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.
If you’re planning to volunteer in Uganda, our Luganda phrase book will help you learn that and more!
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.
Interested in community-led volunteering in Uganda? Learn more about The Real Uganda’s volunteer program
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.
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.
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. 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)
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.
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
One son…..Omutabani omu
One daughter…..Omuwala omu
Three sons…..Abatabani basatu
Two daughters…..Abawala babiri
Mother…..Maama wange (my mother)
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
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?
I can only speak a little Luganda…..Oluganda mmanyi lutonotono
Does anyone here speak English?…..Wano waliwo amanyi Oluzungu?
Do you understand?…..Otegeera?
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?
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, just say “kale”!