Luganda Phrase Book

Thanks for understanding the importance of learning a little local language before you travel. It doesn’t matter where in the world you go, it’s always appreciated when you drop a “how are you” or a “thank you” in the language of the person you’re addressing.

If you’re planning to volunteer in Uganda, our Luganda phrase book will help you learn that and more!

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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.

The Real Uganda offers 2 – 12 week locally-led communty-based volunteer programs.

A few important points

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 a little Luganda in the village or even in Kampala, expect a BIG reaction. Which totally helps you to learn more.

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 while volunteering 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.

Want to get a head start? The folks over at Utalk give our readers a 20% discount on their interactive Luganda language learning app!

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”

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and go on to buy anything, The Real Uganda receives a small commission, at no extra cost to you. We then provide scholarships to high-performing but underprivileged Ugandan students. 

Okay, enough said. Here’s our practical Luganda phrase book for beginners. 

basic greetings and being polite

Baganda LOVE to greet. The culture is heavily based on being sociable. When volunteering, greet everyone you meet. It’s customary to stop and shake hands when formally greeting someone. Ladies, no eye contact with men.

Protips: don’t greet Baganda when they are 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)

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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 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 How the Fox Got His Color Luganda/English Edition There are a few books in this series. You and your students can grow together!

forms of address

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

Sir…..Ssebo          Madam…..Nnyabo

Mr…..Mwami      Mrs…..Mukyala

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

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Relationships and family are extremely important in Uganda. Volunteers should expect to be asked about 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 phrases

Use these in the street, on public transport, and when shopping.

Come here…..Jangu wano

Come eat…..Jangu tulye

I know…..Mmanyi       I don’t know…..Simanyi

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?



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

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

Need help with pronounciation? Utalk language learning app uses native speakers in their lessons. Use the above link to get a 20% discount.

Learn basic Luganda. 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?

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The Real Uganda is signatory to the 13 Future of Tourism Guiding Principles

future of tourism logo


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! Learn just enough Luganda to be dangerous. And remember, when in doubt, say “kale”!

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