55 Comments This discussion is locked.
RogueTanuki and RaizinM are right -- so you know how in languages like French and Spanish, there's grammatical gender? Swahili has a similar thing, but with more categories, so they're called noun classes. Different noun classes pattern differently. From what I've seen, though, it's more regular and predictable than grammatical gender in many languages, so it's nothing to fear.
Everything that RaizinM, RogueTanuki, and frankk1m have said is certainly true. You might, though, just be confused by the fact that in Swahili, the plurality (along with a lot of other things) is indicated by a PREFIX, instead of the suffixes more usual in Indoeuropean languages. 1 mmarekani, 2 wamarekani, I assume.
From what I have heard, the first M sounds like a separate syllable. There is no vowel, because the mouth is not opened, but it is a bit like you had said UM with your mouth closed the entire time. It's the sound Homer Simpson might make when something is delicious, "Mmmm...sausages." That syllabic M is then followed by the M you would typically have at the beginning of a word. I think N and NG can also have this sort of sound, or at least they do in some other Bantu languages.
The pronunciation is pretty close to spanish it has the same 5 vowels I'm not sure if it has the same pronounce the r is almost like spanish and they got this letter "ny" which i think it is the same sound than the spanish ñ but if you speak english and spanish it will great for you to learn this language i will do
I think a lot of people are thrown by M followed by a consonant. I am pretty sure I have heard that pronounced as a separate syllable pronounced as a closed mouth M sound. I am less certain about N followed by a consonant. In particular, is NG pronounced more like the NG in finger or that in singer? In other words, does Ngorongoro sound like 4, 5, or 6 syllables?
According to what I've read, ng is pronounced as in "finger" and ng' (note the apostrophe) is pronounced as in "singer". One word for sky, for example, is mang'ungumu, which contains both.
According to wikipedia, whether an n or an m is syllabic is a little bit complicated (but not overly, although it does rely on you recognising the parts of a word)(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swahili_language#Consonants), ngorongoro (unless that first "n" is a prefix ... I can't find it in my dictionary) should be four syllables, with the prenasalised stop ng sound of "singer".
For speakers of languages without prenasalised stops, it might seem hard not to pronounce the first "n" as syllabic, but it should be kept short ... and in any case, most words end with a vowel, so in connected speech, unless it's the first word in a sentence, you can simply attach an ng sound on the end of the syllable before ... (eg. ni ngorongoro would be like ning go-rong-GO-ro).
I'm not sure I understand the example of Ngorongoro. There's no apostrophe, so you say the NGs shoudl be pronounced as in the English "finger," with separate /ng/ and /g/ sounds. Doesn't that make it a five or six syllable word, then? I.e. /ng-go-rong-go-ro/ or /ng-go-ro-ng-go-ro/?
We have suffix for plural (suffix: that comes after), they are "s", just imagine instead of suffix, they have prefix (prefix: that comes before). So it's kind of the same thing.
If you studied Asian languages or Latin, it's like their root words. Here the root seems to be "marekani".
As in Asian languages, you have a particle to mean "people", for instance England + people = English. Here it's the same.
I guess that:
M marekani = The prefix "M" is for persons. Wa marekani = The prefix "Wa" is for several persons.
the US is untypical in Kiswahili - most countries are in the U-class; hence Germany "Ujerumani", German "mjerumani", Germans "wajerumani" (that's also where the U in Uganda comes from, making a Ugandan "mganda" or plural "waganda"). "Marekani" for the US is special (I believe it is taken from Arabic).
It can seem confusing at first, but check the discussion above for what has been said about noun classes and pluralisation. It's kind of like gender in a lot of European languages. Nouns all fall into different categories, which each handle pluralisation in their own ways. No need to fear: it'll take some time, but just learn the patterns!