Jambo Zanzibar
June 29, 2012 9:45 AM   Subscribe

I've got a few months. How can I learn the most possible Swahili in this time?

I'm making a trip to Eastern Africa in September, and because I want to make the most of my time there and possibly work as a volunteer for some time during my stay, I'd like to learn a little Swahili.

I know I could probably get by with English, but I've got time on my hands and think I could get more out of the trip if I at least try at the language.

I have a recommendation for a intensive 3 week course in Zanzibar. I'll probably buy a book or two off amazon. Willing to try rosetta stone or whatever web resource I could get for free. But if anyone had a plan they used or specific recommendations for web resources, media to consume, et cetera. Also if anyone wants to share their experiences here, what they had trouble with, what they found encouraging, et cetera, I'd love to hear about it.
posted by midmarch snowman to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you currently live somewhere where there are an appreciable number of Swahili speakers looking to improve their English, offering to do a conversation exchange (you meet and talk for a half-hour in English, then for a half-hour in Swahili), that might help keep your skills up between the intensive course and your trip.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:49 AM on June 29, 2012

What part of East Africa will you be in? If you're in Tanzania or coastal Kenya, then it is definitely worth learning some Swahili. If you'll be in Uganda, I wouldn't do it at all. If you'll be in Western and Central Kenya, chances are most people who are comfortable conversing in Swahili are going to be about as comfortable in English.

When I took Swahili in college, we used Tujifunze Kiswahili. We also frequently did exercises from Mwanasimba, a great online resource.

Also, apparently we're basically neighbors! I speak Swahili (though I'm rusty) and I'd be happy to speak Swahili with you and/or share what books and resources I have. I tutored it in undergrad and still have all of my notebooks and the like ... whatever would be helpful. OSU has a great Swahili program with very friendly and encouraging professors who might be better able to acquaint you with what resources there are in the Columbus area. During the school year, they run a conversation table, though I don't think that's ongoing this summer. Tastes of Zanzibar is a great Swahili restaurant on Morse Road; the owners are pretty tolerant of wazungu coming to practice their Swahili and eat mounds of ugali.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:19 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ooh, Memrise would be perfect for this. Free and fun!
posted by iamkimiam at 10:28 AM on June 29, 2012

I'm also trying to learn a little Swahili! In my googlings I've found http://www.kamusi.org/ and a big PDF about Swahili
posted by oranger at 10:28 AM on June 29, 2012

For free (language) learning resources, I like to pop in with the suggestion to check out ERIC the "World's largest digital library of education literature." some of it is really literature but they have a lot of free textbooks and vocabularies for languages, most of it full-text free and online in PDF form. It's run by the US Dept of Education. You also need to know about the public domain materials from the Foreign Services Institute. You can download the full text and audio program at the link above. I've never studied Swahili, but I have gotten good info from both sources for other languages from the very common (Portuguese) to the less-studied (Vietnamese, Aymara).
posted by whatzit at 11:00 AM on June 29, 2012

Actually - I changed my mind about Uganda thing. I've heard different things about the appropriateness of Swahili from different Ugandans, but I know one of the Swahili professors at OSU is Ugandan. So never mind.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:40 PM on June 29, 2012

Check with your local library - I was just putting together a help document for my library's subscription to Transparent Language (free to all cardholders), which offers Swahili as one of the 80+ languages you can learn. Many libraries subscribe to such a service.
posted by clerestory at 3:04 PM on June 29, 2012


this series is my favorite in teaching yourself languages. it's phenomenal. i've used both the turkish and the russian series.

also you find dictionaries or web-pages with frequency lists- something like the top 1000 most frequently used words in swahili. if you learn those 1000 words, you'll have cracked the language. couldn't find one in the two minutes I spent trying to, but give it a shot and it will lead to language happiness.

these two tools together, along with as much practice with a native speaker as possible, will help you learn as quickly as possible.
posted by saraindc at 3:26 PM on June 29, 2012

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