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|This is a very basic introduction: if you are in Zimbabwe the best bet is a little booklet called 'Fambai Zvakanaka muZimbabwe', available for about the equivalent of 50p in most bookshops. Shona, or chiShona, is spoken as a first language by over 9 million people in Zimbabwe (the other main language is Ndebele.) Although there are various regional dialects, it is one language, and most people have no problem understanding other dialects. 'My' version is a bit of a mish-mash, including textbook grammar, Harare and Guruve words, and some modern 'slang'. It works for me!|
This is pretty phonetic and straightforward. The only funny sounds are explained in the table below.
In general Shona is spoken at the front of the mouth - you'll see what I mean!
These are very important in Shona society, and not surprisingly, there are lots, but don't worry: just choose one or two 'general' ones to start with. Note that most greetings take the form of a set exchange of statements, but nowadays these are often abbreviated or mixed up, so don't get too tied up.
From about 11am till about 4pm (when the sun begins to cool off), you say:
In the evening, you say the same as above, but simply replace 'masikati' meaning 'good afternoon' with 'manheru' meaning 'good evening'. Before going to bed, you can say 'Tonana mangwana' - 'we'll see each other tomorrow'. A very important action which accompanies this is hand-clapping: flat hands for men, cupped hands for women. Obviously if your hands are full don't bother, but if your mouth is full, you are out of earshot, or in a hurry, a few quick claps can show what you mean - they also mean thankyou. Finally, shaking (right) hands is very important, though its more a grasp than a shake. If your hands are full, profer your forearm. In the rural areas many people still put their left hand under their right elbow when shaking hands - another way of showing respect. Also, it's polite to receive any gift, however small, with both hands together.
Pretty simple, choose one variation to start with.
Finally, a very useful word is 'shamwari' which means 'friend, mate, pal'. You can add it to just about all of the words and phrases above, where it would seem right in English. Try it and see!
Introductory Shona Language
© Cameron Smith 2000 - feel free to copy as long as its not for profit
Please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any comments, suggestions, or complaints about this page.