedback on your pronunciation and grammar, hold you accountable, and provide guidance tailored to your needs. They can also expose you to informal conversational Swahili in a supportive environment.Keep your eyes on the prize and stay enthusiastic.

Becoming fluent in Swahili will be challenging, but also rewarding. Stay dedicated, immerse yourself as much as possible, and keep a positive attitude. Before you know it, you’ll be speaking Swahili with confidence! Kwa heri na maisha mema! (Goodbye and good luck!)

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Speaking Swahili

Avoiding common mistakes will help you pick up Swahili faster. Here are some of the biggest slip-ups to steer clear of:

Not Practicing Pronunciation

Swahili has some sounds that may be unfamiliar to English speakers. Take time to practice pronouncing words and phrases correctly. Pay attention to vowel and consonant sounds, as well as proper emphasis and rhythm. Trying to skip this step will only lead to confusion down the road!

Using English Grammar

Swahili grammar has some key differences from English. For example, Swahili nouns have prefixes that show their category. Verbs also change form based on the subject. Don’t just translate English sentences word-for-word. Study Swahili grammar to understand how to construct proper sentences.

Not Learning Vocabulary

Building your vocabulary is essential. Focus on learning groups of related words, like numbers, days of the week, family members, etc. Flashcards are great for memorizing new words and their meanings. Review them often, especially when first starting out. The more words you know, the more you’ll be able to express yourself!

Being Shy About Speaking

Don’t be afraid to speak Swahili, even if you make mistakes! Speaking is the best way to improve. Find a language partner or tutor on an app like HelloTalk and practice conversing with them. You can also try talking to yourself by describing your routines and surroundings. The more you speak, the more natural and confident you’ll feel.

Not Using Resources

There are many useful resources for learning Swahili language words. Download apps like Duolingo, Drops, and Anki to help you practice. Read children’s books, newspapers, and magazines. Follow social media accounts in Swahili. Watch Swahili TV shows and movies. Immerse yourself as much as possible! Using a variety of resources will boost your learning.With practice and persistence, you’ll be well on your way to mastering Swahili. Avoid these common mistakes, focus on speaking and listening, and don’t be afraid to make a few errors. You’ve got this! Now go start conversing!

FAQ: Answers to Your Most Common Swahili Questions

So you want to learn Swahili, huh? That’s awesome! Swahili is a fascinating language spoken by over 100 million people across East Africa. While learning any new language presents challenges, don’t let that stop you. With hard work and persistence, you’ll be chatting with new friends in Swahili before you know it!Some of the biggest hurdles you may face include:


Like any language, Swahili has thousands of words you’ll need to memorize. Focus on learning common greetings, questions, and key phrases to start building your vocabulary foundation. Use flashcards, spaced repetition apps, and keep a journal to actively review new words and terms. The more you practice, the more words you’ll pick up over time!


Swahili has some sounds that may be unfamiliar to English speakers. Pay close attention to proper pronunciation of vowels, consonants like ‘ng’ and ‘ny’, and syllable emphasis. Listen to native Swahili speakers and try to imitate the way they pronounce words and phrases. Don’t get discouraged if you struggle at first—with regular practice, your pronunciation will improve.


Swahili grammar has some similarities with English but also many differences. Learn the rules of nouns, verbs, and sentence structure. Study how prefixes, suffixes and infixes are used to change word meaning. Understanding Swahili grammar will allow you to construct your own sentences and have basic conversations.

Other common questions include:

•What are the best resources for learning Swahili? – Try apps like Duolingo, Drops and Memrise. Listen to Swahili radio, music and podcasts. Follow Swahili social media accounts. Read children’s books, newspapers and magazines.

•How long will it take to become fluent? – Achieving fluency in Swahili requires dedication and time. Expect to study regularly for at least 1-2 years to become highly proficient.

Focus on consistency rather than speed.

•Is Swahili difficult for English speakers to learn? – Swahili uses a Latin alphabet and has some vocabulary derived from English, Arabic and Bantu languages, so it is generally considered an accessible language for English speakers to pick up. However, it still takes work!

Keep your head up and don’t get discouraged. Stay motivated by setting small, achievable goals and reward yourself for milestones. You’ve got this! Now get out there and start learning Swahili. Kiswahili ni lugha nzuri sana – Swahili is a very beautiful language!


You’ve come this far in overcoming the three biggest hurdles to learning Swahili Language Words – unfamiliar sounds, unfamiliar grammar, and lack of immersion opportunities. Don’t stop now. Keep practicing those tongue-twisting Swahili phrases, immerse yourself in the language as much as possible, and stick with it even when it feels frustrating.

The rewards of learning swahili language words this beautiful, vibrant language will be well worth it. Think of the doors it will open to connecting with new friends, understanding a rich culture, and maybe even embarking on exciting adventures in East Africa. Stay determined and stay passionate. You’ve got this! Before you know it, you’ll be conversing comfortably in Swahili. The challenges will fade into the past, and you’ll have a whole new world of discovery ahead of you. Dream big, work hard, and kaza buti – go slowly! Success is within your reach.

Want to learn more about the beautiful Swahili language Words ? I have activities in my TPT store that are fun, interactive and engaging, designed to help you learn Kiswahili while having fun! 

Want It All?

Check out The Great Ultimate Bundle, which has 34 products for learning Kiswahili! 

Asante na Kwaheri!

Swahili Magic

All posts

1 Comment

  • […] and enriching experience. In this blog post, I will provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to learn Swahili, from beginner to advanced levels. So, let’s embark on this linguistic journey […]

  • Leave a Reply

    I'm an elementary school teacher who loves what she does! I enjoy creating resources in my Native language "kiswahili". My goal is to spread the beautiful language of "Kiswahili" inside and outside the classroom. Thanks for stopping by! Read More

    Subscribe & Follow