The Call of Africa

Maeneo_penye_wasemaji_wa_KiswahiliThere are more than one billion people living in the whole of Africa. Some 1250-3000 languages are spoken there (the figure depending on how you define a language) and some 15 million Africans speak Swahili – the lingua franca in the Southeastern Africa. Millions in  Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique and some other countries. Swahili  – or Kiswahili as it is called in Swahili – has a very interesting history which you can read all about in that above Wikipedia article.  Here we will concentrate in other things.

LionKingThis site has chosen Swahili as its African language. Every now and then there will be short stories here that take you to an African linguistic adventure. Let’s start with something simple and funny. The Lion King,  the 1994 movie about the lion Simba and his friends and foes. Mfalbe Simba! Who hasn’t heard at one time or other the film’s lead melody Hakuna Matata, admonishing over and over that have No worries. And if you’ve seen the film, you would surely know that simba means lion and rafiki friend.

But now to something a bit harder, for us language learners: let’s take a sentence from the Swahili Wikipedia page on The Lion King:

Simba ni mtoto wa kiume wa Mufasa

That means Simba is the son of Mufasa, mtoto wa kiume meaning literally child male = male child = son. By the same token, mtoto wa kike means daughter (although there are many other words for daughter as well, such as binti and mwana). So the word order is the opposite from English, and that takes some getting used to: first comes the main noun e.g. mfalbe (king) and after that the word explaining what sort of king we’re talking about, in this case simba.

And perhaps now is as good time as any to learn the Swahili word for movie: filamu! So what do you think a movie ticket in Nairobi costs? This year 5 – 6 USD. Of course, Nairobi is a modern city,  so you get to see films in the original score and perhaps even in an IMAX theather. Karibuni katika IMAX! – Welcome to IMAX!

I’ll round this up with a Kenyan Have a nice day! That nakutakia means actually I pray. And as you just learned a while ago, the noun siku (day) comes first, followed by the adjective njema (good). Have a nice day!

Nakutakia siku njema!

Uhuru Park in Nairobi by Arthur Buliva

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