Niger-Congo language originating in parts of Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania
Phrasebooks > Tumbuka phrasebook

Tumbuka (chiTumbuka) is a Bantu language which is spoken in parts of Northern Malawi, Eastern Zambia, and South-Western Tanzania.

The language of the Tumbuka is called chiTumbuka - the 'chi' in front of Tumbuka meaning 'the language of', similar to 'ki' in kiSwahili or 'se' in seTswana.

The World Almanac (1998) estimates approximately 2,000,000 Tumbuka speakers exist in the aforementioned three countries.

There are substantial differences between the form of Tumbuka spoken in urban areas (which borrows some words from Chichewa/Nyanja) and the "village" or "deep" Tumbuka spoken in villages. Furthermore there are many alternative spellings in written Tumbuka, and no standard orthography. The Rumphi variant is often regarded as the most "linguistically pure", and is sometimes called "real Tumbuka".

PronunciationEdit

VowelsEdit

a
like the "a" in "father"
e
like the "ay" in "pay" (like the French é)
i
like the "ee" in "tree" (like the French i)
o
like the "o" in "home"
u
something like the "oo" in "food"

ConsonantsEdit

b
like 'b' in "bed", but sometimes interchangeable with 'w'
c
like 'k' in "kid"
ch
like 'ch' in "chair"
d
like 'd' in "dog"
f
like 'f' in "fit"
g
like 'g' in "go"
h
like 'h' in "help"
j
like 'dg' in "edge"
k
like 'c' in "cat"
l
like 'l' in "love", but often interchangeable with 'r'
m
like 'm' in "mother"
n
like 'n' in "nice"
nkh
like a 'n' sound at the back of the mouth expelling air through the nose
p
like 'p' in "pig"
ph
like a breathy 'p'
r
like 'r' in "row", but often interchangeable with 'l'
s
like 'ss' in "hiss", like 'z' in "haze"
t
like 't' in "top"
v
like 'v' in "victory"
w
like 'w' in "weight", but sometimes interchangeable with 'b'
y
like 'y' in "yes"
z
like 'z' in "haze"

VocabularyEdit

BasicsEdit

The standard greetings are addressed as questions, most of which can be answered with the word makola.

Ni- I, Mu- You, Ta-He/She,They
Tense ku- present Ka- past zamu-future
all verbs will start like kugona (to sleep)

to build a verb use prounoun +tense+ verb

So I will sleep, Ni+ Zamu+ gona= nizamugona
How are you?
Muli uli?
Good.
Nili Makola.
I'm fine, how are you?
Nili makola, kwali Imwe?
Thank You. (General positive response meaning hi, yes, thank you, etc.)
Yebo/Yewo.
Hello? (Is anyone at home?)
Odi?
Welcome. (Greeting.)
response to "Odi" = "Odini"
Welcome. "Tempokani"
What is your name?
Zina linu ndimwe njani?
My name is ______ .
Zina lawo ndine ______ .
Nice to meet you.
Chatowa kuwonana nawe.
Please.
Chonde (when used, connotes begging)
Thank you.
Yewo = common
Tawonga = deeper thanks/deeper Chitumbuka.
You're welcome.
Palije suzgo = no problem
Yes.
Enya.
No.
Yayi.
Sorry. (getting attention)
Pephani
Excuse me. (begging pardon)
Pephani
I'm sorry.
Pephani. (also means sorry as with empathy)
Goodbye. (I'm going now.)
Nakuluta sono.
Goodbye. (Go well, if someone else is leaving.)
Mwende makola.
Goodbye. (Stay well, if you are leaving)
Khalani makola.
Farewell. (We'll see each other later.)
Tizamuonana.
Tisanganenge. Tiwonanenge.
I do not speak Tumbuka.
Ine nkhuyowoya chiTumbuka yayi.
English
ChiZungu, which means the language of the white people, especially in Malawi and Zambia
Do you speak English?
Kasi ... mukhuyowoya chiZungu?
Is there someone here who speaks English?
Pali uyo wakuyowoya chiZungu pano?
Help!
Novwire.
Stop!
Leka!
Look out!
Labisya
Go Away! (strong and a bit disrespectful) Choka
Good morning. (How have you woken?)
Mwawuka uli?
I have woken fine, how about you?
Tawuka makola, kwali imwe?
Good afternoon. (How has your day been?)
Mwatandala uli?.
My day has been well, how about you?
Tatandala makola, kwali imwe?
Good night.
Mugone makola (Sleep Well). Usiku uwemi (Good night).
Sleep well. (To one who is going.)
Mukugona makola.
I don't understand.
Nikupulika yayi.
Where is the toilet?
Chimbuzi chili nkhuni? (toilet = "chimbuzi")

ProblemsEdit

Leave me alone.
Ni leke/ Ni lekani(many)(...)
Don't touch me!
Leka kunikola/Khwasya(Kunikhwasya yayi - Don't touch me)
I'll call the police.
Niti cheme Kapokola(...)
Police!
Kapokola(...)
Stop that!
("Leka!")
Stop! Thief!
Munkhungu uyo(...)
I need your help.
Nkhukhumba kuti mundovwiri(...)
It's an emergency.
Ni suzgo gha mbuchimbuchi(...)
I'm lost.
Na sowa/soba(...)
I lost my bag.
na sovya chola chane, Nataya chola chane(...)
I lost my wallet.
na sovya chikwama chane, Nataya chikwama chane(...)
I'm sick.
Nalwala(...)
I've been injured.
na pwetekeka(...)
I need a doctor.
nkukhumba docotala/ng'anga(...)
Can I use your phone?
ningayimba fone yinu(...)

NumbersEdit

Note that English numbers are often used even when speaking Tumbuka.

1
moza (...)
2
bili (...)
3
tatu (...)
4
nayi (...)
5
nkondi, nkonde (...)
6
nkonde na kamoza (...)
7
nkonde na tubili (...)
8
nkonde na tutatu (...)
9
nkonde na tunayi (...)
10
Khumi (...)
11
Khumi na kamoza (...)
12
Khumi na Tubili (...)
13
Khumi na Tutatu (...)
14
Khumi na tunayi (...)
15
Khumi na Nkonde (...)
16
Khumi na nkonde na kamoza (...)
17
Khumi na nkonde na tubili (...)
18
Khumi na nkonde na tutatu (...)
19
Khumi na nkonde na Nayi (...)
20
ma Khumi ya bili (...)
30
ma Khumi ya tatu(...)
40
ma Khumi ya nayi(...)
50
ma Khumi ya nkonde(...)
halve
kuswa pakati,kugawa pakati (...)
less
pachoko(...)
more
chomeni(...)

Clock timeEdit

The twenty-four hour clock is used in all Tumbuka-speaking areas.


now
Sono
later
panyuma
before
pambere
morning
mulenje
na mulenje (in the morning)
afternoon
mise
na mise (in the afternoon)
evening
mise, mazgetu(...)
night
usiku
What is the time?
Ni nyengo uli?
Nyengo yili uli
one o'clock AM
wanu koloko ya mulenje
two o'clock AM
Thu koloko ya mulenje
noon
namuhanya pakati
one o'clock PM
wanu koloko ya mise
two o'clock PM
Thu koloko ya mise
midnight
usiku pakati

DurationEdit

Hour
ola (pl maola)
Day
dazi (pl madazi)
Week
sabata (pl masabta)
Month(s)
_mwezi____ (.miyezi..)
Year
chaka (pl vyaka)

DaysEdit

today
muhanya uno
yesterday
mayiro
tomorrow
namachero
this week
Sabata Yino (...)
last week
Sabata Yamala (...)
next week
Sabata Yikwiza (...)
Sunday
Sabata (...)
Monday
(Chimoza) - Mande (...)
Tuesday
Chibiri (...)
Wednesday
Chitatu (...)
Thursday
Chinayi (...)
Friday
Chinkondi (...)
Saturday
Chisulo (...)

MonthsEdit

English names are generally used but pronounced in Chitumbuka as follows:

January
Janyuwali(...)
February
Feburuwari(...)
March
marichi(...)
April
epurelo(...)
May
Me(...)
June
Juni(...)
July
Julayi(...)
August
Ogasiti(...)
September
Seputembala(...)
October
Okutobala(...)
November
Novembala(...)
December
Disembala(...)

Writing time and dateEdit

In chiTumbuka, traditionally times have been indicated by the position of the sun in the sky. The hand is used as in waving goodbye but turned round with the inside palm facing you and pointing to the eastern horizon for 6 o'clock am and western horizon for 6 pm. Pointing Overhead for midday. 6 O'clock am: Dazi likufuma, namulenje ("6:00 is generally the time when the sun rises in the tropics") 10 O'clock am: generally signalled as the position in the sky between sunrise and mid-day

ColorsEdit

The main distinguished colours are Black,Red and white.

black
ufipa(...)
white
utuwa(...)
gray
tuwulufu(...)
red
uswesi(...)
blue
ubidi(...)
yellow
ngati ntula(...)
green
ubiliwiri(...)
orange
ngati ma lalanje(Like oranges)
purple
(...)
brown
khofi(...)

TransportationEdit

Journey/trip: ulendo Depart: nyamuka Arrive: Fika Travel: kwenda ulendo

Bus and trainEdit

How much is a ticket to _____?
Ni ndalama zilinga kuluta ku ________(...)
One ticket to _____, please.
Khukhumba Tikiti yimoza(...)
Where does this train/bus go?
Sitima iyi yikuya nkhu? - where does this train go? Basi iyi yikuya nkhu? - where does this bus go?(...)
Where is the train/bus to _____?
Sitima/Basi yaku ______ yili nkhu? (...)
Does this train/bus stop at _____?
Sitima/Basi iyi yikuyima pa _______? (...)
When does the train/bus for _____ leave?
Sitima/Basi yaku____ yinyamukenge pauli?(...)
When will this train/bus arrive in _____?
Sitima/Basi yamfika pauli ku ________? (...)

DirectionsEdit

How do I get to _____ ?
Ningenda uli kukafika ku ____(...)
...the train station?
Chiteskeni cha sitima (...)
...the bus station?
Chiteskeni cha basi (...)
...the airport?
Chibanja (...)
...the school?
...sukulu? (...)
...the market?
...musika? (...)
...the backpackers'?
Mala yakugona(...)
...the resthouse?
resiti hausi(...)
...the _____ hotel?
hotela (...)
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate?
(...)
Where are ______
___ yili kuti? the noun comes first and there are different modifiers for different nouns ie: chili, yili, etck(...)
...hotels?
Mahotelu yali nkhu?(where are hotels?)malo yakugona ghali nkhu? where is the place to sleep?
...restaurants?
(...)
...bars?
chilabo (traditional bar) mala yakumwa mowa (place to drink beer) (...)
...sites to see?
(...)
Can you show me on the map?
munganilongola pa mapu?(...)
Path
Ntowa ("...")
Road
Musewu/musewo ("...")
street
Muzele (...)
City
Mzinda ("...")
Gov't center
boma
Turn left.
Petukila ku mazele (...)
Turn right.
Petukila ku malyelo (...)
left
mazele (...)
right
malyelo (...)
straight ahead
ku ntazi (...)
towards the _____
chaku______(...)
past the _____
kujumpha ______(...)
before the _____
Pambere ______(...)
Watch for the _____.
(...)
intersection
(...)
north
Mpoto(...)
south
Mwela(...)
east
vuma(...)
west
kumanjiriro(...)
uphill
chikwera(...)
downhill
kusika(...)

TaxiEdit

Taxi!
matola (...)
Take me to _____, please.
Muniyeyeko kuluta ku_____(...)
How much does it cost to get to _____?
Ni mutengo uli kuluta ku______ (uli uli?...)
Take me there, please.
Kaniperekezgani chonde - escort me please , Muniyeyeko chonde- give me a lift please(...)

LodgingEdit

Do you have any rooms available?
malo yalipo?(...)
How much is a room for one person/two people?
Ni ndalama zilinga chipinda chimoza(...)
Does the room come with...
Kasi malo/vipinda vili na....(...)
...bedsheets/Blankets?
vyakudika?(...)
...a mosquito net?
(...)
...a bathroom? toileti
(...)
...a telephone?
(...)
...a TV?
(...)
May I see the room first?
Niyawone malo(...)
Do you have anything quieter?
(...)
...bigger?
chikulu(...)
...cleaner?
(...)
...cheaper?
(...)
OK, I'll take it.
Mbwenu, ningatola (...)
I will stay for _____ night(s).
Nikhalenge nausiku.. (...)
Can you suggest another hotel?
(...)
Do you have a safe?
(...)
...lockers?
(...)
Is breakfast/supper included?
Muli na chakurya cha mulenji? (...)
What time is breakfast/supper?
Chakurya cha mulenji/namise pa nyengo uli?(...)
Please clean my room.
(...)
Can you wake me at _____?
(...)
I want to check out.
Nkhukhumba kuluta pa...(...)

MoneyEdit

Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars?
(Ka mukuzomera ndalama zachina America/Canada/Australia?...)
Do you accept British pounds?
(Mukuzomera ndalama za ma paundi za ku Britain?...)
Do you accept credit cards?
(...)
Can you change money for me?
Kasi mungasintha ndalama?(...)
Where can I get money changed?
Kasi ningasintha ndalama nkhu?(...)
Can you change a traveler's check for me?
(...)
Where can I get a traveler's check changed?
(...)
What is the exchange rate?
(...)
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)?
(...)

EatingEdit

A table for one person/two people, please.
(...)
Can I look at the menu, please?
(Ningawona menu, chonde?...)
Can I look in the kitchen?
Kasi ningawona mu kitchini?(...)
Is there a house specialty?
(Mwapika vichi muhayauno?...)
Is there a local specialty?
Kuli chakurya cha Malawi? (...)
I'm a vegetarian.
Nkurya nyama yayi. (...)
I don't eat pork.
Nkurya nyama ya nkumba yayi. (...)
I don't eat beef.
Nkurya nyama ya ng'ombe yayi. (...)
I only eat kosher food.
(Nkurya chakulya cha WaIslam/WaMwenyi pela...)
Can you make it "lite", please? (less oil/butter/lard)Kasi mungapika na mafuta pachoko?
(...)
fixed-price meal
(...)
à la carte
(...)
breakfast
chakurya cha mulenji(...)
lunch
(chakurya chamuhanya)
tea (tiyi)
(...)
supper
chakurya cha namise(...)
I want _____.
Nkhukumba _____. (...)
I want a dish containing _____.
(Nkhukumba mbale yimoza ya______ pamoza na______...)
chicken
nkhuku (...)
beef
Nyama ya Ng'ombe(...)
fish
somba (usipa...)
small fish
kapenta (...)
ham
(nyama ya nkhumba...)
sausage
(ori...)
cheese
(...)
eggs
masumbi (...)
salad
mphangwe (this is usually cooked greens)(...)
(fresh) vegetables
kwambula kupika(...)
(fresh) fruit
vipaso(...)
banana
ntochi (...)
maize porridge
nsima (...)
relish (served with nsima)
dende (...)
bread
chingwa, bredi (...)
toast
(...)
noodles
(...)
rice
mpunga (...)
beans
Nchunga(...)
May I have a glass of _____?
Nkhumba....(...)
May I have a cup of _____?
ni paniko nkhombo ya______?(...)
May I have a bottle of _____?
(...)
coffee
(...)
tea (drink)
tiyi (...)
juice
jusi(...)
(bubbly) water
(...)
water
maji (...)
beer
Mowa(...)
red/white wine
Vinyu liswesi/Vinyu lituwa(...)
May I have some _____?
ni paniko(...)
salt
muchele (...)
black pepper
(...)
butter
margarina(...)
sugar
suga (...)
Excuse me, waiter? (getting attention of server)
(I-sayi...)
I'm finished.
(basi, nakuta chomeme...)
It was delicious.
Chakurya chikunowa. (...)
Please clear the plates.
sukani mbale(...)
The check, please.
(...)

BarsEdit

Do you serve alcohol?
(mukuguliska mowa?)
Is there table service?
(...)
A beer/two beers, please.
(mowa/mowa wubiri...)
A glass of red/white wine, please.
(kavinyo ka mukhombo..)
A pint, please.
(...)
A bottle, please.
(...)
_____ (hard liquor) and _____ (mixer), please.
(...)
whiskey
(kachasu...)
vodka
(...)
rum
(...)
water
maji (...)
club soda
("...")
tonic water
(maji twa muchele)
orange juice
(malalanje/olenje)
Coke (soda)
Coca cola (kakumwa ka ku zizimisya kusingo)
Do you have any bar snacks?
(twakukhwasula pa mowa tulipo?)
One more, please.
(unyakhe chonde)
Another round, please.
(unyakhe wa chiwerezga)
When is closing time?
(nyengo yakujalila ni vichi?)

ShoppingEdit

Do you have this in my size?
(mulinacho/mulinayo chanthene/yanthene ichi/iyi icho/iyo chinganikwana/yinganikawana?)
How much is this?
Nizilinga? (...)
That's too expensive.
Wadula. (mudulalizia...)
Would you take _____? Unga yegha?
(...)
to be expensive
kudula (...)
cheap
chamtengo uchoko(...)
I can't afford it.
Ningakwanisya yayi(...)
I don't want it.
Nkuchikhumba yayi(...)
You're cheating me.
Ukunitetezga(...)
I'm not interested.
Nilije khumbilo (..)
OK, I'll take it.
Inya, niyeyenge(...)
Can I have a bag?
Munganipasako thumba?(...)
Do you ship (overseas)?
kusilya kwa nyanja(...)
I need...
Nkhukhumba (...)
...toothpaste.
makhwala ya mino(...)
...a toothbrush. Muswaju
(...)
...tampons.
(...)
...soap.
Sopo(...)
...shampoo.
(...)
...pain reliever. muchepesya ulwilwi(e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen)
(...)
...antimalaria medicine.
makhwala ya nyimbo(...)
...stomach medicine.
Munkwala wa Munthumbo(...)
...a razor.
(nevala)
...an umbrella.
(...)
...sunblock lotion.
(...)
...a postcard.
(...)
...postage stamps.
(stamba)
...batteries.
(Mabatili)
...writing paper.
(...)
...a pen.
Chilembelo(...)
...English-language books.
(...)
...English-language magazines.
(...)
...an English-language newspaper.
(...)
...an English-English dictionary.
(...)

DrivingEdit

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

AuthorityEdit

I haven't done anything wrong.
(nindanange chili chose)
It was a misunderstanding.
(Tindapulikanane apa)
Where are you taking me?
(mukunitolela nkhu?)
Am I under arrest?
(kasi ndakakika)
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen.
(Ine ndine muamerica/muaustralia, etc.)
I want to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate.
(Nkhukumba kuyowoya na Wa embasi ya Amerika, etc.)
I want to talk to a lawyer.
(nkhukhumba niyowoye na mmanyi wa maBlango)
Can I just pay a fine now?
(Ningalipira sono apa nthena?)

Asking about languageEdit

How do you say _____ ?
(Ka ichi mukuti uli_____)
What is this/that called?
(ichi ni chi vichi______ku chitumbuka)


This Tumbuka 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.