Greetings Edit

  • It is customary in Tanzanian culture to exchange greetings before engaging in a conversation or in any other activities, which is why ‘Greetings’ is one of the first skills of the Swahili course.
  • Hand shaking is used a lot. In some areas of Tanzania people kneel down or bow, or bend down a little as a sign of respect, children bow their heads for a blessing from elders. In other areas elders bow their heads for a touch from children when being greeted.
  • People take greetings seriously as they help to maintain good relationships.
  • The word habari literally means news, but it is often used to ask How is ---?.
  • Some Tanzanians use the greeting Jambo when greeting foreigners. In most cases Jambo is considered to be a touristic greeting. Generally foreigners are associated with tourists and for that matter this greeting is commonly used with foreigners.
  • When using the forms of -jambo, negative prefixes will be used (such as asking, Hujambo?). This can be translated as a way to say Hello! or How are you?. More about this will be explained in later lessons, but for now, just remember that Jambo is technically used for tourists only.
  • To a friend/colleague, one can say Mambo? or Salama? or Vipi?, but not to an elder or to a senior person. These phrases are slang for Hello.
  • Articles "a", "the", and "some" are not used in Swahili. One can say "mtoto" meaning "a" or "the" child.

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