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An Introduction to Chichewa

Get down with the Malawi lingo: Chichewa

Planning a trip to Malawi? Want to brush up on your Chichewa to interact with locals and make the most of your experience. Read our post and get practising! 

So, without further ado, here are a few of the most common Chichewa words or phrases that you are going to need to fully embrace 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!

Click here
About the author

Originally from Malawi, Gabi grew up around the world as the daughter of a diplomat, but The Warm Heart of Africa soon called her home. She now lives in Lilongwe with her husband, three dogs, a cat, a tortoise, and six guinea fowl. She spends as much time in the bush or on Lake Malawi as she possibly can, enjoying life on the water or photographing the Big 5.

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