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How to say "Do you speak English?"

So I'm planning on taking a trip to Tanzania. And while I've heard that plenty of people speak English I'm trying to brush up on some Swahili so I can navigate my way around. Needless to say, I don't think I'll be able to learn enough in a few months so I was wondering what "Do you speak English?" is along with any other phrases a native may think would be helpful.

May 3, 2017



Just to point out the Swahili for "English" is spelt incorrectly in the course, it's actually Kiingereza (double i, so longer vowel sound). The creators know about it, but need site staff to fix it.

I'm going to throw "unaongea Kiingereza" into the mix. Suggest googling each and finding which one has the most actual Swahili hits (as opposed to just phrasebooks).


Unasema Kiingereza? Unazungumza Kiingereza? Unaongea Kiingereza?

-sema is the one that's in most phrase books but apparently in some areas, it only means "say" not "speak" and "-ongea" is used. I think -zungumza is used everywhere.

People who speak Swahili will probably understand any of them.


The last two questions on the first line would work for me. The first question though, it just sounds strange when you ask it.


So you speak the sema=say dialect? Where is that, out of interest? I keep seeing references to things being regional variations ... without any reference to which regions.


Right next door, Kenya. I don't understand the reference sema=say dialect.


A dialect where kusema only means "to say" and not "to speak". Is that right?


Unasema Kingereza?


I will tell you right now. If you approached me asking "Unasema Kingereza", I would think its too strange.

If you were in downtown Kenya, it just would not work. "Unaongea Kizungu" is the slang version, infact, maybe too derogatory in a way. But this is Tanzanian swahili and not Kenyan. ;)


or ''Unazungumza Kingereza?''


That also works but Unasema pretty much means the same thing and I use it more often because it is shorter and easier to say. I'm not sure which native speakers use more often though.


What all are you planning on doing in tanzania? That would help with knowing what other phrases to suggest!

I'd recommend saying "shikamoo" to anyone older than you. I'd also recommend bartering in Swahili - Tanzanians tend to appreciate that you're trying learn their language!

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