Many people do speak English in Tanzania. All the more people who work in the tourist sector – and there are many of them in Moshi and Arusha, the main tourist centres. Nevertheless it might be good to know some sentences e.g. when it comes to greetings, to introducing yourself or saying thank you. People will reward you with a smile if you do so. By the way, in the more rural regions – and the Usambara region is definitely one – you will meet many people who do not speak English or , if so, on a very low level.

Thank you!

Thank you very much!
Ahsante sana!

Where do I find the toilet?
Choo iko wapi?
(Toilet is where?)

I need to go to the toilet.
Naomba kujisaidia
(I wish to help myself)

Do you speak English?
Je, unafahamu Kiingereza?
(Je, you know English?)

Whats the meaning of this in Kiswahili?
Inaitwaje kwa Kiswahili?
(This is called in Kiswahili?)

Go slow!


No Problem!
Hamna shida!
(No Problem!)

Hurry up!
Haraka, haraka

Please help me!
Unisaidie tafadhali!!

I am in big trouble!
Nina shida sana!

I have a great hurry!
Nina haraka sana!

Do stop here, please!
Simama hapa, tafadhali!

People will mostly greet you with “Jambo” which is a greeting kind or reserved exclusively to tourists. Tanzanians will not greet each other like this. But it’s completely okay to answer with the same “Jambo”. But if you want to make a dent, use one of the following ones:

The elderly will feel respected if you greet them with “Shikamoo”. And they will answer with “Marhaba”.
Often they will directly greet back with a short question that you most likely will not understand. So just say “nzuri”, this suits in most cases.

You can greet a child with “Hujambo” and if he/she is not too astonished or shy the answer will be “Sijambo”.
Well educated children will of course greet you with “Shikamoo” and then its on you to answer with “Marahaba”
… or even better with “Marahaba. Hujambo?” and the child will answer back with “Sijambo”.

And it’s the same vice versa: if someone is greeting you with “Hujambo” your answer will be “Sijambo”.

Good morning! is “Habari za azubuhi?” and the answer is “Nzuri”.
Good afternoon! is “Habari za mchana?” and the answer is “Nzuri”.
Good evening!
is “Habari za jioni?” and the answer is “Nzuri”.
How are you?
is “Habari yako?” and the answer is “Nzuri”.
How is your family?
is “Habari za familia? and the answer is “Nzuri”
How is your work?
is “Habari za kazi? and the answer is “Nzuri”

Got it?

Even better is “Nuzuri. Na wewe?”. That’s “Good. And you?” which keeps the conversation going.

“Nzuri” is “Good”. You will never answer with “Bad”. On a bad day most you can say is “Nzuri kidogo” which is “A little good”.

Another common greeting is “Salama!” which means “Peace”. That one is easy, your answer is the same: “Salama!”.

Greetings when you part
Haya = more or less “Bye for now”
Tutaonana = See you
Tutaonana badaaye = See you later
Kwa heri = Good bye
Usiku mwema = Good night

My name is = Jina langu ni … (Name my is …)
What’s your name? = Jina lako nani? (Name your what?)

I will take the same.
Ninataka vilevile.

May I have a spoon?
Naomba kijiko.

May I have a fork?
Naomba uma.

May I have a knife?
Naomba kisu.

Marisha marefu!
(Life long!)

Do you have beer?
Kuna bia?

Do you have lemonade?
Kuna soda?

May I have clean water?
Naomba maji safi.

Enjoy your meal!
Karibu chakula!

Chai ya asubuhi = Breakfast
Chakula cha mchana = Lunch
Chalula cha usiku = Dinner
Chipsi = French fries
Chumvi = Salt
Kimanda = Omelette
Nyama ya ng’ombe = Beef
Nyama ya mbuzi = Goat meet
Pilipili = Pepper
Samaki = Fish
Sukari = Zucker
Ugali = Polenta (the national dish!)
Wali = Cooked rice
Wali na kuku = Rice with chicken

0 = sifuri
1 = moja
2 = mbili
3 = tatu
4 = nne
5 = tano
6 = sita
7 = saba
8 = nane
9 = tisa
10 = kumi
20 = ishirini
30 = thelathini (“th” same as english “th”)
40 = arobaini
50 = hamsini
60 = sitini
70 = sabini
80 = themanini
90 = tisini
100 = mia moja (hundred one)
500 = mia tano (hundred five
1000 = elfu moja (thousand one)
5000 = elfu tano (thousand five)
10000 = elfu kumi
15000 = elfu kumi na tano (thousand ten and five)
20000 = elfu ishirini
100000 = laki moja (hundred thousand one)
400000 = laki nna (hundred thousand four)
235416 = laki mbili elfu thelathini na tano mia nne kumi na sita

In Kiswahili the time is counted differently – but It’s no rocket science:
To convert western time into Kiswahili time or vice versa just add 6 hours.
Or have a look at an analog clock. It’s always the very opposite digit: instead of 1 it’s 7, instead of 2 it’s 8 and so on.

  • 6 o’clock in the morning is “saa kumi na mbili” in Kiswahili (12 o’clock)
  • 7 o’clock in the morning is “saa moja” in Kiswahili (1 o’clock)
  • 8 o’clock in the morning is “saa mbili” in Kiswahili (2 o’clock)
  • etc.

Why is it?
In Kiswahili the day starts with sunrise at 6 o’clock in the morning or 12 o’clock in Kiswahili time.
High noon is called “6” and 6 in the evening is 12 again – the hour of sunset.

People often add “in the morning” or “in the evening” so the times canot be confused:

  • 7 in the morning is “saa moja ya asubuhi” (1 in the morning)
  • 8 in the evening is “saa mibili za usiku” (2 at night)

Got it?

If your bus ticket says “12” this might mean “6 in the morning”!

Where is the market?
Soko liko wapi?
(Market is where?)

What does this cost?
Shillingi ngapi?
(Shillings how many?)

This is too much.
Ghali kabisa


I wish to have bananas.
Naomba ndizi.

Avocado = Parachichi
Carrot = Karoti
Coconut = Nazi
Fruit = Matunda
Mango = Embe
Orange = Chungwa
Tomato = Nyanya

For the sake of respect, politeness and simply good manners: please ask people before you take pictures of them – and be aware that some of them might reject your request. Imagine a group of Asian tourists entered your garden taking pictures¬† of you and your children – you wouldn’t like it either.

This is how to do it:

Inawezekana kukupigia picha, tafadhali?
Might it be possible to take a picture of you, please?
(Might it be possible to of you take picture, please?)

If they ask what for you might say this: Kwa rafiki zangu. This is not a complete sentence (“For friends my”) but it’s easy to handle and it will do.
Or (if it’s true): Mimi ni mpiga picha (“Me I am a photographer”).

Anyway, the best way to take pictures is first to make relationship with the people and then to ask them.

It’s almost certain that your doctor will speak English. Nevertheless here are some basics:

Is there a doctor around?
Kuna daktari hapa?

I have headache.
Nina maumivu ya kichwa.

I have earache.
Nina maumivu ya sikio.

Same with …¬†
Back = Mgongo
Foot = Mguu (even so leg)
Intestine = Utumbo
Nose = Pua
Shoulder = Bega
Tooth = meno (dentist = daktari wa meno)

I have diarrhea.

I have problems with …
Nina shida za …

Don’t bother, police does speak English. But here are a few basics:

Call the police, please!
Umwite polisi tafadhali!

Police station
Kituo cha polisi

I was mugged.

I got robbed.

Car = Gari
Handbag = mkoba
Photocamera = kamera
Wallet = Kikoba cha pesa
Wristwatch = saa