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Learn the Swahili Alphabet from A to Z!

Learning to speak a new language is exciting; learning to write a new language is even more exciting! It will open new worlds for you. So, dig into these tips and advice for learning how to master the Swahili alphabet easily - at SwahiliPod101 we make it easy, fun and relevant for you!

Starting anything from scratch can be challenging, especially if you learn how to write in a language completely different from your own. It is really like navigating through a territory that is completely unknown to you.

However, this need not be a big hurdle or a problem! At SwahiliPod101, we introduce you to Swahili writing in simple, easy-to-follow steps, and you can ask for advice or help anywhere along the way. It is important to master the Swahili alphabet completely from the start.

Download Your Free Guide to Beginner Swahili!

If you want to master the Swahili language and become fluent, get this Swahili eBook!
You need physical worksheets to practice on.

This eBook is a MUST-HAVE for all Swahili learning beginners!

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Download your Free Swahili practice sheets PDF today and learn the Swahili language in no time!
This is a must-have guide for absolute beginners

Introduction to Swahili Writing


The Swahili alphabet is easy to learn because it uses the same alphabet as English.

Knowing the basics of the Swahili alphabet is a huge step toward learning Swahili because it’s a phonetic language. That means that if you know the letters, you can read the words and people will understand you. This advantage also lies in the writing system, since the way you write is also the way you will pronounce. In other words, you read what you write.

The Swahili alphabet consists of five vowels and twenty-five consonants, almost like the English alphabet.

The vowels, as we mentioned before, include a, e, i, o, u.

The consonants include b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, y, z.

The consonants that are missing are q and x.

The additions—ch, dh, gh, ng’, sh, th—are considered consonants because of the unique Swahili pronunciation.

These sounds in Swahili are unique. We pronounce each one differently; however, in most cases, a [ha] sound will cover them. In the pronunciation series, we will talk about them in greater detail, so don’t worry.

For example the letter Gg always sound like the Gg in Gift never like the Gg in gender.

You also form Swahili words the same way you would English words by putting letters together in certain orders. Swahili shares many words with English. Cognates are similar-looking words with similar meanings. For example, “bag” (begi) and “party” (pate) are Swahili-English and English-Swahili cognates.

If you know Swahili, then Persian, German, Portuguese, English, and French will be easier to understand and learn because they share common roots.

Swahili Alphabet Chart


No matter where you are in your Swahili lessons you will want to begin by learning the Swahili alphabet, known in Swahili as the alfabeti ya kiswahili. Without learning the alphabet you can’t get very far in your lessons so taking the time to memorize Swahili letters is going to be your foundation guide to the rest of the language.

The Swahili alphabet has 24 letters and is based on the Latin alphabet. Unlike English letters the Swahili alphabet does not contain the letters Qq or Xx. These sounds are absent from Swahili language. The other main difference is the inclusion of the letter CHch in place of the letter Cc. In addition, unlike the English language, Swahili only has one sound associated with each letter.

Below is the entire Swahili alphabet and each letters name and pronunciation:

Upper Case Lower Case Name
A a a
B b be
CH ch che
D d de
E e e
F f ef
G g ge
H h he
I i i
J j je
K k ka
L l le
M m em
N n ne
O o o
P p pe
R r re
S s se
T t te
U u u
V v ve
W w we
Y y ye
Z z ze

Once you have learned the alphabet you can begin learning Swahili words. By knowing the different sounds and pronunciations of each letter you will be able to sound out any word that you come across.

Below are a few words to sound out using the Swahili alphabet base you’ve just learned.

Hello Salama
Goodbye Kwa heri
Goodnight Lala salama
Yes Ndiyo
No Hapana
Thank you Asante
Please Tafadhali

Once you get the hang of sounding out words you can move on to phrases and whole conversations. A Swahili podcast can offer you beginning and advanced lessons in an easy to understand format. In addition, learning the Swahili language via podcast gives you the ability to learn at your own pace and during the hour which is most convenient to you.

Swahili is a beautiful language to learn and once you get the basics memorized you will want to speak Swahili and practice Swahili writing at every opportunity. Most importantly if you plan to visit an East African country such as Kenya or Uganda you will be able to speak Swahili to any of the locals without sounding like you are butchering their language.

Why is Learning the Swahili Alphabet Important?

AlphabetA language’s alphabet is its building blocks. Trying to learn how to write in Swahili without first learning its alphabet is a bit like trying to build a brick house without touching the individual bricks! It is impossible to do a good job that way. So don’t believe language schools and methods that try to teach you otherwise. You will regret it later.

Also, once you start recognizing symbols and words, you will be encouraged by your own progress and motivated to learn even faster. Even just learning the basics of the alphabet will allow you to start recognizing simple Swahili words, and it will feel great!

Furthermore, knowing the alphabet even helps with pronunciation, as learning the individual letters of any language will start uncovering nuances and intricacies that are not always apparent when you’re simply listening to the words.

Completely mastering the Swahili alphabet, no matter how long it takes, will give you an excellent head start in learning how to write and read the language. It will offer you a solid foundation on which to build the other language skills, so set a goal to learn the alphabet so well that you’re able to recite it in your sleep!

Read on for helpful tips and secrets to learning the Swahili alphabet quickly and effectively.

How to Download Your Free Guide to Beginner Swahili

Download Your Free Guide to Beginner Swahili!

If you want to master the Swahili language and become fluent, get this Swahili eBook!
You need physical worksheets to practice on.

This eBook is a MUST-HAVE for all Swahili learning beginners!

Free Swahili eBook

Download your Free Swahili practice sheets PDF today and learn the Swahili language in no time!
This is a must-have guide for absolute beginners

Log in with Your Free Lifetime Account and we’ll give you a bundle of PDF cheat sheet including Survival Phrases, Romantic Lines, Learning Tips… — absolutely Free!

3 Reasons to Learn Swahili Through PDF Lessons

Let’s now take a closer look at how studying Swahili lessons in PDF format can help you reach your dream in up to half the time of normal video or audio lessons!

① Saves Minutes on Your Data Plan

Learning Swahili through PDF lessons can dramatically reduce your data use. Once a lesson or tool is downloaded, you can then access it offline via your computer or smartphone any time or place regardless of Internet access. And once you’ve download the Swahili lessons in PDF format, you can actually access them faster than logging in and trying to do so via a live site. So not only will learning Swahili using PDF lessons save minutes on your data plan—it will save you some significant time as well as the lessons add up!

② Print and Take All Swahili Lessons and PDF Tools With You Anywhere

Sometimes, a tiny smartphone screen just isn’t adequate, especially when you are trying to learn something new. The great thing about PDF lessons, tools or files is that they can be quickly printed and taken anywhere after you download them. In fact, printing out Swahili lessons in PDF format can actually save you time when compared to going through the material on a smartphone with a small screen—even with the extra printing time!

③ Great Study Tool to Boost Retention and Mastery

Studying video or audio lessons online is a great way to learn a language because students can play and rewind sections as many times as needed until the lesson is mastered. But when you review the same Swahili lessons again in PDF format, an incredible thing happens: your retention dramatically improves! Thanks to Time Spaced Repetition, seeing the information again in written format helps reinforce the information in your mind and improves both retention and recall. The benefits of learning Swahili using PDF lessons quickly add up to significant time savings for you, your data plan, and your dream of learning a new language!

Why are we giving it away?

Learning to read and write is a must for all beginners. Although you get video lessons on how to write in Swahili at SwahiliPod101, you’ll still need physical worksheets to practice on. That’s why you’re getting this printable tutorial PDFs as a gift.

Secrets to Learning the Swahili Alphabet Fast

SecretWith a language, like with anything you have to learn from scratch, having a few mnemonic devices handy are key to learning it fast. A mnemonic device is basically any method or technique that helps you to retain or commit something to memory more easily.

Here are a few mnemonic devices to memorize the Swahili alphabet so you can speed up learning how to write in Swahili.

① Find and Learn an Alphabet Song or Poem in Swahili

Can you still remember your childhood alphabet song in your own language? The best way to commit it to memory so you can recite it is still your mom or first teacher’s way - with music, a song and/or a poem! Find a recording and learn to sing the song, or recite the poem along as best as you can. Ask your SwahiliPod101 teacher to help you understand exactly what you are singing or saying, and soon you’ll have reciting the alphabet under your belt! Repeat it out loud as often as possible.

However, you still need to learn how to write it.

② Study a Few Letters At a Time

Remember when you were young and learning to write for the first time? You didn’t start with words or sentences; you started with letters, one at a time!

Decide on tackling only a few letters each week, and then don’t move on from these till you are completely familiar with them. Don’t take on too many at once, or you may become discouraged. Also, remember to ask your teacher at SwahiliPod101 if you have questions!

Learn to incidentally spot the letters in books, road signs (If you’re living in the country), magazines, on TV, anywhere you encounter written Swahili. Remember to write them out!

③ Write Out the Letters of the Alphabet By Hand

Make it a goal to write out your week’s letters at least once a day, and commit to this goal. You can also do it every time you have a free moment. Get yourself a special notebook for this purpose that you can carry with you anywhere you go. Sitting on the train or bus? Waiting for someone somewhere? Whip out your notebook and write the Swahili alphabet, or the letters you are learning. Aim for about 20 repetitions, while silently saying the letter in your head as you write it out. This way, you will soon be able to form and write words all by yourself! Exciting, isn’t it?

Writing something down with a pen also seems to engrave it in the brain in a way that nothing else does. As an added benefit, it gives you the satisfaction of seeing a new language in your own writing!

Once you’ve mastered the whole alphabet, commit to writing it out in its entirety at least once a day, for at least one month. More repetitions are obviously better.

④ Involve Your Whole Body

Research has shown that the more senses and actions we use to learn something, the quicker the new information sticks in the memory and becomes habitual. To apply this principle while learning the Swahili alphabet, write out huge letters by tracing them in the soil, or with chalk on the floor. Now, while saying the letter out loud, walk on the lines you have just traced. In this way, you ‘write’ the letter by moving your whole body!

Having fun just makes it even easier to learn something, so why not ‘write’ the letters out with dance steps while moving to your favorite Swahili music!

This is a simple trick that seems silly, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you will commit intricate letters to memory this way. It really works!

⑤ Use Associations To Memorize Letters

This technique would involve saying the Swahili letter out loud, and then thinking of a word in your own language that sounds the same as the letter. That would then create a phonic association that should make it easier for you to remember the letter. Better even if the association is something you can draw or picture.

If the script of the new alphabet is very different from your own, look at it closely, and see if you can find an image that the letter reminds you of

⑥ Now Have Fun Trying To Write Words!

Try to write words from your own language in Swahili, and ask your friendly SwahiliPod101 teachers for feedback! Or post them on the forum and see if anyone can read them. You will be so pleased with yourself when you start writing words that are readable and recognizable by native speakers.

Related Lessons

How to Say Hello in Swahili
Do you know how to say hello in Swahili? It’s the most basic phrase that you’ll need to say and hear in everyday life. If you don’t know yet, learn 15 ways to say hello and greet others in Swahili. Why 15? The more variations you know, the more you can speak and the more fluent you become!
How to Introduce Yourself in Swahili
Can you introduce yourself in Swahili? Don’t worry! Check out the 10 Swahili Lines You Need To Introduce Yourself with this free Review Sheet. From “My name is…“ and “I live in…” down to “My hobbies are…” Just review the 10 lines. It will only take you 2 minutes. Then, introduce yourself in the comment section below!
Top Swahili Phrases
How good is your Swahili? Care to put it to the test? Here’s the deal! We’ve come up with this must-know Swahili Phrases List. Learn the top 25 Swahili phrases, hear the native pronunciation and put your Swahili to the test. Did you know them all? If not, review the list and master these easy phrases!
How to Say Thank You in Swahili
Has anyone thanked you today? We will. Thank you for reading this article and learning with us! In fact, today, you’ll learn the many different ways to say “Thank You” in Swahili. It’s one of the most important Swahili phrases. Check it out and watch the video too to practice your pronunciation.

Please to leave a comment.
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SwahiliPod101.com Verified
Saturday at 05:46 PM
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Jambo Sarah Woods,

Sorry about the confusion. The correct conventional pronunciation is ''a, ba, cha". However some variations have ''a, be, che" especially in Kenyan coast. It can be likened to British and American English that vary in a very small way e.g the variation in the word centre and center.'The meaning is the same but different spelling. I hope it is clearer.

Continue enjoying the Swahili learning experience.


Team SwahiliPod101.com

Sarah Woods
Monday at 07:11 PM
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I'm confused!

The letter names in the pdf workbook are not the same as the ones listed on this page, eg. "a, ba, cha" clearly doesn't match "a, be, che". Could we have some clarification please?

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