An Introduction to Chichewa

Get down with the Malawi lingo: Chichewa


How to live your best life:

Step 1. Ask your boss for leave

Step 2. Book your holiday to Malawi with Malawian Style

Step 3. Learn some handy phrases in Chichewa, the local language

Step 4. Feel like a boss – you are now a Malawian’s ‘achimwene’ for life.

Those of you amateur globetrotters may find yourselves feeling a little anxious about travelling to an unfamiliar place, so far from home, and where you can’t speak the language. Well, first of all, English is the primary language spoken in Malawi so you can certainly get by, with many of the local people being able to understand and speak enough to help you out should you need it; but if you’re looking to impress, and make a few friends along the way, then learning a few words and phrases in Chichewa will get you far.

Now believe me when I say, Malawians are the friendliest, and I mean FRIENDLIEST, people around. Drop a few words in their local language and it will have them shrieking with joy and high-fiving your efforts. They are always ready for a laugh, a little chat, and an impromptu song and dance, and this easy-going and warm nature of her people is what makes Malawi one of the safest places to travel in Africa.

So, without further ado, here are a few of the most common Chichewa words or phrases that you are going to need on your holiday to Malawi:

Useful Chichewa words & Phrases:

Welcome                                       Takulandirani             

Hello, how are you?                 Muli bwanji?

I’m fine and you?                      Ndili bwino, kaya inu?

I’m fine                                          Ndili bwino

How are you? (informal)     Boh boh? – Response: Boh

Thank you                                    Zikomo

My friend                                     Achimwene

Please                                            Chonde

Water                                            Madzi

Beer                                               Mowa

Meat                                              Nyama

Chicken                                       Nkhuku

Fish                                               Nsomba

Car                                                 Galimoto

Belongings/luggage              Katundu

Lake                                              Nyanja

I am going to…                         Ndikupita ku…

I want                                           Ndikufuna

I don’t want                               Sindikufuna

How much is it?                      Ndalama zingati?

Money                                          Ndalama

Where is… (person)?           Ali kuti… (person)?

Where is… (something)?    Chili kuti… (something)?

Enough                                        Basi

See you later                             Tiwonana

Today                                           Lero

Tomorrow                                 Mawa

Yesterday                                   Dzulo

Lion                                              Mkango

Elephant                                    Njobvu

Buffalo                                        Njati

Leopard                                     Kambuku

Rhino                                          Chipembere

Hippo                                          Mvuu

Dog                                               Galu

What’s great about Chichewa is that it is entirely phonetic, so everything is written just as it sounds. Another thing to note is that ‘R’s and ‘L’s kind of sound the same, so often ‘Gabriella’ can become ‘Gablierra’, ‘Chloe’ becomes ‘Chroe’ and ‘Rory’ becomes ‘Loly’!

Take a moment to familiarize yourself with a few of these words and phrases or print out this page to keep on hand for when the time comes.

A little bit of effort goes a long way and shows a level of respect for the country you are travelling in and its people. Connect with the Malawians around you on your holiday, it will enhance your experience in the best way and you will leave with a full heart, treasured memories and a few more Facebook friends!

Are you ready to visit Malawi and practice your Chichewa? Check out our tours or contact us to learn more about our safaris!
Learn how to pronounce some Chichewa phrases, featuring members of our team!

Read more of our blogs!

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