Zambia language guide

Zambia Language Guide

Although English is the official language of Zambia, more than 70 local languages and dialects are spoken throughout the country. The languages predominantly spoken are Nyanja, Tonga, Bemba, Luvale, Kaonde and Lozi. Bemba is the most widely spoken language in the capital city, Lusaka and across the region’s Copperbelt. Although it is helpful to speak in a local Zambia language, it is not necessary. Most Zambians speak 4 or 5 languages and English is usually one of them. This list is for those who want to learn a few local words before their trip to Zambia.

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Visitors to Zambia most often encounter the language of Nyanja. It is widely used throughout the country, including the major cities of Lusaka and Livingstone. Nyanja is a kind of universal language that allows people of different tribes to communicate without following the strict grammar of specific local languages – similar to how Swahili is used further north. Nyanja is the language used by the police, and nearly 4 million people in sub-Saharan Africa speak Nyanja as a first language. Here are a few words and phrases that might be helpful to learn.

Hello – Moni
How are you – Muli bwanji?
My name is – Dzina langa ndi
Thank you – Zikomo (very common, ends most conversations)
Please – Chonde
Goodbye – Ndapita
Stay well – Tsalani bwino
Good morning – Mwauka bwanji? / Mwadzuka bwanji (greeting) / Ndadzuka bwino (response)
Good afternoon – Mwaswela bwanji? (greeting) / Ndaswela bwino (response)
Good evening – Mwachoma bwanji (greeting) / Ndachoma bwino (response)

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The Tonga belong to the Bantu group of people which are concentrated in the Zambezi Valley in Zambia, Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries. Their language, Chitonga, contains many words that are similar to those in Bemba, Chichewa and Luyana. You will regularly hear about three of these phrases in Livingstone: Mulibuti, Twalumba, Mwabuka Buti.

Hello – Mulibuti
Greeting: How are you? – Mwapona
Answer: Good/fine – Kabotu
Good morning – Mwabuka buti
Thank you – Twalumba
My name is – Ndime
Goodbye – Mucaale kabotu

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Bemba is the first language spoken by over 2 million Zambians – almost 25 percent of the country’s population. Here are a few words and phrases you might be interested in learning before your travels.
Hello – Shani
How are you? – Muli shani
Welcome – Mwaiseni
Sorry – Njeleleniko
My name is – Ishina lyandi nine

Put your new vocabulary to the test on a trip to Zambia. We can help you plan a host of activities during your stay. Take a closer look at our accommodation options online or get in touch at enquiry@crestahotels.com.