Lion King Swahili

Greetings from Kijabe!

Someone asked me the other day how long we had been in Kenya and it caught me off guard that it has been over six months. In fact, we’re coming up on seven months. In many ways it seems like we arrived just a few days ago and in other ways it seems like we’ve been here for years. I suppose that means things still seem new to us and also that we are comfortable.

Since last September we have been spending time each week with a language tutor . . . trying to learn Swahili. It’s a very phonetic language so it’s easy to pronounce – you just sound out every letter. Our language tutor told us early on that Swahili is about 80% Bantu and 20% Arabic. They just add a vowel to the end of Arabic words. I have come to realize that he is not entirely correct, though. I’d say that Swahili is about 75% Bantu, 20% Arabic, and 5% English. Yes, I said English. With words like socksi (socks), shirti (shirt), filamu (film/movie), kabeji (cabbage), and soda (soda) there are times when I think Swahili is easy. But then there are words like dada which translates as “sister” or mamba (I’m thinking snake) which translates as “crocodile.” The most humorous one we’ve come across is nyanya which can translate as “tomato” or “grandmother” – depending on context, of course.

This may or may not come as a surprise to you, but you probably know some Swhaili words already – beyond the ones borrowed from English. If you’ve ever had the song from the Lion King stuck in your head which begins . . . Hakuna Matata . . . then you’ve been thinking in Swahili. Hakuna Matata means “No Worries” but the more common expression is Hakuna Shida which translates as “No Problem.” There are also other Swahili words found in the movie:

Simba = Lion

Rafiki = Friend

Pumba = Short for Pumbavu which means stupid/foolish

There is also another song which repeats the phrase O wimbo wee. O has no translation. Wimbo means song. Wee is short for wewe which means you. So the phrase literally means “O you song.”

The Moffat term is ending soon and we’ll have a short break before the third term begins in early May. SIM Kenya will hold its annual Spiritual Life Conference in April which we look forward to attending for the first time. We also hope to take some time to go on a safari during April. Safari is also a Swahili word meaning “trip.” The verb form Kusafari means “to travel.”

Maureen has been busy recently getting acclimated to the community health program at Kijabe Hospital. Luke really enjoys pre-school and looking out the window for monkeys or baboons. Kate seems to discover a new word each day and follows her brother around (or runs from him)!

Thank you for your love and support . . . we feel blessed to be serving our Lord and Savior here in Kenya!

In Christ,

Tim for Maureen, Luke & Kate


3 thoughts on “Lion King Swahili

  1. Hello Maureen,
    How is the language lesson going.
    Don’t worry though, Kate and Luke will teach you a lot, and correct you as time goes on.
    My kids correct my English all the time.
    Your tutor is probably right.
    Your are probably talking of modern Swahili.
    My kids would tell you they understand my language,
    But that’s because my husband and I mix it up with a lot of English when we speak.
    Love you guys!

    Tan Oyebadejo
    Brandenburg Elementary
    Special Education
    (972) 600-7118

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