Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Quick language guide to Northern Malawi: The Survival Phrases

ChiTumbuka is a language spoken in some parts of Northern Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania. I will not introduce you to the grammar of ChiTumbuka language but will go straight to sharing the few words and phrases a typical foreigner might need.

The ChiTumbuka alphabet:

A= [ah as in astound] e= [eh as in enter] I= [ee as in east] o= [oh as in open] u= [oo as in Utah with U sounding as in "woo"] = vowels (WHEREVER THESE VOWELS ARE SPOTTED THEY ARE TO SOUND AS DENOTED HERE)

Ba (as in bad) be- as in be, bi-as in bee, bo as in bold, bu- as in bully,

There is no independent "C" but always attached to "H" thus Cha che chi cho chu

Da- as in Dad

All "e" are pronounce as "eh" and does not stand alone

Fa as in Father

Gu- as in good

Hu-as in hooker

I is pronounced "eee" and doesn't stand alone

Jo- as in Job

Ko- as is cold

La le- as in left, li lo Lu (in classic ChiTumbuka "L" doesn't exist but the diluted form has incorporated it in words like "Chipatala" which are mostly borrowed and coined)

Mo- as in motto

Ni- as in Knee

"O" doesn't stand alone and is pronounced "oh"

Po-as in Pot

There is no "Q" in ChiTumbuka though the "Q" sound can be heard in words like "Kwiza" and "Kwacha"

Ri- as in Rinse (it's advisable to pronounce all "L" words in ChiTumbuka as "R" ones)

So- as in son

To-as in top


"U" doesn't stand alone but is pronounced as "oo" as in "ooze"

Vo -as in volume

Wa we wi (there is no word in the language that has "wu" or "wo" there are instead taken up by the use of "U" for "wu" and "o" for "Wo")

There is no "X" in the language

zu-as in zoo

Me= ine but note that the prefix N- and Nk- are also used to make a me meaning as in Nkhulya= am eating and as in n- + luta = naluta (am gone)

NB: you will notice that there is no ChiTumbuka word that ends without a vowel so its important to pronounce them as such.




Arrival: Kufika [coo-fee-ker]

Visitor: Mulendo [moo-leh-ndoh]

Going: Kuluta [koo-looter]

Coming: Kwiza [queezer]

Airport: Chibanja cha ndege [chee-wa-njer cher nde-ghe]

Money: Ndalama/ Makopara/ matambala [mah-koperer]

Man: Mwanalume [Mooneroomie]

Woman: Mwanakazi/ mwali/ msungwana/ swengha [moonerkerzie]

Child: Mwana

Car/ vehicle: Galimoto [ghalee-motor]

Plane: ndege


How are you/ hi/ hello: Monire [moo-woh-nilly]

Am fine and you: ndili makora kwalimwe

Thanks: yebo

Come here: zakuno

Am going to: Nkhuluta ku-

Am coming from: Nafuma ku-

Am looking for: nkhupenja-

Me: ine, n-, nkh-

You: iwe

I need change: nisithaniko makopara

Where is Chenda motel: Motelo ya Kwa Chenda yili Nkhu?

I want a taxi: nkhupenja Taxi

How much: Zilinga

I got little: Zachepa

Food: Chakulya

Chicken: Nkhuku

Beef: Nyama ya Ng'ombe

Pork: Nkhumba

Rice: Mpunga

Irish Potatoes: Katofyeni

Fish: somba

Lake: Nyanja

Bed: bedi

Sleep: gona (v)

To sleep: kugona

He/she is sleeping: wakugona

Sex (coition): kugundana (extremely taboo, better said in English)

I want sex with you: tiye tikagundane (extremely taboo, better said in English)

Condom: kondomu

Disease: nthenda

No: yayi

Prostitute: hule

Fool: chindere

Penis: nkhule (extremely taboo, better said in English)


Vagina: Choli (extremely taboo, better said in English)


Buttocks: matako

Head: mutu

Fire: moto

Arm: kawoko

Leg: kalundi

Snake: njoka

Medicine: munkhwala

Hospital: Chipatala

Church: tchalicthi

God: Chiuta

Jesus: Yesu

Paul: Paulos

River: Msinje

People: wanthu

Person: munthu

Hill: phiri

Animal: nyama

Mother: mama

Father: dada

His mother: wamama wake

His father: wadada wake

Your mother: wanyoko

Your father: wawuso

Aunt: wa nkhazi

Uncle: wa Sibweni

Son/ daughter: mwana (same with child)

Cigarette/ tobacco: hona

Beer/ wine: wine

Drugs: we got none available

Gun: futi

Rob: kwiba

Robber: munkhungu

I have been robbed: it will not happen to you here

I want a place to sleep: nkhupenja kwa kugona

Hire: hayala

One; limo

Two: viuwiri

Three: vitatu

Four: vinayi

Five vinkhonde

Six: vinkhonde na chimo

Seven: vinkhonde na viwiri

Eight: vinkhonde na vitatu

Nine: vinkhonde na vinayi

Ten: khumi

Eleven: khumi na chimo

20: makhumi ghawiri

55: makhumi ghankhonde na vinkhonde

1000: makhumi khumi khumi

Phone: foni

Email: internet

Internet: intaneti

My friend: mnyani

My wife: mwanakazi wane

Bye: paweme

Tree: khuni

Him: yula

Them: wala

Us: ise

You (plural): imwe

You (singular): iwe

Croc: ng'wina (whenever the apostrophe ' separates "Ng" and another word, it is pronounced as "ng" in 'running'

Weed: chamba

Police: polisi

Chief: fumu

Love: chitemwa

I love you: nkhukutemwa ("mwa" pronounced as the French "moi")

Ouch: ayo

It's delicious: yikunowa

Tea: tiyi

Restaurant: Restoranti

Spoon: spuni

Folk: foloku

Soup: msuni

Breakfast: tiyi

Canoe: wato

Paddle: nkhafi

Boat/ cruise: boti

Any form of hitch hiking: matola

Bus: basi

Time: nyengo

Night: usiku

Day: muhanya

It's getting dark: kukufipa

Hair: sisi

Eyes: maso

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