Ninajifunza Kiswahili

My flatmate, Sarah, and I have been trying to learn Kiswahili…slowly…

This week we learned that many verbs in Kiswahili are simply made my modifying others. Here’s an example to explain:

So the verb “to beat” is kupiga. As in “Ninapiga watoto wangu” or “I beat my children”. (I promise I don’t. I don’t have children). Then a tonne of other verbs are made by simply adding the name of an object. Which makes for some nice combinations…

  • Kupiga simu. Literally, “To beat a phone”. Or rather, to make a phone call.
  • Kupiga vikono. “To beat hands” or “to clap”.
  • Kupiga wagoti. “To beat knees” or “to kneel”.

What a brilliant system!! But my absolute favourite has to be how you talk about a ringing phone: “Simu yangu inalia”. “My phone is ringing” or in a literal translation “My phone is crying” (Kulia is to cry”).

And the best bit is when you hear the literal translation being used in English – I was totally bewildered the first time someone asked “whose phone is crying”.

Now I know.


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