Thanks for understanding the importance of learning a little local language before you travel. It doesn’t matter where in the world you go, its always appreciated when you drop a “how are you” or a “thank you” in the language of the person you’re addressing. We hope you learn that and more from our Luganda phrase book!

Luganda is one of the main languages spoken in Uganda. It is the language of the Baganda tribe. While there are over 50 languages in Uganda, Luganda is by far the most widely spoken in the south central region. The Kingdom of Buganda stretches from Lyantonde in the west to the River Nile in the east. If you’re volunteering with The Real Uganda, you will be fully immersed in Luganda.

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Luganda is a musical language that is spoken rather slowly. It’s not at all like English. Most foreigners never learn a thing, so when you rock some of these phrases in the village or even in Kampala, expect a BIG reaction. Which totally helps you to learn more.

Its important to learn some local language when you volunteer in Africa. Our Luganda phrase book helps you in your travels in Uganda.

The language of instruction in most schools is English. If you use Luganda there, it will be against the rules. And the kids will laugh at you. Loudly.

While we don’t expect you to become fluent in Luganda during your time in Uganda, we’d love if you gave some of these phrases a try and practiced them while you’re here. Remember – you’ll be surrounded by teachers. Take advantage of this, and learn and use as much Luganda as you can.

A note on pronunciation:

  • most words are pronounced phonetically
  • “ki” and “ky” make a “chi” sound
  • “oo” makes an “oh” sound
  • “ee” makes an “ay” sound
  • “ii” makes an “ee” sounds
  • “l” and “r” are often interchanged, “play” becomes “pray”

By the way, this post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click one of the recommended links and go on to make a purchase, The Real Uganda will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. It’s an easy way to give back. This commission is used to offer scholarships to deserving but underprivileged secondary school students. 

BASIC GREETINGS AND BEING POLITE

Baganda LOVE to greet. The culture is heavily based on being sociable. Greet everyone you meet. It’s customary to stop and shake hands when formally greeting someone. Ladies, no eye contact with men. Protip: don’t greet a Muganda when he’s eating. You’ll also see women and children kneeling to greet in the village. It’s a sign of respect. Foreigners are not expected to kneel.

Good morning…..Wasuze otya nno?

Good afternoon…..Osiibye otya nno?

Good evening…..Osiibye otya nno?

I’m well (and you?)…..Bulungi (nawe, wasuze otya nno? pronounced with a soft “g”)

How are you? (to one person)…..Oli otya?

How are you (to many)…..Muli mutya?

I am fine…..Gyendi (soft “g”)

Thanks for the work…..Jebale ko (very casual greeting, no need to stop and humble yourself)

Ok, you too…..Kale, nawe (pronounced “KAH-lay” the answer to “jebale ko” and almost everything else)

Work with women's groups when you volunteer in Africa. Learn some language skills with our Luganda phrase book

Totally greet these ladies in Luganda. They’ll be so stoked!

Have a nice day…..Siiba bulungi (soft “g”)

Good night…..Sula bulungi (soft “g”)

Farewell (to one person)…..Weeraba

Farewell (to many)….. Mweraba

Welcome (to one person)…..Nsanyusayokulaba

Welcome (to many)…..Tusanyusaykobalaba

See you later…..Tujakulabagana

The answer to the last 7 phrases is “kale, nawe”.

Please…..Mwattu

Please come in…..Mwattu yingira

Please sit down…..Mwattu tuula wansi

Thank you (very much)…..Weebale (nnyo)

…..Again, keep answering “kale”…..

Pardon? (What did you say?)…..Wangi? (Ogambye ki? soft “g”)

I’m sorry (Forgive me)…..Nsonyiwa

What is your name….Erinnya lyo ggwe ani?

My name is…..Erinnya lyange nze…

Want to break the ice with the kids at school and learn something rad in the process? Bring Am I small? Ndi mutono?: Children’s Picture Book English-Ganda/Luganda You couldn’t find a better book!

FORMS OF ADDRESS

Learn these respectful forms of address and place them after your greetings and other questions.

Sir…..Ssebo          Madam…..Nnyabo

Mr…..Mwami      Mrs…..Mukyala

Learning useful phrases in Luganda will help you connect with the culture in Uganda

None of these dudes speak English. But they’re a tonne of fun. Luganda is your passport.

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FAMILY

Relationships and family are extremely important in Uganda. Expect to be asked about your marital and parental status A LOT. Also expect teasing and a little match-making if you’re single and/or child-free!

Do you have brothers or sisters…..Olina bagandabo oba bannyoko?

Are you married?…..Oli mufumbo?

I am not married…..Sili mufumbo

I am married…..Ndi mufumbo

Do you have any children?…..Olina abaana?

I don’t have any children…..Silina baana

I don’t have any children yet…..Sinnafuna baana

I have…..Nina…

One son…..Omutabani omu

One daughter…..Omuwala omu

Three sons…..Abatabani basatu

Two daughters…..Abawala babiri

Mother…..Maama wange (my mother)

Father…..Taata wange

Wife…..Mukyala wange

Husband…..Mwami wange

Child…..Mwana wange

Nephew/Niece…..Mwana wange (they have the same status as biological children)

Want to learn more? Here’s another affordable resource: Luganda in 15 Easy Lessons

USEFUL CONVERSATION

Come here…..Jangu wano (with a hard “g”)

Come eat…..Jangu tulye

I know…..Mmanye       I don’t know…..Simanye

I have…..Nina                I don’t have…..Silina

I want…..Njaggala       I don’t want…..Saggala

Don’t cheat me…..Tonziba

Let’s go…..Tu gende

Do you speak English?…..Omanyi Oluzungu?

Yes…..Yea

No…..Nedda

I can only speak a little Luganda…..Oluganda mmanyi lutonotono

Does anyone here speak English?…..Wano waliwo amanyi Oluzungu?

Learn useful Luganda phrases before you volunteer in Uganda

Learn Luganda basics. It shows respect and interest in the local culture. Teachers are everywhere!

Do you understand?…..Otegeera?

I understand…..Ntegeera

I don’t understand…..Sitegeera

How do you say “….” in Luganda?…..Mu Luganda ogamba otya nti “….”?

Please speak slowly!…..Mwattu yogera mpolampola

What time is it?…..Sawa meka?

How much is it?….. Sente meka?

RELATED: What to pack when volunteering and travelling in Uganda

NUMBERS

Our currency, the Uganda shilling, comes in denominations with more zeros than you are used to. Here’s a helpful guide to number basics.

1 …..Emu       10….Kumi      100…..Kikumi    1,000…..Lukumi            10,000….. Mutwalo gumu

2…..Bbiri       20….Abiri     200…..Bibiri         2,000…..Nkumi biri      20,000…..Mitwalyo ebiri

3…..Ssatu     30….Asatu     300…..Bisatu       3,000…..Nkumi satu     30,000…..Mitwalyo esatu

4…..Nnya    40….Ana         400…..Bina           4,000…..Nkumi na        40,000…..Mitwalo ena

5…..Ttano    50….Atano    500…..Bitano       5,000…..Nkumi tano     50,000…..Mitwalo etano

And there you have it! Just enough Luganda to be dangerous. And remember, when in doubt, just say “kale”!

Whether you're volunteering or traveling in Uganda, it's useful and respectful to learn some of the language before you go. A little effort on your part to learn Luganda will be well rewarded!