The roots of Swahili can be traced back to the interactions between Bantu-speaking communities and Arabic traders along the East African coast, particularly on the islands of Lamu and Zanzibar. The Arabic influence is evident in Swahili vocabulary, as many words and expressions have been borrowed from Arabic.
Over time, Swahili developed into a vibrant language with its own distinct identity, blending elements of Bantu languages, Arabic, Persian, and later, European languages such as Portuguese, German, and English. The language played a crucial role in facilitating trade along the Indian Ocean and became a language of commerce and communication.
Today, Swahili is spoken by millions of people as their first language in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Enjoy our brief introduction to some common Swahili words and phrases. Even if you do not plan on studying the language in-depth, knowing just a few words will make your trip much more fun! East-Africans’ will greatly appreciate your efforts - our team at Ololo would love to teach you some phrases over a cup of kahawa or chai!
If you'd like to print it out and bring a copy with you, then you can download our PDF version below.