Category Archives: Kenyan Conversationalism

Quick Kiswahili-isms

Kiswahili is a language in which related words often tend to sound the same. Also, there are several instances where verbs are turned directly into nouns and vice versa. As a result of all of this, there are a few curious structures within the language that I thought I would mention. Sorry to keep the entry brief, but I don’t have much time to write at the moment, and I am hoping to get to sleep soon. Here’s a far-from-exhaustive list for you:

  • The noun for food is chakula. To eat is the verb kula, and the verb to take is kuchakua. This means that you are able to, kula chakula or kuchakua chakula. Hear the similarity?
  • In Kiswahili a man may marry, kuoa, but a woman may only be married, kuolewa.
  • The verb to organize or arrange is kupanga. The noun panga is the word for a common, machete-like device used as both a tool and a weapon.
  • The verb to hear is kusikia, and the word for the noun ear is sikio.
  • The noun for country is nchi, while the word for citizen is wananchi.

Hope you enjoyed your brief and simple Kiswahili lesson for the day.


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Kiswahili: Lacking in Articles

I am on a constant struggle to increase my blog’s readership.  Why? Because this is all I do, and I feel that if the very least I am doing is fulfilling the third goal of Peace Corps (“Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans,”) then I had better do a darn good job of it.  As a result, I have really been trying to write an entry a day during the week, because I am lucky enough to have a constant Internet connection.  I know the past few posts have been longer, and I know tomorrow’s will be long as well (because I wrote it before this one…), so I will keep this short. Continue reading

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Kenyan Conversationalism

Personal encounters that lead to conversations are a bit different in Kenya compared to those in America, or at least those in America I have ever partaken in.

Oftentimes an American greeting includes an acknowledgement of the person relevant to the time of day, “Good morning,” followed by an inquisitive into the nature of the person, “How are you?” Other more common phrases might be, “Afternoon, how you doing?” and variations on this theme. They may also include slang, such as the popular, “What’s up?” which is not often preceded by temporal-based initiator, but instead stands on its on.  Also, there is usually an accompanied physical motion, such as a hug, or kiss or handshake. With greetings concluded, it is on to the meat of the conversation. 

Greetings are most probably the largest area of difference between the two cultures regarding conversation. Kenyans take their greetings much more seriously. First there is an acknowledgement, such as “Jambo,” or in my case, “Mambo,” which is then followed by several inquisitives. “Habari yako?” “Habari za leo?” “Habari za nyumba?” “Habari za jamaa?” These are the formal inquisitives, asking simply (and in literal translation), “Your news?” “News of the Day?” “News of the house?” “New of the family?” Not all are used every time, but it is very common to hear more than one in a single greeting and each one requires a response. Continue reading


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