Wednesday, February 27, 2008


The Tumbuka are an ethnic group living in Malawi. God is called Chiuta (in ChiTumbuka), who is all-powerful, omniscient and self-created. He is also a God of rain and fertility.

Tumbuka, like most African languages, has many myths that constitute its cultural heritage. These myths, told around fires late in the evening they are commonly called "Vidokoni" (fictitious stories) have a moral behind them. often to the accompaniment of drumming and choral responses, aim to teach children moral behavior and to entertain.

Most of these myths have been weakened by contact with Western mores, but many have stood the test of changing times.

There are three animals mentioned more than any others in Tumbuka mythology and these are fulu (tortoise), kalulu (hare) and chimbwe (hyena). Fulu is considered the wisest animal, chimbwe the villain and kalulu the clever manipulator who can only be defeated by fulu.


English numbers are often used even when speaking ChiTumbuka. In most cases the word ” Vi ” is used which simply means many.

Chi moza = 1

Vibili = 2

Vitatu = 3

Vinayi = 4

Vikhondi = 5

Vikhondi na kamoza = 6

Vikhondi na tubili = 7

Vikhondi na tutatu = 8

Vikhondi na vinayi = 9

Khumi = 10

Khumi na kamoza = 11

Khumi na Tubili = 12

Khumi na Tutatu = 13
Khumi na vinay = 14

Khumi na Vikhondi = 15

Khumi na vikhondi na kamoza = 16

Khumi na vikhondi na tubili = 17

Khumi na vikhondi na vitutatu = 18

Khumi na vikhondi na Vinayi = 19

Ma Khumi na tubili = 20

Ma Khumi na vitatu = 30

Ma Khumi na Vinayi = 40

Ma Khumi na Vikhondi = 50

Halve = Kuswa pakati,kugaba pakati

Less = Pachoko

More = Chomene


Monire mose = Hello all (words of greeting given when meeting more than one person).

Monire a mama = Hello (greeting extended to a woman).

Monire a dada = Hello (greeting extended to a man).

Monire a gogo = Hello (to old person).

Muli uli? = How are you?.

Nili makola, kwali imwe? = I’m fine, how about you? (offered in response to “Muli uli”).

Mwatandala uli?. = Good afternoon. (How has your day been?)

Mugone makola = Sleep Well

Usiku uwemi = Good night.

Mwagona uli? = How did you sleep?.

Nauka makola, kwali imwe? = Fine, and you?.

Mwatandara uli? = Second hello of the day (good afternoon, sort of).

Natandara makola, kwali imwe? = I had a fine day, how about you?.

Tawonga chomene = We thank you.

Nawonga chomene = I thank you.

Yewo chomene = Thank you very much. Yewo (abbreviated response used in many situations, may mean “very nice”, “excuse me”, “pardon me”, or “good to see you”).Mwa uka uli? = How is your morning?.

Paweme = Goodbye.Phepani = Sorry.

Phepani chomene = Very sorry.

Chomene = Very.

Imwe = You (plural).Makola = Fine. Muli = You are.

Tili = We are

Nili = I am.

Chizungu = English.

Mzungu = White person.

Nkhuyowoya Chizungu na ChiTumbuka pachoko = I speak English and a littles ChiTumbuka.


Zina linu ndimwe njani? = What is your name?.

Zina lane ndine = My name is.

Chatowa kuwonana namwe. = Nice to meet you.

Chonde = Please (when used, connotes begging).

Ndimwe wakupokeleka = You’re welcome.

Palije suzgo = No problem.

Enya. = Yes. Yayi. = No.

Phepani = Excuse me. (getting attention).

Phepani = Excuse me. (begging pardon).

Phepani = I’m sorry (also means sorry as with empathy).

Novwire = Help.

Leka = Stop.

Labisga = Look out.

Nkhupulika yayi. = I don’t understand.

Chimbuzi chili nkhuni? (toilet = “chimbuzi”) = Where is the toilet? Ni leke/

Ni lekani (many) = Leave me alone.

Leka kunikola/Khwasya(Kunikhwasya yayi - Don’t touch me) = Don’t touch me.

Namu chema Kapokola(…)= I’ll call the police.

Police = Kapokola.

Leka icho = Stop that.

Nkhukhumba kuti muniwovwirie = I need your help.

Ncha luwilo = It’s an emergency.

Na sowa = I’m lost.

Na soywa chola chane, nataya chikwama chane = I lost my bag.

Na sovya chikwama chane, Nataya chikwama chane = I lost my wallet.

Nalwala = I’m sick.

Naji pwetekeka = I’ve been injured.

Nkukhumbika docotala/ng’anga = I need a doctor.

Ningayimba fone yinu = Can I use your phone?


b = like ‘b’ in “bed”, but sometimes interchangeable with ‘w’

c = like ‘k’ in “kid” ch = like ‘ch’ in “chair”

d = like ‘d’ in “dog”

f = like ‘f’ in “fit”

g = like ‘g’ in “go”

h = like ‘h’ in “help”

j = like ‘dg’ in “edge”

k = like ‘c’ in “cat”

l = like ‘l’ in “love”, but often interchangeable with ‘r’

m = like ‘m’ in “mother”

n = like ‘n’ in “nice”

nkh = like a ‘n’ sound at the back of the mouth expelling air through the nose

p = like ‘p’ in “pig”

ph = like a breathy ‘p’

r = like ‘r’ in “row”, but often interchangable with ‘l’

s = like ’ss’ in “hiss”, like ‘z’ in “haze”

t = like ‘t’ in “top”

v = like ‘v’ in “victory”

w = like ‘w’ in “weight”, but sometimes interchangeable with ‘b’

y = like ‘y’ in “yes”

z = like ‘z’ in “haze”


a = like the “a” in “father”
e = like the “ay” in “pay” (like the French é)
i = like the “ee” in “tree” (like the French i)
o = like the “o” in “home”
u = something like the “u” in ” usual ”