Easy Zulu: Saying “Hello”

Zulu is South Africa’s most widely-spoken language, and serves as a lingua franca throughout the southern Africa region. It’s primarily spoken in KwaZulu Natal, however, and, like its close cousin Xhosa, it’s full of clicks. But basic Zulu is quite easy, and fun to learn.

So here’s a quick, click-free Zulu lesson: how to say “hello.” What you say depends on the number of people you are addressing.

Say “sawubona” (sah-woo-BOH-na) to greet one person. Say “sanibonani” (sah-nee-boh-NAH-nee) to greet two or more people.

Your new friends will say “sawubona” back. Then they’ll say – “Unjani?” (oon-JAH-nee – “How are you?”)




Your reply: “Ngiyaphila” (ung-ee-yah-PEE-lah – “I’m fine.”)

Then you say EITHER “Unjani” (oon-JAH-nee – “How are you?” for one person) OR “Ninjani” (nin-JAH-nee – “How are you?” for two or more people).

Now you’ve got it! Easy, no?

Zulu Greeting Cheat Sheet

Sawubona sah-woo-BOH-nah – Hello! (addressing one person)
Sanibonani sah-nee-boh-NAH-nee – Hello! (addressing two or more people)
Unjanioon-JAH-nee – How are you? (one person)
Ninjani nin-JAH-nee – How are you? (two or more people)
Ngiyaphila ung-ee-yah-PEE-lah – I’m fine!
Ngiyabonga ung-ee-yah-BOH-ngah – Thanks!