"Ungekuja Tanzania ungezungumza Kiswahili"

Translation:If you were to come to Tanzania, you would speak Swahili

October 23, 2017

This discussion is locked.


Kuzungumza = to converse. To speak = kusema.


In some areas, kusema is only "to say" and you wouldn't use it to talk about speaking a language. Kuzungumza and kuongea are commonly used to talk about speaking a language.


Sema is more "say" than "speak"


It depends on the dialect.


Just wondering if anyone has a view on this. I'm not sure I how the notes here work. It says 'The-nge- form is used to express a hypothetical condition tense in present. -Ngali- is used for the past.' I wrote, 'If you come to Tanzania, you would speak Swahili.' The answer that is offered in the exercise is, 'If you came to Tanzania, you would speak Swahili,' which works, of course, but 'came' is not present tense (even if the meaning is). The translation here in the notes, 'If you were to come to Tanzania, you would speak Swahili' also works, but is there a reason why my initial answer is wrong, or just that it needs to be added to the data base of answers? Thanks


Your confusion is due to a quirk of how English expresses hypotheticality. "If you came to Tanzania" does seem to use the past tense, but it is not literally expressing anything about any situation in the past. That is simply how we express hypotheticality in the present in English. "If you come" is about a possible future situation. "If you came" is about a hypothetical present or future situation. "If you had come" is about a hypothetical past situation.

Here are the four main conditional forms in English and my attempts at a Swahili translation. Remember that I am not claiming an exact correspondence between the English and Swahili forms, just attempting to give an idea so that you can see some of the parallels.

Meaning: General conditional sentence used for general rules, independent of time.
If you heat water to 100 degrees Celsius, (then) it boils.
If-clause: present tense
Then-clause: present tense
(Ikiwa/kama) ukipasha joto maji hadi nyuzi 100 Selsiasi, (basi) yanachemka / huchemka.

Meaning: Possible future situation that may really happen + consequence.
If you heat this water to 100 degree Celsius, (then) it will boil.
If-clause: present tense
Then-clause: future tense ("will" + infinitive)
(Ikiwa/kama) ukipasha joto maji haya hadi nyuzi 100 Selsiasi, (basi) yatachemka.

Meaning: Hypothetical present situation contrary to fact (or very doubtful future situation) + consequence.
If you heated / were to heat this water to 100 degree Celsius, (then) it would boil.
If-clause: past subjunctive / "were to" + infinitive
Then-clause: "would" + infinitive
(Ikiwa/kama) ungepasha joto maji haya hadi nyuzi 100 Selsiasi, (basi) yangechemka.

The past subjunctive is identical to the past tense except that "was" is "were". That's why it's "if I were you" and not "if I was you", however this is dying out of English in favour of past tense and is kept alive mostly by the force of prescriptivism.

Note the difference between the hyper-optimistic "When I win the lotto, I'll ..." (temporal clause + future tense), the optimistic "If I win the lotto, I'll ..." (1st Conditional) and the realistic "If I won / were to win the lotto, I'd ..." (2nd Conditional)

Meaning: Hypothetical past situation which is contrary to fact + consequence.
If you had heated this water to 100 degree Celsius, (then) it would have boiled.
If-clause: past perfect ("had" + past participle)
Then-clause: "would have" + past participle
(Ikiwa/kama) ungalipasha joto maji haya hadi nyuzi 100 Selsiasi, (basi) yangalichemka.

These are the general rules, but there are many exceptions. For example, it is possible to use the past tense for genuine past meanings, such as "If it rained this morning, ...", such as when the speaker doesn't know whether it rained or not. There are also mixed forms (e.g. when the condition and the consequence are in different times, such as "If the Second World War hadn't happened, I wouldn't be alive", which is a mix of 3rd and 2nd conditionals: hypothetical past condition, hypothetical present result. There are possibilities with modal verbs, such as using "might" instead of "will" or "would" to indicate that the consequence is not certain, and things like "could" being able to be used in both an if-clause and a then-clause in the 2nd conditional. "If I could (= were able to) sing better, I could (= would be able to) record the vocals myself."

In Swahili, the equivalent of the first and second is formed by ‑ki‑ in the if-clause (optionally with kama, ikiwa, endapo etc., which may be used with a present tense form or with ‑ki‑) and a future or present tense form in the then-clause. (For the zero-conditional, the habitual hu‑ may be used to drive home the point that it is a general rule.)

Swahili speakers don't always consistently make the same distinction as between 2nd and 3rd conditionals (using ‑nge‑, ‑ngali‑ and another form not taught in this course, ‑ngeli‑, with a considerable amount of variation), but for this course and for prescriptive purposes, the second conditional is formed with ‑nge‑ in both clauses and the third conditional with ‑ngali‑ in both clauses. The words for "if" are mostly only used for emphasis, or used in the 0 and 1st conditionals to completely replace ‑ki‑, leading some to the prescriptive belief that they cannot be used together, but they are very frequently used together. With ‑nge‑ and ‑ngali‑, because the verb form is identical for the if-clause and the then-clause, a word for "if" MUST be used if it might be possible to mix up the two clauses, such as when the if-clause comes after the "then" clause. E.g. Ningekuwa simba, ningewala wazazi wako. ("If I were a lion, I would eat your parents.") → Ningewala wazazi wako endapo ningekuwa simba. ("I would eat your parents if I were a lion." Without endapo it may be interpreted as "If I ate your parents, I would be a lion.)

Learn Swahili in just 5 minutes a day. For free.