language of the Bantu language family
Phrasebooks > Nyanja phrasebook

Nyanja (chinyanja), also known as Chewa (chicheŵa) after the largest tribe speaking it, is a Bantu language spoken by over 15 million people in southern Africa. Chewa/Nyanja is an official language and common lingua franca in Malawi and Zambia, and is spoken by some in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa as well.

The name Nyanja actually means "lake", so chinyanja is the "language of the lake" — referring to the language of the Chewas and other tribes who have adopted their language. In Malawi, the official name is Chichewa, while Zambia and Mozambique call it Nyanja.

PronunciationEdit

Basic Nyanja pronunciation is relatively straightforward, although getting it exactly right will require more study as the language is tonal and has some unusual sounds (for the native English speaker). Stress is usually placed on the second-last syllable. The writing system is logical if a little inconsistently applied in no small part due to dialectal variations.

VowelsEdit

All vowels are pronounced "pure" and as in Italian.

a
as in father
e
as in bed or weigh
i
as in machine
o
as in vote
u
as in hoop

ConsonantsEdit

Note that the consonants 'n' and 'm' can form initial clusters as in ndapita ("I'm going") or mpingo ("church").

b
like 'b' in "bed" (this English sounding explosive "b" is usually preceded by "m" to make a consonant blend)
b
like 'b' in the American southern dialect "down by the Bayou" (implosive 'b')
c, ch
like 'ch' in "chip" (without aspiration)
d
like 'd' in "dog" (this English sounding explosive 'd' never begins a word)
d
like 'd' in the American southern dialect "Down by the bayou" or the modern slang, "Dude!" (implosive 'd')
di
like 'dzi'
f
like 'ph' in "phone"
g
like 'g' in "go", like 'j' in "jello"
h
like 'h' in "help", emphasized in diphthongs
j
like 'dg' in "edge"
k
like "sKat" (unaspirated 'k')
kh
like 'c' in "cat"
l
like 'l' in "love"
m
like 'm' in "mother"
n
like 'n' in "nice"
ng
like 'ng' in "song" plus a hard 'g' afterward (two sounds)
ng'
like 'ng' in "song" (one sound)
ny
like 'ñ' in Spanish mañana
p
like "sPat" (unaspirated 'p')
ph
like 'p' in "pig"
r
pronounced softly like 'l', often interchangeable
s
like 'ss' in "hiss"
si
like 'she' in "sheet"
t
like "sTop" (unaspirated 't')
th
like 't' in "top"
tch
like 'ch' in "chip" (normally aspirated)
w
like 'w' in "wheel"
ŵ
bilabial fricative (IPA [ɸ], not found in English), best said like a weak 'w' edging towards 'f'
z
like 'z' in "adze"

Phrase listEdit

For this phrasebook, we use the polite form for all phrases, on the presumption that you'll mostly be talking to people you don't already know.

There are significant dialectal variations in the language. Unless otherwise noted, all phrases here use the Malawi (Chichewa) dialect.

BasicsEdit

Hello.
Moni.
Sir (or) Mister
Abambo
Madam
Amayi
How are you?
Muli bwanji?
Fine, thank you. (And you?)
Ndili bwino.(Kaya inu? [or] Kaya anzathu?)
What is your name?
Dzina lanu ndani?/Dzina lanu ndi yani?
My name is ______ .
Dzina langa ndi ______.
Please.
Chonde.
Thank you.
Zikomo. (very common - ends most conversations)
Yes
Ee / Eya / Inde (can also mean "indeed").
Truly (or) Really
Ndithu
No
Iyayi (used strongly) or ayi (more polite)
Bad
Woipa (person), or choipa (thing)
Thanks
Zikomo
I'm sorry.
Pepani
"See you later"/We shall meet.
Tionana.
Goodbye (meaning: I'm going.)
Ndapita.
Have a safe journey.
Yendani bwino / Muyende bwino.
Stay well.
Tsalani bwino. / Mutsale bwino.
I don't speak Nyanja.
Sindimalankhula chinyanja.
Do you speak English?
Mumalankhula chizungu/chingelesi?
Is there someone here who speaks English?
Alipo munthu pano olankhula chizungu?
Help me!
Mundithandize! Ndithadizeni
Don't be rude (or) cheeky.
Osapanga chipongwe.
Swear words
Mau Otukwana
Good morning.
Mwauka bwanji? / Mwadzuka bwanji? (greeting) Ndadzuka bwino. (response)
Good afternoon.
Mwasewela bwanji? (greeting) Ndasewela bwino. (response)
Good evening.
Mwachoma bwanji. (greeting) Ndachoma bwino. (response)
Good night.
Usiku wabwino.
Sleep well.
Gonani bwino. or Mugone bwino.
I don't understand
Sindimvetsa. or Sindikumvetsa.
I know
Ndimadziwa.
I don't know
Sindidziwa.
I want
Ndikufuna
I don't want
Sindikufuna
I heard
Ndamva
I didn't hear
Sindinamve
Where is the toilet?
Chimbudzi chili kuti? (Chimbuzi is a big goat :D)
Ladies (toilet)
Chimbudzi cha Akazi (Gentlemen - never ask for the Kazi..!!)
Gents (toilet)
Chimbudzi cha Amuna
White person
Mzungu / Azungu (plural)
Indian
Mmwenye / Amwenye
What?
Ati?

ProblemsEdit

Leave me alone.
Ndilekeni or Ndisiyeni
Don't touch me!
Osandigwira
Don't swear (or) bad-mouth
Osatukwana
I'll call the police.
Ndiitana apolisi
Police!
Wapolisi!
Stop! Thief!
Gwirani! Wakubayo!
I need your help.
Mundithandize, or Thandizeni
It's an emergency.
N'zofunika mwamsanga
I'm lost.
Ndasochera
I lost my bag.
Ndataya chikwama
I lost my wallet.
Ndataya kachikwama kanga kandalama
I'm sick.
Ndikudwala
Head ache.
Ndikudwala mutu
Pain.
Kupweteka
Stomach ache.
Kupweteka m'mimba
Chest pain.
Kupweteka chifuwa
Cough.
Kutsokomola
Diarrhoea.
Kotsekula m'mimba
I've been injured.
Ndapweteka
I need a doctor.
Ndikufuna dokotala
Hospital.
Chipatala
Can I use your phone?
Ndingaimbe nawo foni yanuyo?
There's been an accident
Kuli Ngozi
Hurry quickly
Fulumira Msanga
Run!
Thamanga
Hit (or) clout
Menya
Go away (as in scram)
Choka
I don't want
sindikufuna
Thank you and you ( after someone asks how are you )
zikomo khaya inu

NumbersEdit

English numbers are very commonly used even when speaking in Nyanja.

1
Modzi
2
Wiri
3
Tatu
4
Nayi
5
Sanu
6
Sanu n'chimodzi (five and one)
7
Sanu n'ziwiri (five and two)
8
Sanu n'zitatu
9
Sanu n'zinayi
10
Khumi
11
khumi n'chimodzi (ten and one)
12
khumi n'ziwiri
13
khumi n'zitatu
14
khumi n'zinayi
15
khumi n'zisanu
16
khumi n'zisanu n'chimodzi (ten and five and one)
17
khumi n'zisanu n'ziwiri
18
khumi n'zisanu n'zitatu
19
khumi n'zisanu n'zinayi
20
makumi awiri (two tens)
21
makumi awiri n'chimodzi
22
makumi awiri n'ziwiri
23
makumi awiri n'zitatu
30
makumi atatu
40
makumi anayi
50
makumi asanu
60
makumi asanu n'limodzi
70
makumi asanu ndiawiri
80
makumi asanu ndiatatu
90
makumi asanu ndianayi
100
zana limodzi
200
mazana awiri
300
mazana atatu
1000
chikwi chimodzi
2000
zikwi ziwiri
1,000,000
one million (...)
1,000,000,000
one billion
1,000,000,000,000
one trillion
number _____ (train, bus, etc.)
number _____ (...)
half
theka
less
kuchepera
more
kuchulukira

TimeEdit

What is the time?
Nthawi ili bwanji?
now
panopa (or) Tsopano
later
mbuyo
before
patsogolo pa(...)
tomorrow
mawa
early tomorrow
mawa, pa mamawa
morning
m'mawa
afternoon
masana
evening
madzulo
night
usiku
yesterday
dzulo
day before yesterday
dzana


Clock timeEdit

one o'clock AM
one o'clock AM ((one)wanu koloko m'mawa kwambiri)
ten o'clock AM
two o'clock AM ((ten)teni koloko m'mawa)
noon
noon (twelve koloko m'masana)
two o'clock PM
two o'clock PM ((two)tu koloko m'masana)
five o'clock PM
five o'clock PM ((five)faivi koloko m'madzulo)
midnight
midnight ((twelve)twelufu koloko m'usiku)

DurationEdit

_____ minute(s)
_____ minute(s) (...)
_____ hour(s)
_____ hour(s) (...)
_____ day(s)
_____ tsiku (masiku) (...)
_____ week(s)
_____ mulungu (milungu) (...)
_____ month(s)
_____ month(s) (...)
_____ year(s)
_____ chaka (zaka) (...)

DaysEdit

today
lero
yesterday
dzulo
tomorrow
mawa
this week
mlungu uno / sabata ino
last week
mlungu watha / sabata yatha / sabata idapita
next week
mlungu wa mawa / sabata ya mawa / sabata ikubwera
Sunday
pasabata, lamulungu
Monday
lolemba
Tuesday
lachiwiri
Wednesday
lachitatu
Thursday
lachinayi
Friday
lachisanu
Saturday
loweluka

MonthsEdit

January
January (kapalepale)
February
February (...)
March
March (...)
April
April (...)
May
May (...)
June
June (...)
July
July (...)
August
August (...)
September
September (...)
October
October (...)
November
November (...)
December
December (...)

ColorsEdit

black
kuda
white
yera
gray
gray (...)
red
wofiira (also used, impolitely, to describe a white person)
blue
kamtambo (...)
yellow
chikasu (...)
green
abiriwiri (...)
orange
ndimwi (...)
purple
purple (...)
brown
brown (...)
what colour?
mtundu uti (also means 'what sort?')

TransportationEdit

Bus and trainEdit

How much is a ticket to _____?
Tikiti ndi bwanji ku _____? (...)
One ticket to _____, please.
Tikiti imodzi ku _____. (...)
Where does this train/bus go?
Sitima/Basi ikupita kuti?
Where is the train/bus to _____?
Sitima/Basi ya ku______ ili kuti?
Does this train/bus stop in _____?
Sitima/Basi iyi imayima pa _____? (...)
When does the train/bus for _____ leave?
Sitima/Basi yaku ______ inyamuka nthawi yanji?
When will this train/bus arrive in _____?
Sitima/Basi iyi ikafika ku _______ nthawi yanji?

DirectionsEdit

How do I get to _____ ?
How do I get to _____ ? (Ndingakafike bwanji ku ....)
...the train station?
...the train station? (...steji ya njanji?)
...the bus station?
...the bus station? (...steji ya basi?)
...the airport?
...the airport? (...bwalo la ndege?)
...downtown?
...downtown? (...Town)
...the youth hostel?
...the youth hostel? (...)
...the _____ hotel?
...the _____ hotel? (...Hotela ya_____)
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate?
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate? (...Embassy ya_____)
...the office(s) of______
Ofesi ya______
Where are there a lot of...
Where are there a lot of... (Ma... ambiri ali kuti?)
...hotels?
...hotels? (Mahotela...)
...restaurants?
...restaurants? (MaRestaurant...)
...bars?
...bars? (Mabara...)
...sites to see?
...sites to see? (Malo osangalatsa aleno ku awone...)
Can you show me on the map?
Can you show me on the map? (Mungandionetse pa map?)
street
street (Mseu)
Turn left.
Turn left. (Khotani/Mukhote kumanzere)
Turn right.
Turn right. (Khotani/Mukhote kumanja)
Road
Mseu (pronounced Msay-oo)
left
left (Kumanzere)
right
right (Kumanja)
straight ahead
straight ahead (Straight)
towards the _____
towards the _____ (mbali ya ku...)
past the _____
past the _____ (Kudutsa pa...)
before the _____
before the _____ (Osafika pa...)
Watch for the _____.
Watch for the _____. (muyang-anile chizindikilo cha...)
intersection
intersection (pokomano miseu/pa mphambano...)
north
north (ku mpoto...)
south
south (ku mwela...)
east
east (ku mm'awa...)
west
west (ku madzulo...)
uphill
uphill (ku mtunda/kokwela...)
downhill
downhill (ku musi...)

TaxiEdit

Taxi!
Taxi! (...)
Take me to _____, please.
Munditengere ku________, chonde.
How much does it cost to get to _____?
Ndibwanji kupita ku _____? (...)
Take me there, please.
Munditengere kumeneko, chonde.

LodgingEdit

Do you have any rooms available?
Alipo Malo?
How much is a room for one person/two people?
Ndalama zingati room ya munthu m'modzi/anthu awiri? (...)
Does the room come with...
Room iri ndi ......
...bedsheets?
Ma bedsheet?
...a bathroom?
...kosambira? (...)
...a telephone?
...telephone? (...)
...a TV?
...a TV? (...)
May I see the room first?
Choyamba, ndingathe kuona malo?
Do you have anything quieter?
Pali kwina kopanda phokoso? (...)
...bigger?
...yokulirapo? (...)
...cleaner?
...cleaner? (...)
...cheaper?
...yochipirapo? (...)
OK, I'll take it.
Chabwino, nditenga yomweyi.
I will stay for _____ night(s).
NdiKhala kuno masiku_______
Can you suggest another hotel?
Mungandiuze hotel ina? (...)
Do you have a safe?
Do you have a safe? (...)
...lockers?
...lockers? (...)
Is breakfast/supper included?
Is breakfast/supper included? (...)
What time is breakfast/supper?
What time is breakfast/supper? (...)
Please clean my room.
Chonde, ndikonzereni room. (...)
Can you wake me at _____? | Mundidzutse nthawi ya ________
I want to check out.
Ndikufuna ndituluke mu hotel. (...)

MoneyEdit

Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars?
Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars? (...) kodi mu vomera kutenga ndalama zaku ma chalo ena?
Do you accept British pounds?
Do you accept British pounds? (...)
Do you accept credit cards?
Do you accept credit cards? (...)
Can you change money for me?
Can you change money for me? (...)
Where can I get money changed?
Where can I get money changed? (...)
Can you change a traveler's check for me?
Can you change a traveler's check for me? (...)
Where can I get a traveler's check changed?
Where can I get a traveler's check changed? (...)
What is the exchange rate?
What is the exchange rate? (...)
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)?
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)? (...)

EatingEdit

A table for one person/two people, please.
Can I look at the menu, please?
Ndingaone menu?
Can I look in the kitchen?
Ndingakaone ku khitchini?
Is there a house specialty?
Is there a local specialty?
I'm a vegetarian.
Ndimadya masamba basi/
I don't eat pork.
Sindimadya nyama ya nkhumba.
I don't eat beef.
Sindimadya nyama ya ng'ombe.
Can you make it "lite", please? (less oil/butter/lard)
fixed-price meal
à la carte
breakfast
lunch
tea (meal)
supper
I would like _____.
Ndifuna _____.
I would like a dish containing _____.
Ndikufuna chakudya chokhala ndi___________
chicken
nkhuku
beef
nyama ya ng'ombe
pork
nyama ya nkhumba
fish
nsomba
maize porridge
nsima
eggs
mazira
salad
saladi, masamba
(fresh) vegetables
masamba.
(fresh) fruit
chipatso (one), zipatso (many)
bread
buledi
rice
mpunga
beans
nyemba
May I have a glass of _____?
May I have a cup of _____?
May I have a bottle of _____?
coffee
khofi
tea (drink)
tiyi
maize drink
maheu
water
madzi
beer (Western)
mowa
beer (maize)
masese
May I have some _____?
Mundipatseko ________?
salt
mchere
black pepper
Tsabola
butter
Excuse me, waiter? (getting attention of server)
I'm finished.
Ndakhuta
It was delicious.
Chakudya chinali bwino.
Please clear the plates.
Chotsani mbale, zikomo.
The check, please.
Ndipatseni bill.

BarsEdit

Do you serve alcohol?
Mumagulitsa mowa? (...)
Is there table service?
table service iriko? (...)
A beer/two beers, please.
Mowa umodzi/mowa uwiri, zikomo.
A glass of red/white wine, please.
Glass ya red/white wine, zikomo. (...)
A pint, please.
A pint, please. (...)
A bottle, please.
Botolo limodzi, zikomo. (...)
_____ (hard liquor) and _____ (mixer), please.
_____ and _____, please. (...)
whiskey
whiskey (...)
vodka
vodka (...)
rum
rum (...)
water
madzi
club soda
club soda (...)
tonic water
tonic water (...)
orange juice
orange juice (...)
Coke (soda)
Coke (...)
Do you have any bar snacks?
Do you have any bar snacks? (...)
One more, please.
One more, please. (...)
Another round, please.
Another round, please. (...)
When is closing time?
Mumatseka nthawi yanji? (...)

ShoppingEdit

Do you have this in my size?
Do you have this in my size? (...)Ilipo size yanga?
How much is this?
Ndi ndalama zingati ichi?
That's too expensive.
Chikudula kwambiri
Too much.
Zadullah
Would you take _____?
Would you take _____? (...)Mumatha kutenga______?
expensive
Kudula
cheap
cheap (Kuchipa...)
I can't afford it.
Sindingakwanitse
I don't want it.
Sindiri kufuna
You're cheating me.
Ukunama. (...)
I'm not interested.
(..) Sindikufuna
OK, I'll take it.
Chabwino, Nditenga
Can I have a bag?
Muli ndi jumbo? (...)
Do you ship (overseas)?
mumatumiza kwinakwache (kunja)?
I need...
ndirikufuna
...toothpaste.
...toothpaste. (...)
...a toothbrush.
...a toothbrush. (nswachi...)
...tampons.
...tampons. (...)
...soap.
...soap. (...) sopo
...shampoo.
...shampoo. (...) zochapila tsisi
...pain reliever. ('e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen')
mankhwala(then specify ailment)
...cold medicine.
...cold medicine. (...) mankhwala achifuwa
...stomach medicine.
...stomach medicine. (...)mankhwala a mmimba
...a razor.
...a razor. (Leza or Lezala...)
...an umbrella.
...an umbrella. (...)
...sunblock lotion.
...sunblock lotion. (...)mankhwala wadzuwa
...a postcard.
...a postcard. (post card...)
...postage stamps.
...postage stamps. (stampa...)
...batteries.
...batteries. (mabatile...)
...writing paper.
...writing paper. (...)pepala lolembera kalata
...a pen.
...a pen. (cholembera...)
...English-language books.
Mabuku achingelezi
...English-language magazines.
...English-language magazines. (magazine zachingelezi...)
...an English-language newspaper.
...an English-language newspaper. (nyuzi ya chingelezi...)
...an English-English dictionary.
Dictionary ya chingelezi

DrivingEdit

I want to rent a car.
Ndikufuna rent Galimoto. (...)
Can I get insurance?
Can I get insurance? (...)
stop (on a street sign)
stop (...)
one way
one way (...)
yield
yield (...)
no parking
no parking (...)
speed limit
speed limit (...)
gas (petrol) station
gas station (...)
petrol
petrol (...)
diesel
diesel (...)

AuthorityEdit

I haven't done anything wrong.
sindinapange mulandu ulionse. (...)
It was a misunderstanding.
It was a misunderstanding. (...)
Where are you taking me?
muli kundipereka kuti? (...)
Am I under arrest?
kodi mwandi manga? (...)
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen.
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen. (...)
I want to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate.
I need to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate. (...)
I want to talk to a lawyer.
I want to talk to a lawyer. (Ndi kufuna kukambirana ndi kaswili wamalamulo)
Can I just pay a fine now?
Can I just pay a fine now? (...)
What is this/that called?

Nichani ichi? Muchiyitana chani icho?(...)

This Nyanja phrasebook is a usable article. It explains pronunciation and the bare essentials of travel communication. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.