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Learning Swahili solo

Our tutor left last week to return to Dar es Salaam but learning Swahili is still our main focus. So, is not having ‘class’ every day an excuse to slack off? Hardly! Even before Nicholas left we were brimming with ideas about how to continue our language learning in a self-directed way and we’ve enjoyed starting to put them into place. I thought I’d share them with you in the spirit of transparency.

After university chapel, each morning includes an hour of:

1. Conversation partners to improve listening comprehension and verbal composition. Also, since our conversation partners are students at St John’s, it’s a chance to hear from them about how they see their world.

2. Vocab. We used Provoc for Greek and Hebrew at college and we’ve now added Swahili ‘chapters’ as well. This is also an easy exercise to do in a spare 10 minutes later in the day.

3. TV. Talk shows like The Mboni Show and Wanewake Live; lifestyle shows like Uswazi. These help listening comprehension as well as learning about issues in Tanzania and how these are being discussed.

Afternoons are more varied. Two afternoons a week are for language exercises; two are set aside for reading/researching in English (about Tanzania, African theology, missiology, etc.); the other one is taken up with activities on campus. Some examples of our language exercises are:

  • Reading a Bible passage and writing a short talk or Bible study.
  • Explaining how to do tasks e.g. how to make lamingtons, do Pilates, brush your teeth. There’s a surprising breadth of vocab needed to do this accurately.
  • Composing stories from our lives.
  • Reading kids’ books (hopefully, one day, novels!)
  • Singing Swahili songs.
  • Using a book of grammar exercises.
  • Going into town or up to campus to talk to people (helpful to hear different accents and ways of saying things).
  • Translating synopses of our college essays, favourite films or favourite books.
  • Reading the newspaper (also a good chance to learn about Tanzanian politics).

Categories: Tanzania Written by Tamie

Tagged as:

Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

3 replies

  1. Dear Tamie and Arthur,

    Well done you guys! You are really putting in the effort to learn Swahili well. Don’t forget the grammar! Be accurate and you will sound even better. Swahili lends itself so beautifully to accurate grammar – I love it and hope you will too.

    Salaam nyingi katika Jina la Yesu.

    Dorothy (Prentice).

    1. Hi Dorothy!

      Thanks for your encouragement. We are continuing to enjoy discovering the idiosyncrasies of Swahili.

      We did a lot of grammar during our language classes with our tutor so we’re trying to consolidate that as we chat with our conversation partners. Fortunately, they are more than willing to correct us!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement guys. You’re doing so well! I love the variety of different things you are doing to get a good grasp of both Swahili and Tanzanian culture. So cool that you’re also dedicating time to reading and reflecting. GOOOOOOO DAVISES!!!!!!!!

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