So you have decided that you are going on vacation, you are going to Zimbabwe and you have read up a little. You know they speak English and so are quite safe, you will get around. Now, though most Zimbabweans speak English, people are quite pleased when visitors make an effort to speak local languages. So, with this in mind, we thought we would equip you with a few handy words and phrases- just in case. You know?
The first thing people usually want to know is the completely inappropriate list of words, we are not here for that. We are going to go to the basics and keep it completely clean. The first thing you should know though, is that even though everyone says there are 2 languages- Ndebele and Shona, that’s not true. Officially there are now 16 recognized languages spoken in different parts of the country. What is known predominantly as Shona, and what is taught in schools is mostly a language called Zezuru, and that is what we will take you through in the next few lines.
Ndeipi? Or Sei sei? – ‘What’s up?’ Probably the most useful informal word you will use.
Kanjani? – ‘How are you?’ Another useful, informal word.
Makadini?* – ‘How are you?’ But formal.
Mushe – ‘I am fine.’ Can be used twice as in ‘Mushe mushe’, also very informal.
Ndiripo – ‘I am fine’ is an informal response, when speaking to peers.
Tiripo – ‘I am fine.’ is the formal version. The direct translation is actually ‘We are fine’
Mangwanani – ‘Good morning’ Formal
Mamuka* sei or Wamuka sei – ‘How did you wake up?’, meaning ‘How are you this morning?’ Mamuka refers to elders mostly, and wamuka to your peers.
Marara* sei or Warara sei– ‘How did you sleep?’ Again, more like ‘Sleep well?’ Again, Ma- refers to elders and wa- refers to your peers.
Tarara, kana mararawo imi?– ‘We slept well, if you slept well.’ So, ‘I slept well, and you?’
Tamuka, kana mamukawo imi? – As above.
Masikati – ‘Good afternoon’
Manheru – ‘Good evening’
Maswera sei* – ‘How did you spend your day?’ So, ‘How was your day?’ Same as above, if you are talking to your peers, you will say ‘Waswera sei?’
Toonana – ‘We will see each other.’ Kind of like, ‘See you again soon.’
Tatenda – ‘Thank you’
Pamusoroi – ‘Excuse me’
A typical greeting will go something like this:
A: Kanjani/ sei sei
A: Marara sei?
B: Tarara, kana mararawo imi
*Adults are always referred to in plural
Don’t say we didn’t do anything for your language development. Now you can practice before you come on over.
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