Siswati 101

Siswati Peace Corps Course

Siswati Peace Corps CourseThis Siswati course was developed by the U.S. Peace Corps for its volunteers going to Swaziland. It can be useful as a primer for learning the basics of the Siswati language. You can listen and follow along to each lesson or download the whole course directly.

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This manual is a brief presentation of the spoken siSwati language and some cultural behaviors in Swaziland. With the help of the enclosed interactive language digital audio files, you will be able to hear and pronounce the sounds of siSwati and become familiar with them.

In this manual, several topics are introduced where you will find some siSwati words and expressions along with their transliteration and English meaning. Some cultural notes are also included in order to help you familiarize yourself with the language as well as the culture.

Please note that siSwati is a tonal language. Word meaning can be influenced or even change through the utterance of wrong intonation. The same word can convey different meaning depending on the tone with which it is pronounced. We admonish you to pay particular attention to this regard and practice as often as you can.

History of the siSwati Language

SiSwati belongs to the Bantu Language Family of Africa which includes the four major language groups found in South Africa, viz Nguni, Sotho, Tsonga and Venda. Languages in this family are spoken in an area, which extends from the Cape in the south to just north of the equator.  These languages are grouped into geographical zones, which in their turn are divided into groups, sub-groups, dialect clusters (languages) and dialects. These four major language groups are divided into nine written languages: Swati, Zulu, Xhosa, South- Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern-Sotho, Tswana, Tsonga and Venda.

The Nguni group is divided into two sub-groups, viz being the Zunda and Tekela. Zunda languages comprise Zulu, Xhosa, South Ndebele, and Zimbabwean Ndebele.

Tekela languages comprise siSwati of Swaziland and siSwati of kaNgwane stretching from the Mpumalanga Province in South Africa to the South Eastern Transvaal.

Of note here is that out of these dialects, siSwati is the only one that has attained recognition as a language in its own right. It has acquired written status and is used as the medium of instruction in schools in Swaziland and kaNgwane.  Which is one of the reasons we expect you to learn the spoken siSwati Language.  To be able to TALK with the people of the host country, more especially those you will be directly working with

These lessons will help you learn normal conversation in siSwati, rather than focusing on formalities.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Swaziland, you will have to adjust to some pronunciation difficulties and deal with some social attitudes and cultural norms. So, get ready for a new experience and challenge and welcome to Swaziland…

Lesson 1 – SiSwati Sounds

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I will read the sound twice and say a SiSwati word that contains that sound twice also. My colleague will read the closest English equivalent of the sound. We will begin with the vowels and work our way through the major consonants.


Sound English Equivalent Sound SiSwati word
-a- car sawubona
-e- bed yebo
-e- cat letsa
-i- eat unjani
-o- post ngikhona
-u- roof Unjani wena


Sound English Equivalent Sound SiSwati word
-b- baby Babe [father/ older male]
-bh- ball Bhuti [brother]
-c- Resembles the English click of annoyance written as ‘tut- tut’ Cela [ask]
-ch-   Cha [no]
-d- Day Dadisha [study]
-f- Fun Fundza [read/learn/study]
-g- Girl Ligundvwane [rat]
-gc-   Ligciwane [virus]
-h- house Hamba [walk / go]
-hh-   Hhula [cut hair]
-hl-   Hlola [check , peep , test]
-j- Jump Jayiva [dance]
-k- school Kudla [food]
-kh- kill Khuluma [speak]
-l- lay Likati [cat]
-m- mom Make [mother]
-mb- amber Mbabane [capital city in Swaziland]
-n- no Noma
-ng- Think /sing ngikhona
-p- space Lipalishi
-ph- pace Liphepha
-s- similar Sifo
-sh- shy Shaya
-t- stake Situlo
-th- take Thula
-v- van Vala
-w- walk Wela
-y- yes Yebo
-z- zoo Zuba

Lesson 2 – Greetings and Introductions

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I will read each word / phrase twice. When I finish reading the second time I will give you some time to practice saying it after me.
English Transliteration
Hello Sawubona
Hello (reply) Yebo
How are you? (singular) Unjani?
How are you? (plural) Ninjani?
Good morning. Kusile.
I am fine Ngikhona,
We are fine. Sikhona
And you? (singular) Wena ke?
And you? (plural) Nine ke?
I also / me too Nami futsi.
Thank you. Ngiyabonga
I am happy to know you. Ngiyajabula kukwati.
We are happy to know you. Siyajabula kukwati.
What is your name? (U)ngubani ligama lakho?
My name is… Ligama lami ngu…
You are welcome. (singular) Wemukelekile.
You are welcome (plural) Nemukelekile.
What is his/her name? Ngubani ligama lakhe?
His/her name is….. Ligama lakhe ngu
I come from America. Ngibuya eMelika
Goodbye / stay well Sala kahle
Go well Hamba kahle.
English Transliteration

Dialogue 1

English Transliteration
A: Hello Themba. A: Sawubona Themba.
B: Hello Sipho. (reply) B: Yebo Sipho.
A: How are you? A: Unjani?
B: I am fine, and you? B: Ngikhona, wena unjan?
A: I am fine also. A: Nami ngikhona.

Dialogue 2

The following greeting is very common in Swaziland and can be used any time during the day.
English Transliteration
A : Hello. A: Sawubona
B : Hello. B : Yebo

Dialogue 3

English Transliteration
A: Good morning Themba. A : Kusile Themba.
B: Good morning Sipho. B : Kusile Sipho.

Dialogue 4


English Transliteration
A: Hello. A: Sawubona.
B: Hello. B: Yebo.
A: What is your name? A: Ngubani ligama lakho?
B: My name is Themba. B: Ligama lami ngu Themba.

Dialogue 5


English Transliteration
A: Good morning A: Kusile.
B: ‘Morning. B: Kusile
A: What is your name? A: Ngubani ligama lakho?
B: My name is Sam. And you. B: Ligama lamin ngu Sam. Wena ke?
A: I am Sipho. A: Mine ngingu Sipho.
B: I am pleased to meet you. B: Ngiyajabula kukwati.
A: And me too. A: Nami futsi.

Lesson 3 – How Are You?

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English Transliteration
How are you? (singular) Unjani?
How are you (plural) Ninjani?
Good Kahle / kuhle.
I am fine Ngikhona.
I am well Ngiyaphila.
I am tired Ngidziniwe.
I am happy Ngijabulile.
I am not well Angiphili.
I have a flu / cold Nginemkhuhlane.
I am sick Ngiyagula.
Today. Namuhla.

Dialogue 1

English Transliteration
A: Good morning Sam. A: Kusile Sam.
B: ‘Morning Themba. B: Kusile Themba.
A: How are you today? A: Unjani namuhla?
B: I am well, and you? B: Ngiyaphila wena ke?
A: I am also well. A: Nami ngiyaphila
B: That is good. B: Kuhle.

English Transliteration
A: Hello Themba. A: Sawubona Themba.
B: Hello Sam. B: Yebo Sam.
A: How are you today? A: Unjani namuhla?
B: I am not well, I have a cold. B: Angiphili, nginemkhuhlane.
A: You are sick? A: Uyagula?
B: Yes, very sick! B: Yebo, kakhulu!
A: Sorry about that. A: Ncesi.

Lesson 4 – Family Members

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English Transliteration
Family Umndeni.
Father Babe.
Mother Make.
Brother Bhuti.
Sister Sisi.
Son Indvodzana.
Child Umntfwana.
Daughter Indvodzakati.
Husband Indvodza.
Boyfriend/girlfriend Singani.
Wife Umfati.
I have…(personal nouns) Ngina…
I have…(impersonal nouns) Ngine…

Dialogue 1

English Transliteration
1. I have a family 1. Nginemndeni.
2. I have a father. 2. Nginababe.
3. I have a mother. 3. Nginamake.
4. I have a sister. 4. Nginasisi.
5. I have a boyfriend/girlfriend. 5. Nginesingani.

Dialogue 2

English Transliteration
1. I do not have a brother. 1. Ngite bhuti.
2. I do not have a husband. 2. Ngite indvodza.
3. I do not have a wife. 3. Ngite umfati.
Now complete the following sentences.
English Transliteration
1. I have a brother. 1. Ngina ___________
2. I have a girlfriend. 2. Ngine ___________
3. I do not have a brother. 3. Ngite ___________
4. I do not have a girlfriend. 4. ___________

Lesson 5 – Useful Expressions

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English Transliteration
Sorry Ncesi
Excuse me Ncesi
It’s okay Kulungile
No problem Kute inkinga
Would you please Ngiyacela
Thank you Ngiyabonga
You are welcome Wemukelekile
Yes Yebo
No Cha
Here Lapha
There Lapha`
Later on! Leytha.
Never Ngeke
Now Nyalo / manje
It is possible. Kungenteka
Is it really possible? Kungenteka vele?
Come on! Hhayi bo!
I apologise Ngiyacolisa.
Oh! I see! Wo! Ngiyabona.
Repeat please. Ngicela uphindze
Say it slowly please. Shano kancane, ngiyacela.

Lesson 6 – Food

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English Transliteration
Bread Sinkhwa
Rice Lilayisi
Salt Luswayi
Sugar Shukela
Water Emanti
Tea Litiya
Coffee Likhofi
Milk Lubisi
Juice Ijusi
Vegetables Emaveji
Fruits Titselo
Breakfast Libhulakufesi
Lunch Lidina
Dinner Lidina
It is delicious/nice/tasty. Kumnandzi
I am hungry Ngilambile
I am thirsty Ngomile
I am full Ngesutsi

Lesson 7 – Directions

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English Transliteration
Where is it going?(the bus/taxi) Iyaphi?
How much? Malini?
When is it leaving? Isuka nini?
Change please. Ngicela ishintji.
On the left Ngesancele
On the right Ngesekudla
Next to.. Eceleni
Upwards Etulu / enhla
Down wards Entasi
At the bus station Esiteshini
Station Siteshi
At the post office Eposini
Post Office Liposi
At the shop Esitolo
Shop Sitolo
In town Edolobheni
Town Lidolobha

Lesson 8 – Time

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English Transliteration
Today Namuhla.
Yesterday Itolo.
Tomorrow Kusasa.
In the morning Ekuseni.
At noon Emini.
Afternoon Entsambama.
In the evening Kusihlwa.
At night Ebusuku
Week Liviki
Month Inyanga
Year Umnyaka
Time Sikhatsi

Original Course Text

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