Now that I have returned from the Dark Continent, I felt I needed to share with you some of the things I have learned, one of which is that it is very easy to get by in Swahili with just a few words, BUT you need to make sure that you learn those words properly. The following examples – all taken from real life – will show you exactly how easy it is to make mistakes, especially when nervous and trying to say the right thing:
Role Play 1:
The Swahili for ‘Welcome’ is ‘Karibu’ or ‘Karibuni’.
Now imagine you are the retiring Head of an international school in, let’s say, Tanzania and you are attending your own retirement party in the school hall. How do you greet the assembled staff?
If you answered c), you have just called the staff a load of squid.
Role Play 2:
The Swahili for ‘Hello’ is ‘Mambo’ or ‘Jambo’.
Now imagine that you are a teacher walking out of the school gates, which are opened for you by a guard who is a local. How do you greet the guard?
If you answered c), you have just put race relations back about 50 years! (If you answered a AND b, then you are not taking this seriously.)
Role Play 3:
You are on safari and your guide points out a large black and white bird. Trying to show off, you proudly announce that you know what it is. What do you say?
The only correct answer is a), a marabou being a large stork. If you answered b), you are on the wrong continent, since caribou is the North American name for reindeer, and if you answered c), you clearly did not pay any attention to the information given in Role Play 1.
Role Play 4:
The Swahili for ‘Hello’ is ‘Habari’.
Now imagine that you wish to greet someone in the street. What do you say?
The only correct answer is a). If you said b), then you have seen too many TV adverts.
Two of these were – gulp! – mistakes made by the LSG herself, proving that I, too, have some human frailties!
And there you are – ready for your first hesitant steps in Swahili, which will be of great use in Derby, Ponty, Devon, Non-Iron and many other places where I have FB friends. Hakuna matata!