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Swahili slang

while dualingo teaches swahili going to dodoma tanzania has brought a different experience as people speak in slang such as saying mambo as oppose to jambo. What are some swahili slang phrases that I should learn that are not taught here on dualingo

August 28, 2017



I know it was just an example but mambo is taught in this course, as well as its response poa.

I don't know if it counts as slang or just "informal speech", but anytime you have a present tense verb starting with "ni-", the "ni- usually disappears so the verb starts with "na-“, e.g. (ni)nakupenda, (ni)najua etc.


It's noteworthy that I have only lived in one part of Tanzania, in Mtwara in the south. I've been to other parts like Arusha and obviously Dar, but I've never stayed for more than a week. While I'm sure that this is probably universal throughout all Swahili speakers, I can't know. Anyway the most important thing I can think of is saying a sentence in First person Present tense.

In colloquial conversation, I noticed most Waswahili don't say nina-, instead they drop they ni- and tend to just say na-. For example in a basic sentence, if I would say I want a kitenge rather than saying "ninataka kitenge" as would be accepted on DuoLingo, it would be more colloquial to say "nataka kitenge."

Dropping the subject prefix is specifically for first person, so don't say "nataka kitenge?" and expect people to think you are asking if they want kitenge. Likewise dropping the prefix is specifically done to present tense. So I would not say "tataka kitenge" "litaka kitenge" etc.

Edit: Another thing, this isn't really "slang" considering it isn't spoken, but it involves the written language. If you ever communicate with Tanzanians through informal written language, text, e-mail, whatever, be prepared that they won't spell words correctly. Instead, they'll just write them short hand how they're said. Most commonly vipi, written is just vp. A little more abstract they might spell something like 'wazazi' as 'wzi.' The best way to read these types of things is to say out loud, the things which you don't understand. Of course you can also ask, which is what I usually end up doing anyway.

Edit 2: Another thing I remembered, the word 'ni' as in 'is' or 'are' is often omitted in colloquial conversation. Many translations on DuoLingo require that you include this, naturally since it is proper Swahili as in: 'Rehema ni mpole,' where in an informal conversation someone may say, 'Rehema mpole.' The negative 'si' is obviously never omitted, for clarification.


One word you really should know is "Bongo", plural of "Ubongo" meaning "brain", but is slang for "Tanzania" or more particularly "Dar es Salaam". And from this you get "Bongo Flava" (Bongo Flavour), the Swahili rap or hip hop from Tanzania.

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