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The Swahili Tree - Why do we start with Greetings?

From our most recent course update: https://incubator.duolingo.com/courses/sw/en/status

Tangazo la Kumi na Sita na Nusu

Vyanzo Vyote ni Vigumu

Course Update

We're calling this update #16.5 just to add on to what we said in the last update!

We want to encourage the Duolingo community to keep submitting reports on errors on the text exercises. There are instances where articles such as the or a/an are not present in the English translations, for example, so we want to make sure those are there! In terms of punctuation/capitalization - we have to submit individual reports on our end for those to get fixed as we cannot correct those immediately in the Incubator unless we delete and re-write the text exercise, so we are submitting those edit requests as we find them as well.

We are greatly enjoying the feedback that we've been receiving! In terms of the course design - we know that our approach in organizing our Skill Tree is unconventional, but we did address this in an earlier Course Update. Culturally, we wanted to reflect that for Kiswahili, you'll almost always learn Greetings first as greetings are the cornerstone of any relationship in East Africa. Even if you cannot say much beyond greetings, those phrases are the most important in Kiswahili. Similarly, we introduce personal pronouns (I, you, etc.) early, in addition to people, as this makes verb constructions easier to create later. It is from there that the nouns can be taught. Kiswahili is different from a lot of languages in that, due to noun class agreements (of which there are many!), we do not want to teach a collection of nouns in isolation otherwise they will not make sense. The general progression of teaching Kiswahili is to teach basic constructions of Subjects and Verbs first, making a complete sentence, then adding nouns and manipulating nouns and verbs.

The Swahili proverb for this half-update means All beginnings are difficult, but it is from difficult beginnings that we can rise up to challenges and succeed! :-)

Kila la heri! - The Swahili-English Team

February 24, 2017



It's the norm for any language course to teach greetings first, though - it's just duolingo that is perverse about it.


Keep it up, Brando. I'm commenting like crazy on the exercises! <3 Joel


I like the idea of structuring the course in a way that's reflective of the culture from which it comes.


I don't know how set duolingo's program is with this then but I hope then that the earliest lessons lose strength bars here because I find that no matter how long I'm away, the earliest lessons never seem to lose strength bars in other languages ...


Hi Brandon, may I request special attention to the "Past" section. I am finding it extremely difficult to get through because the English answers are either improperly formed, inconsistent or other errors like using the present instead of the past tense. It is challenging to have to guess at the minds of the creators as to what kind of English they are using, especially when only one sentence is accepted in a wide English-variety field. Thanks, and thanks for your hard work!


Currently sorting through this lesson now and have processed almost all of the reports!


I noticed! Thanks again for your patience and hard work!


I absolutely agree on the necessity of teaching greatings first. It is so commonly used and so important there... for the anecdote, i started learning swahili on a 3 week vacation in tanzania (after that a year of duolingo and a second stay with classes at university). They kept on teaching me greetings. at some time i kind of got tired of it. i could not understand why they would teach me a 30th greeting instead of teaching me to introduce myself or speak about my life. Also, i thought that people would keep saying greetings to me cos they thought i did not know anything else! most of the times, that would make me laugh but others (shamefully) i would cut the conversation short. only later i realised this was the way they communicate. they were treating me as one of their own but i didnt know it! on my second trip over there, i did use many greetings with them. i did learn my lesson ;-)


I agree to start with greetings. I like to express my gratitude for the way the Swahili course is making progress now. I am doing a lot of excercises and one the good things is the use of pronouns and adjectives combined with nouns. This is helpful, noun classes is not difficult but very confusing. I would like to see more variation in the words used in the exercises. Now you see the same words come back often and I would like to learn far more words.

The audio is very helpful to me, to get used to the spoken language. maybe more speakers would be helpful here, to get used to different voices.. I would love to see some lessons near the end explaining differences between Kiswahili in Kenya and Tanzania.


Go Team Swahili!


I don't have any audio on this course, unlike on other courses that I've studied on duolingo. Am I doing something wrong, or is there no audio?


Audio isn't done yet. There is no decent TTS program, so they have to find somewhere to record the sentences, and that has been slow going.

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