Alternative isiNdebele greetings

Salibonani bangane (nice to see you friends).

If you are just starting your journey to learn and have fun with isiNdebele, please look at the first posts at the bottom of this page (scroll down) and work your way to this, the newest post.

To continue with learning about the best isiNdebele greetings, see the new lesson 12 here:


Kulungile, lamhla, let us briefly talk about different options for greeting in siNdebele. For example, we can use the verb 'ukubona' (to see) or 'ukubingelela' (to greet):

  • ubabone ekhaya/ abantwana - greet those at home/ the children for me (or literally 'see them at home/ the children'). isiNdebele is a cool language hey?
  • ubabingelela abantwana - greet the children

Remember to give a handshake with your greeting. Until next week, have fun, bakhithi.

Greetings in isiNdebele continued

Salibonani bangane (nice to see you friends). Banjani ekhaya? (How are they all at home?). As always, if you are new, please read from the first post at the bottom of this page and work your way up to the newer posts. Lamhla, let us briefly talk about greeting people in siNdebele. For more detail, please see the new lesson post out here:


Kulungile. When one enters a traditional isiNdebele village, one should stand at the gate a call out "Ekuhle". When someone responds to say yes, "Yebo", one may approach the housing and take a seat so that people from that village may greet one.

The greeting dialogue to address some people could be as follows (with an English translation with a similar meaning):

Salibonani (we see you)

Yebo, salibonani (yes, we see you)

Linjani? (how are you [plural]?)

Sikhona, singabuza lina? (We are here [present], may we ask you?)

Sikhona (We are present)

For more details, see the lessons. Good luck in your journey of learning this southern African language.

Kanti, mina ngizakuhamba khathesi
Hambani kuhle, bangane (go well, friends)

New lesson 9 out

Salibonani bangane (nice to see you friends). As always, if you are new, please read from the first post at the bottom of this page and work your way up to the newer posts. There is a new lesson up now (Lesson 9) if you would like to learn more about asking questions and answering them.
e.g. Abantwana bathanda ukudla - Ye, sibili!
       Children like eating - Yes, indeed (definitely)!


Learning isiNdebele lessons kancane kancane

Salibonani bangane (It is nice to see you/ hello friends). As always, if you are new, please read the siNdebele lessons from the bottom (scroll down) and work up to this, the newest post. Kulungile, lamhla (ok, today) we would just like to direct you to the new, formal siNdebele lesson.
Lesson 7 is now up if you go to the lessons tab above or click here:


Sharp sharp.


Salibonani bangane (It is nice to see you/ hello friends). As always, if you are new, please read the siNdebele lessons from the bottom (scroll down) and work up to this, the newest post. Kulungile, lamhla (ok, today) let us look at polite greetings you can use in an isiNdebele society:

Ekuseni (in the morning):

Person 1: Uvukile! (Good morning, or more literally "you have woken up")
Person 2: Ngivukile, uvuke njani lawe? (Good morning, how did you sleep yourself?)
Person 1: Ngivukile, ngibuza wena (I slept well if you also slept well)
Person 2: Ngivukile (I have slept well)

Emini (in the afternoon)

Person 1: Utshonile! (Good afternoon)
Person 2:  Ngitshonile, utshone njani wena? (Good afternoon, have you spent the day well yourself?)
Person 1: Ngitshonile, ngingabuza wena (I have spent it well, if you have also spent it well)
Person 2: Ngitshonile (I have spent it well)

Person 1:  Kunjani? (How are you?)
Person 2: Ngiyaphila, kunjani? (I am fine (healthy), how are you?)
Person 1:  Ngiyaphila (I am fine)

People may say 'linjani' instead of 'kunjani' when talking to one person. To this you would reply "siphilile' instead of 'ngiphilile'. If you remember the tenses lesson earlier, 'li' and 'si' are the plural (you pl and we).

After you have finished reading the blog posts from the bottom of this page, you can check out the other tabs at the top of the site such as the formal, free Ndebele lessons. Lesson 5 is now up if you go to the lessons tab above or click here:


Ndebele songs and dancing

Salibonani bangane (It is nice to see you/ hello friends). As always, if you are new, please read the siNdebele lessons from the bottom (scroll down) and work up to this, the newest post. Lamhla, I want to just show you an interesting siNdebele song we were listening too. It is called Vumelani Isangoma and you can see it on Youtube here:

 Vumelani Isangoma

Also, here is some old but good songs:
by Black Umfolosi:

by Dorothy Masuku:

Njalo, nxa uyafuna ukujiva (And, if you'd like to jive/dance), you can pick up some of the dance moves from these videos:

After you have finished reading the blog posts at the bottom of this page, you can check out the other tabs at the top of the site such as the free Ndebele lessons. Lesson 4 is up if you go to the lessons tab above or click here:

Sure bakhithi, enjoy the music, tshaya ngoma (hit that song).

iGrammar ncane (a little grammar)

Salibonani bangane (It is nice to see you/ hello friends). As always, if you are new, please read the siNdebele lessons from the bottom (scroll down) and work up to this, the newest post. As usual, the Ndebele words are in bold where possible and translated in brackets. After you have finished reading the blog posts at the bottom of this page, you can check out the other tabs at the top of the site such as the free Ndebele lessons. Lesson 4 is now out if you go to the lessons tab above or click here:


Sure, lamuhla sizakuxoxa izindaba eziGrammar (today we will chat about grammar). We hope you are enjoying learning Ndebele and you must feel free to ask questions at any stage in our journey.


Plural nouns are often formed in Ndebele by using the prefixes:
imi- and

for example:
ugogo/ ogogo - grandmother/ grandmothers
ilitshe/ amatshe - stone/ stones
umfana/ abafana - boy/ boys
umuzi/ imizi - homestead/ homesteads
indlu/ izindlu - house/ houses

Present tense

For grammar on verbs, see lessons 2 and 3 in the lessons tab. We just want to give you the present tense for 'to be' and 'to have' lamuhla. They are used as prefixes before nouns and verbs respectively.

to be:
ngingu - I am
ungu - you are
ungu - he/ she is
singo - we are
lingo - you are
bango - they are

to have:
ngile - I have
ule - you have
ule - he/she has
sile - we have
ule - you have
bale - they have

for example: ibizo lami ngingu... (my name, I am ...)
hawu, ulamandla babamkhulu! (wow, you have strength grandfather [father big]!)

Sure banganehamba kahle (sure friends, go well).

Lessons 2 and 3 are now out

Salibonani bangane (It is nice to see you/ hello friends). As always, if you are new, please read the siNdebele lessons from the bottom (scroll down) and work up to this, the newest post. As usual, the Ndebele words are in bold where possible and translated in brackets. After you have finished reading the blog posts at the bottom of this page, you can check out the other tabs at the top of the site.

Lesson 2 is out now if you would like to carry on some formal Ndebele lessons. Click on the "Lessons" tab at the top of this page, or click on this button and it will open in a new tab:

Ndebele lessons

Sure bangane, lalekahle (sure friends, sleep well).

Introduction to the NEW 'Lessons' tab

Salibonani bangane (It is nice to see you/ hello friends). As always, if you are new, please read the siNdebele lessons from the bottom (scroll down) and work up to this, the newest post. As usual, the Ndebele words are in bold where possible and translated in brackets. If you want to learn isiNdebele more formally, look at the "Lessons" tab. There will be regularly updated Ndebele lessons in this tab: 


Lamuhla, ngifuna ukulala njengengwenya (today, I want to sleep like a crocodile [made up phrase]) so I will just give you a few new phrases to continue your fun journey. There are other tabs above for you to investigate. 

funa = to want e.g. uyafuna ukuhamba, baba? (do you want to leave, man?)
phakathi = inside
indlu = house
ngwenya = crocodile e.g. amandla ethu njengengwenya emanzini ayesemphakathini (our/ my strength is like a crocodile in the water)
Hayi, suka, ngidiniwe = No, get lost (playful use usually), I am tired) e.g. if someone says a funny joke or plays a prank, you can say "Hayi, suka!" or "hayi, usile!"
Usile = you are silly

Kulungile bangane, khathesi, ngizakulala njengengwenya (Alright friends, now, I am going to sleep like a flat dog (crocodile))

Vocab and a funny Ndebele/ Zulu video

Salibonani bangane (It is nice to see you/ hello friends). As always, if you are new, please read the siNdebele lessons from the bottom (scroll down) and work up to this, the newest post. As usual, the Ndebele words are in bold where possible and translated in brackets.

Lamuhla kulamavocabulary kuphela (today there is vocabulary only):

(uku)donsa - (to) pull
(uku)tshova - (to) push. The old taxis used to breakdown often so were called "Tshovas" because you had to push them often.
imfe - sugar cane. Yum!
(uku)khipha - (to) take out/ remove
(uku)dobha - (to) pick up
(uku)thatha - (to) take/ grab
unwabu - chameleon. Also, because chameleons move slowly, they are known as "hamba bijana" in chilapalapa slang i.e. "go slowly".
upahla - roof
igwayi - tobacco (there is an area in Zimbabwe called "Gwayi")
(uku)dubula - (to) shoot with a gun
UNkulunkulu - God. e.g. UNkulunkulu angeke ehluleke = God can't fail.
ijodo/ amajodo - pig melon/ pig melons. Some people like to use this to describe a fat person in a mildly derogatory fashion.
ithambo - bone e.g. of animals
inyathi - buffalo
inja - dog. e.g. Inja isayidla inyama (the dog is still eating the meat)
umuthi - medicine
idlozi/ amadlozi - spirit/ spirits of ancestors or just ghosts
ukhokho/ izikhokho - ancestor/ ancestors. For some fun, see the "Izikhokho" youtube videos of the South African comic artist, Mdu, such as:

On that funny note, ngizakuhamba bangane (I will go friends)

Ndebele names

Salibonani bangane (It is nice to see you/ hello friends). As always, if you are new, please read the siNdebele lessons from the bottom (scroll down) and work up to this, the newest post. As usual, the Ndebele words are in bold where possible and translated in brackets.

Obviously kulamabizo eminengi kodwa (there are names in a great number but) sizakubona khathesi amabizo 'mnandi (we will look now at nice names [in terms of meanings]).
Key: g = usual girl's name and b = usual boy's name but only in my general view.

Nomandla - g "mother of strength"
Noxolo - g "mother of peace/ forgiveness"
Thembile - g "Hopeful"
Nonhlanhla - g "Mother of luck"
Thembeka - g "be reliable"
Thandiwe (Thandi) - g "Beloved" or g "loved one"
Nobuhle/ buhle - g "mother of beauty"/ "beauty"
Thandeka - g "Lovely"
Nomagugu - g "Mother of treasures/ precious things"
Gugulethu - g "our treasure"
Zenzile - g "you are responsible for what you have become"
Nomandla - g "mother of strength"
Nomzamo - g "mother of effort/ attempts"
Nomvula - g "mother of opening rains"
Nomalanga - g "mother of sunshine"
Nomasonto - g "mother of Sunday/ church"
Sibusiswe/ busiswe - g "we're blessed"/ the baby is a blessed one
Sibongile - g "we are grateful/ give thanks"

Xolani - b "peace upon all of you"
Siyabonga - b "we are grateful"
Mandla - b "strength"
Jabulani - b "be happy all"
Lunga - b "be kind"
Themba - b "hope/ trust"
Musa - b "kindness/ mercy"
Nhlanhla - b "good luck/ lucky one"
Njabulo - b "joy/ happiness"
Sandile - b "we have extended in number"
Thabani - b "you all be joyful"
Vusumuzi - b "rekindle the family"
Sifiso - b "what we wished for"
Mthokozisi - b "The one who gives joy"
Simphiwe - b "he is our gift" e.g. simphiwe yiNkosi (he is our gift from God)
Zenzele - b "do it yourself"
Mandlakhe - b "his efforts"
Mlungisi - b "the one who brings order"
Langelihle - b "good day"
Sibusiso - b "blessing"
Mandlenkosi - b "strength of God"
Bonginkosi - b/g "be grateful to God"
Sihawukele - b "have mercy on us"
Dumisani - b "You all give praises". Shortened to "Dumi" sometimes
Ndumiso- b "Praise" a quite common Ndebele name

Sure bangane, lilale kahle (sure friends, sleep well).

Ndebele music. Try translate some of these songs bangane

Salibonani bangane (It is nice to see you/ hello friends). As always, if you are new, please read the siNdebele lessons from the bottom (scroll down) and work up to this, the newest post. As usual, the Ndebele words are in bold where possible and translated in brackets.

Ok zwana bangane (listen friends), I want you to listen to some good old siNdebele music lamuhla (today). Awufuni (you don't want)? Hayibo (no way), lalela kuphela bangane (just listen only friends) njalo dinga ma'artists leyi (and find these artists). Some of these old but good songs from kudala (a long time ago) are here so just click and it will open a new window:

or start with one of my favourites: or
  • Dorothy Masuka- a great jazz singer and friend and contemporary collaborator of Miriam Makeba
(she wrote the original "Pata Pata" song, "MaGumede" "Khawuleza", "Somandla" etc)
  • Lovemore Majaivana - one of the most popular Ndebele singer e.g. Tshilamoya, Umoya Wami, Uzakufa Kubi, Ngifuna imali etc.

Nxa uyafuna ichallenge (if you would like...), try pick up the words njalo sizakuxoxa (and we will chat) about them. Some vocabulary to help a bit:

Ntombi - girl
umfazi / abafazi - wife/ wives
ngabantu - of the people (abantu = people)
tshisa - (sounds like chisa in Ndebele pronounciation) hot/ burn, but its slang meaning is "that's hot" or "cool"
umoya wami - spirit/ soul of mine
tshilamoya - dustdevil/ spirit, it is used for the football team, Highlander's slogan alongside "Bosso"
pata pata - usually refers to the slip-slop/ pata-pata beach shoes but also refers to dance
Ngifuna imali - I want money
Putting "Ma" in front of someone's name is like saying mama someone, or Mrs, so MaDube is Mother Dube (the name "Dube" means zebra by the way)
khawuleza - hurry up, similar to tshetsha baba, asihambe (hurry man, we are going)
ngithanda - I like e.g. ngithanda isiNdebele (I like Ndebele)
Sihawukele- "have mercy on us". Used in mass and prayers e.g. Nkosi sihawukele, Kristu sihawkele, Nkosi sihawukele (Lord have mercy)
Angizwa - I don't understand (zwa = understand)
Angazi - I don't know (remember, starting with an "a" and ending with an "i" makes a verb negative)

Ok tshomi, hlala kahle (ok buddy, stay well)

Local food in Ndebele

Salibonani bangane (It is nice to see you/ hello friends). As always, if you are new, please read the siNdebele lessons from the bottom (scroll down) and work up to this, the newest post. Kahle, (good) let us look at some ukudla (foods), indigenous fruit and umbhida (vegetables) lamhla (today).

amaputi - roasted maize
impuphu - maize meal (used to make isitshwala/ sadza/ pap)
utshwala- local shake-shake beer made with lots of amanzi (water)
inyawuthi - millet (milled into flour or used in beer brewing)
amabele - sorghum (milled into flour or used in beer brewing)
impuphu yamabele - sorghum flour
amazambane - ground nuts/ peanuts
idobi - peanut butter
amasi - sour milk/ lacto
idelele - bush okra
amatamatisi - tomatoes
izinhlwa - flying ants (you can fry them and they are tasty and oily enough on their own)
intethe- locusts
amacimbi (there is that "c" click to practice) - worms that are dried and eaten as a delicacy
umhobohobo - Mahobohobo/ wild loquat. Similar to loquat yellow fleshy tasty fruit
umganu - marula tree and fruit. Very tasty fruit which can also be made into alcohol
umhlali - sweet monkey orange
uxhakuxhaku (remember the soft click "x" sounds) - snot apple/ African chewing gum
inhlanzi - fish
ihabahaba - dried fruit pith from Monkeybread tree (similar to baobab)
umhlabangubo - black jack

More isiNdebele vocabulary:

ukupheka - to cook e.g. Ngizakupheka 'mabhida - I will cook some vegetables.
igwayi - tobacco
isifuba - chest
abazali - parents
isigubhu - drum/ container
isivalo - lid
isipho - gift (also a good name- "Sipho")
amathumbu- entrails/ stomach lining
lawe futhi - and you also/ as well

Yebo bangane, ngidiniwe kakhulu. Ngifuna ukulala khathesi (Yes friends, I am tired a lot. I want to sleep now). Lala kahle - sleep well!

Modern new Ndebele words and some Ndebele vocab

Salibonani bangane (hello friends), today I want to make a short post. Again, if you are new, please look at the posts right at the bottom (scroll down) and then work your way up to today's newest post.

Ok, I just want to talk about the fact that there are some new/ modern words that there is no real Ndebele words for. The words used are sometimes made by simply placing an "i" in front of the English word, e.g. keyboard= ikeyboard, speaker= ispeaker etc. There are other words for izinto (things) like an aeroplane, which some people say is "iflying machine" but is actually indizamtshina. Also, the name for some things comes from the sound they make e.g. umdududu = motorbike, imoto = motorcar. Kanti, ngicambanga ukuthi (but I think that) you are now worried about the language, so I will leave you with a few real Ndebele phrases to restore your faith:

Uyasebenza lapha aze athole omunye umsebenzi = He is working here until he finds another job.
Izilwane zibulala zibuye zidle = The lions kill and then eat.
Nxa efika abongibona = When he comes he should see me.
Ubatshele ukuthi babohamba ekuseni = Tell them that they should go in the morning.
kanzima = with difficulty
utshani obuluhlaza = grass green (green grass)
ubumnene = kindness
igabha lamanzi = a water container/ tin
amandla okunqoba = power to conquer
kahle = beautifully, nicely, carefully
kakhulu = very, greatly, a lot

Sure bakhithi, ngiyakhuluma kakhulu khathesi (sure folks, I am speaking a lot now)

Hamba kahle bangane (go well friends), sizakubona ( we will see) next time

Ndebele You, me, mine, yours

Salibonani mngane (hello friend). Today, let's look at some vocab about possession and people. If you are new, as always, please start at the bottom of the blog and work up to this post. Ngiyabonga (thanks).

mina - me
wena - you (singular)
thina - we/ us
lina - you (plural)

e.g. Mina, ngingumtshayeli, wena? - Me, I am a driver, and you?
Mina ngudokotela - me, I'm a doctor

Lami - my
Lakho - your
Lakhe - his/ hers

e.g. Ibizo lakho ngubani? - What is your name? (lit: name your is what?)
Ibizo lami nguJohn - My name is John (lit: name of mine is John)
ungaphi umama wami? - where is my mother?
remember that "your mother" has a whole different name to "my mother" i.e. unyoko and umama respectively (similarly uyihlo and ubaba for your/ my father)

(uku)Hlala - (to) stay
Ngaphi - where

Together, they can be put together as: Uhlalaphi? - Where do you stay?

remember that I use "u" for you/him/her but use "ngi" for I, "ba" for they, "si" for we
e.g. mina, ngihlala koBulawayo - me, I stay in Bulawayo
uhlala eGweru - He stays in Gweru
uhlala eGwanda, angithi? you stay in Gwanda, isn't it so?
bahlala eHwange - they stay in Hwange

If you are going to say a place with an "r" in it, just remember that siNdebele technically does not use the "r" sound and so replace it with an "l". e.g. France = eflansi

Yebo mngane, so... uhlalaphi? (yes friend so... where do you stay?)

Ndebele books

Hawu, salibonani bakhithi (wow, greetings folks). As always, if you are new, please read from the post right at the bottom (scroll down) and then finish with today's newest post.

Lamhla sizakuxoxa amabhuku (today we will chat books). There are new links to and other places you can order Ndebele books from. Khathesi siyakhangela ilink "Books" phezulu njenge mafree pdf's (now we'll look at the "Books" link at the top for links like these free pdf's): e.g. for UMathewu (Matthew).

or a list of Ndebele books at:

such as Ithemba Kalibulali (Hope does not kill):

Nxa uyafuna ukuhamba e"Books", tshova (If you'd like to go to the "Books", push) :

Ndebele Body parts and Ndololwane Super Sounds

Salibonani bangane, as always, if you are new, please start with the posts at the bottom of the page and work your way up.
Kulungile, lamuhla sizakubona: the human body (umzimba) 

There is a song that goes : ikhanda, inhlombe, isifuba, idolo, amadolo, phansi, amadolo, phansi
which translates to the heads-shoulders-knees-and-toes song 
i.e. head, shoulders, chest, knee, knees, down, knees, down (respectively)

So we know:

ikhanda (the head)
Ihlombe/amahlombe (the shoulders)
isifuba (the chest)
amadolo (the knees)
phansi (down)

Khathesi (now), let's look at some other useful nouns.

Izinwele - Hair
Amehlo - eyes
Amadlebe/Izindlebe - ears
Amakhala - nose
Amafinyela - mucous
Izihlathi - cheeks
Umlomo - mouth
Izindebe - lips
Amazinyo - teeth
Izinsini - gums
Ulimi - tongue
Indevu/izindevu - beard(s)

Indololwane - elbow (there is a band called Ndololwane Super Sounds. I recommend a listen to some of their Ndebele songs e.g. or try this for tastes of their album

Amazwane - toes
Umdidi - anus
Isandla - hand (palm)
Inhliziyo - heart
Isibindi - liver
Amathambo - bones
Impama - open hand slap
Ingalo - arm
Unyawo - foot (e.g. ibhola lenyawo - ball of the foot/ football)
Inqindi - fist
Inqondo - mind/ brain (thank you Mlondolozi Ndlovu)
ubuchopho - brain (thank you Mduduzi NKL)

Vuli' qondo, ngizakufake 'qindi - it has 2 "q" sharp clicks and means "open your mind or I will use my fists". Obviously not for polite company.

Ye, sizakubona kusasa bakhithi (Yeah, we'll see you tomorrow my people)

Ndebele classes

Salibonani bangane. If you are new, please start at the post right at the bottom of the blog and work your way up to today's newest post. Kulungile (ok), lamuhla (today) we will go over the 8 classes in isiNdebele. Nansi (here it is):

njalo (and) some vocabulary:

bonga- thank
bhonga- roar

The difference in the "h" must thus be expressed, and we make the h sound by a sudden rush of air in an aspirated sound. It is not difficult, imagine the first "h" in "hahaha", now put that "h" sound after the "b" in bhonga, so it is b-(air aspirated)-onga.

Now you can say Ngiyabonga (I am thankful/ thank you) and Isilwane iyabhonga (The lion is roaring)

Ndebele click sounds pronounciation

Salibonani mngan'ami (hello my friend or literally "we have seen eachother friend of mine"). If you're new, please start reading from the bottom of this blog upwards. Let us just recap the basic isiNdebele sounds today bangane.

Pronunciation of vowels

There are five basic vowel sounds; aou are very constant and e and i have only slight variation
a is pronounced like a in father; e.g. abantwana (children)
e is pronounced like e in bed; e.g. emoyeni (in the air)
i is pronounced like ee in see; e.g. siza (help)
o is pronounced like o in bone; e.g. okhokho (ancestors)
u is pronounced like oo in soon; e.g. umuntu (person)

In isiNdebele there are three click sounds c, q and x.

c is made by placing the tip of the tongue against the front upper teeth and gums, the centre of the tongue is depressed and the tip of the tongue is drawn backwards. The resulting sound is similar to the sound used in English to express annoyance. Some examples are cina (end), cela (ask)
The q sound is made by raising the back of the tongue to touch the soft palate and touching the gums with the sides and tip of the tongue. The centre of the tongue is depressed and the tip drawn quickly away from the gum. The resulting sound is like the "pop" heard when quickly removing the cork from a bottle. Some examples are qalisa (start), qeda (finish)
The x sound is made by placing the tongue so that the back of the tongue touches the soft palate and the sides and tip of the tongue touch the gums. One side of the tongue is quickly withdrawn from the gums. Some examples are xoxa (discuss), ixoxo (frog).

One last thing: The "tsh" sound in siNdebele is pronounced as "ch" in "chain" or "change". So the word, umtshayeli (driver) would sound like "oom-cha-yeli" and not "oom-sha-yeli" as it does it languages such as isiZulu. Also, kuyatshisa (it is hot e.g. the weather or an object) is pronounced "ku-ya-chisa". Another example would be tshaya (hit) is pronounced "cha-ya" e.g. ngizakutshaya (I am going to hit you). I obviously hope you never hear that phrase though, but there it is.

Sharp sharp bangane(slang for "cool my friends" used in many places in Southern Africa)

Uhamba njani? (How is it going?)

Salibonani tshomi, uhamba njani? (Hello buddy/pal, how is it going?) I hope you're enjoying using some of the isiNdebele words previously discussed.

*If you're new, please start at the bottom of the page and then work your way up to this newest post. The isiNdebele words appear in bold.

Today I'll talk a bit about modes of transport.
car- imota
train- isitimela
bus- ibhasi
bicycle- ibhayisikili
aeroplane- indizamtshina
walking- hamba lenyawo ( you know hamba= "go" lo means "with" and inyawo means "foot" so "to go by foot")
To ride= ukugada (just a side note, the part uku in front of a verb means "to do something" e.g. gada= ride (like you telling someone to ride) whereas ukugada means "to ride")

Sentences: Ngiyagada ibhayisikili- I am riding a bicycle
                 Ngitshayela imota- I drive a car

More vocab: inombolo= a number
(uku)xoxa= (to) chat
indaba= news so khuluma indaba= talk about the news, xoxa indaba= chat about news
phezulu= up/ lift up (for anything from faka phezulu- put it up to Nkhosi esezulwini- God in heaven)
phansi= down e.g. hlala phansi= sit down (e.g. you would say to children in class)

An example of a teacher greeting his students. Students stand as the teacher enters the room:
Teacher: Salibonani bantwana- hello children
Class (children): Salibonani mnumzana/ mbalisi - hello sir/ teacher
Teacher: Yebo, linjani?- yes, how are you (plural)
Class: Ngiyaphila ngingabuza wena?- I am fine and I ask about you?
Teacher: Ngiyaphila. Hlala phansi- I am fine, sit down
Class: All sit down

Yebo tshomi, sizakubona kusasa futhi. Hamba kuhle (yes buddy, we will see eachother tomorrow again. Go well/ goodbye)

Ndebele counting

Linjani bangane? (How're you friends) Today I thought we'd go over some numbers. Again, if you're new, please start with the first post which is at the very bottom of this page, and then work your way up to today's post.
8kuyisitshiyanga lombili
9kuyisitshiyanga lolunye
Just something from the above, when you say "and", you'd use "lo" e.g. ngihamba lomama- I go with my mother. Ngihamba lonyoko- I go with your mother.

Kancane means a little, so if someone asked you how you're doing, you could say "kancane kancane" like the French comme ci-comme ca, or "just ok/ surviving". (The c is the soft c click sound, remember?)

A nice thing to ask in the morning, is "Uvuke njani?" which is good morning, but actually is asking the person how they woke up. To which you would reply, ngivukile - I have woken. If you are speaking to many people, you can use "li" prefix instead of "u", e.g. livuke njani?- how did you (pl) wake?
Ulele njani? - how did you sleep?

Here is another good list I found. It is in French so I put the isiNgisi (English) after the French so lamhla (today) you can learn 2 languages at once:
bonjour (le matin) Good Morninglivuke njani
bonjour (l'après-midi) Good afternoonlitshonile
bonsoir Good eveninglitshone njani
au revoir Goodbyelisale sesihamba / lisale kuhle

excusez-moi Excuse meuxolo / ngixolela
merci Thank you/ We thank you a lotngiyabonga / siyabonga kakulu
homme Manindoda / amadoda
femme Woman/ womenumfazi / abafazi
où ? Where?ngaphi
quand ? Whennini
comment ? How?njani
pourquoi ? Why?ngani
combien ? How much does it cost?yimalini
argent Moneyimali
cher Expensivekuyadula 
eau Wateramanzi
pain Breadisinkwa
poisson Fishinhlanzi or kapenta (small fish eaten from Kariba)
viande Meatinyama
légumes Vegetable/ sumbhida / imibhida
froid It is coldkuyaqanda (like Zulu word kuyabanda)
chaud it is hotkuyatshisa
assez Enoughkwanele (sokwanele- it is enough)
de rien Your welcome/ it's okKulungile (used very often to mean "it's ok", or "ok")

Sure bangane, ngicabanga ukuthi ugrand lamhla (Sure friends, I think that you're grand today. This is a bit of slang though but it's what you'd say in the City of Kings for instance)

Ndebele time

Salibonani bangane ( Hello friends). I know it has been a while since I put up a post. Today I'll talk about time, since it is fitting. As usual, if you are new, please start right at the bottom of the blog page and work up to this newest post today.

Isikhathi bani? -What's the time? ("Time what")
Usually you would reply in English because exact numbers like 12:42 are not used in isiNdebele that much.
kusasa- tomorrow  e.g. sizakubona kusasa - we'll see tomorrow
izolo - yesterday
ekuseni - in the morning (the "e" means "at/ in the" i.e. at morning etc)
There was a song that we used to hear on the radio in the mornings that went "Cockadoodaldoo (rooster noise) vukani madoda sokuseni" (wake up men, it is morning)
emini - in the afternoon
entambama - in the evening

There is a gesture that is normally used which is to cup your hand with your palm facing down and then make a curved movement with that hand like a dolphin porpoising. If you do this forwards, it can mean, tomorrow (kusasa) and if you do it backwards by your shoulder, it means yesterday (izolo). It follows that if you want to show that something will happen 4 days in the future, you can use the gesture with a curved movement forwards 4 times to show in 4 days. If you do it backwards many times, this can show that something happened a long time ago i.e. kudala (old times/ long time ago). Also, stretching the word out helps to show it was a very long time ago i.e kudaaaaaaaala.

Ok, I'll try to include more sentences from now on, since you hopefully have the basics from the previous posts below.

Today's sentence:

Usitshelile ukuthi uzahamba kusasa - He told us that he is going tomorrow

kusasa, you now know is "tomorrow". Hamba, you know is "to go", with the u= he/you and the za showing future tense i.e. will go. Ukuthi is a very nice joining word to use to say "that" e.g. if you say ngicabanga ukuthi... I think that...(remember the "c" soft click here). Tshela is the verb- to tell, so usitshel ile is "he told us".

Another useful phrase is: ngubani? - Who is it?

Ok bangane (my friends) sizakubona kusasa, sahle kahle (we'll see you tomorrow, stay well)

Some ndebele objects and verbs

Linjani bangane. Here is some vocab:

Recap: ye/ yebo= yes
            hayi, hatshi= no
            unjani= how are you
            ngiyaphila= I'm fine
            ngiyabonga= I thank you

Inkhomitsho= cup
ilanga= sun
ugwalo= book
isinkwa= bread
uchago= milk
imibhida= vegetables
amanzi= water
ibhulungwe= trousers
phuma= come out
woza= come here
buya= come
ngena= come in
hamba= go (impolite)

"uku" in front of a verb means "to..."  e.g. ukuhamba= to go, ukubuya= to come

asihambe= let's go
qoki= knock knock
ulokuza= the whats-it-ma-called/ "ummmm"
ukupopotha= to talk nonsense
njenge= like/ similar to
amapholisa= police
ukujayiva= to dance (slang)
ngicela= I ask (e.g. ngiyacela baba= C'mon, I'm asking you man, or ngicela sinkwa= I'd like some bread)

kuhle sibili (very good). Lala kuhle (sleep well)

Ndebele Occupations- updated

Yebo bangane, linjani? (Yes friends, how are you?)

Here are some names of common occupations

umtshayeli= driver ( from tshayela= to drive)
hulumende= government
udokotela= doctor
umpheki (from the verb stem "pheka"- to cook)= cook
umbalisi= teacher (perhaps from bala= to read)
sidetrackbhala (to write) and bala (to read).
umphathisikolo= headmaster (from isikolo= school)

To say what you're occupation is, you would use "ngingu-".
e.g. udokotela is a doctor so you would say ngingudokotela (I am a doctor)
unesi is a nurse so you would say ngingunesi (I am a nurse)
A: Ngingudokotela
B: Hayi, mina ngingunesi! (No way, me, I am a nurse!) [This is the correct way of emphasizing.]
A: Hawu, kuhle sibili! Haha. (Wow, very nice)

So what does ngingumbalisi, ngingumtshayeli and ngingumpheki mean?

Ngizakuhamba esikolo ukukhuluma lombalisi- I will go to school to talk to the teacher

Sahle kahle (stay well)

Like, love and "uku" before a verb

Linjani bangani? (How are you friends?) Today I want to tell you about the word "thanda", which means to like or to love in isiNdebele.

Ngiyathanda- I like/ love it
Ngiyakuthanda= I love you  (a very useful one for when you mean it)

Lami ngiyathanda ukubona ilanga- I myself like/ love to see the sun
ilanga= sun
lami= myself, e.g. lami futhi= me too
bona= see, 

uku in front of a verb makes it "to do..." e.g ukubona= to see, ukuthanda= to like/ love

A common isiNdebele girl's name is Thandi, which is a beautiful name and means "loved one".

That is all for today, and yes, it was inspired by Valentine's day.

Lala kuhle bangane (sleep well friends)

Relatives in Ndebele

Salibonani bakhithi (hello my people)

Sizakufunda amavocabulary lamhla ( we are going to learn some vocab today).

These are some isiNdebele words for your relatives:

My mother- umama
my father- ubaba
my brother- ubude
my sister- udadewethu or usisi
my grandfather- ubabamkhulu ( which translates directl as "father big")
my grandmother- ugogo
my younger brother/ guy cousin- umnawami (in Ndebele culture a cousin is like a brother/ sister)
my uncle- umalume
so  "Unjani udadewethu?means "How are you my sister?"

There is a difference between saying 'my father' and 'your/his father', and the same for mother. This is not commonly known by non-ndebele native speakers, but should be used.

Your/ his father- uyihlo

your/ his mother- unyoko

If you were to use a "your mama" joke, it is important that you don't end up insulting your own mama. These are some of the common relatives.

Sizakubona kusasa bangane

Some curious chilapalapa words

Salibonani mngan'ami (Hello/ I see you my friend)

Today I would like to introduce you to the distinct language of chilapalapa, as used in some parts of Zimbabwe. Chilapalapa is a mixture of isiNdebele, English (isiNgisi) and some chiShona. It is not officially a language. There are some interesting words in Chilapalapa, and here are a few:

"come-come"= rain or izulu e.g. ucabanga ukuthi come-come lamhla?- you think it will rain today?
"sure"= good/ okay e.g. Unjani umngane? (How're you friend?)- Ye, sure sure
"faka"= to put  e.g. Faka zonke- put it all (faka is actually isiNdebele too, and is pronounce 'farga')
"now-now"= in a little bit of time
"sure" or "sure-sure"=ok, I'm fine etc
"mdududu"=motorbike (think about the sound a motorbike makes- it is like du-du-du)
and even sometimes "iflying machina" for aeroplane

Ok, so let's now look at some useful isiNdebele words:
ucabangani?= you think what (u-cabanga-ni) or what do you think?
ukuthi= that  e.g Ucabanga ukuthi...?- Do you think that...?
Ngizakuhamba/ sizakuhamba- I will go/ we will go
Nsukuzonke= everyday (nsuku-day, zonke- all/every)
Angikathali= I don't worry/ care (a...i makes a word negative) (ngi=I, kathala=worry/care)
Awukathali?= you don't mind/ care?
Uwenzani (or just wenzani)?= What are you doing? or What is he/she/it doing?

About food:
Amanzi= water
Ukudla= food
Nginatha amanzi/ uchago= I drink water/ milk
Ngidla amatamatisi/ inyama/ amabhida/ isinkwa/ isitshwala= I eat tomatoes/ meat/ vegetables/ bread/ pap or sadza
Ngiwomile= I'm thirsty
Ngilambile= I'm hungry
Ngidiniwe= I'm tired.

If you put "u" instead of "ngi" in the above phrases, you can change the meaning from e.g. ngi-diniwe (I am tired) to udiniwe (you/he/she is tired) which can even be a question e.g. ulambile? - Are you hungry?

Sure bangane, ngilambile khathesi (now), ngizakudla amabhida lesinkwa

Your body in Ndebele- some vocab

Abangane bami (my friends), here is some vocabulary for isiNdebele body parts:

Amehlo= eyes
iqondo = brain/ mind
isandla = hand 
ikhanda = head
amhlophe = shoulders
isifuba = chest
isisu = stomach
amadolo = knees
umlomo = mouth
isibhunu = bottom
amabele = breast
amazinyo = teeth (thanks to kymmiisha for the comment)
inyawo = foot
(ibhola lenyawo therefore means "football")

Sizakubona kusasa (we'll see eachother tomorrow). Thanks for the comments bakithi, the corrections were made.

Good, Bad and Ugly in Ndebele

Hawu, linjani abangane? Today I am posting some vocabulary, how to say the following words:

kuhle (sibili)= good (very)
umnandi= nice
ubuhle= pretty
umubi= ugly, bad

Ngizakubona kusasa (I'll see you tomorrow)

Ndebele Pronounciation

The majority of isiNdebele is quite easy for English language speakers to pronounce. The alphabet is Roman, but there are some letters which are noticeably pronounced differently. These include "click" sounds such as:

  1. c which is a soft click so not as sharp as the q sound. It is pronounced with your mouth slightly open horizontally and when your tongue is on the roof of your mouth just behind your top front teeth and then you slide your tongue quickly backwards
  2. x which is pronounced with your mouth open in an O shape and your whole tongue is on the middle roof of your mouth and you drop your bottom jaw and tongue to produce a slightly wet sound which lasts longer than the sharp q click or the soft c click. Alternatively the side of your mouth can be open.
  3. q which is pronounced as a sharp click when your tongue is quickly hit or pulled from the roof of your mouth.
  • The q sounds perhaps like a sharp tap on a hard surface as opposed to 
  • the x sound which sounds like a something being pulled from a light suction e.g. the sound a shoe makes as it is freed from mud, or 
  • the c sound which perhaps sounds like the noise crickets (insects) make. 
I am just trying to describe the sounds the best I can there.
These are the main 3 click sounds in isiNdebele- the sharp Q, the soft wet X, and the medium, soft C, is how I like to think of it.

Some Ndebele animals names

Unjani umngane? Let us look at some names of common animals we may want to describe in isiNdebele:

indlovu= elephant
udube= zebra
inja= dog
umangoye= cat
inyoni (izinyoni)= bird (birds)
impisi= hyena (one of my favourite words)
ubabhemi= donkey
isilwane= lion
imvu= sheep
imbuzi= goat
inkomo (izinkomo)= cow (cows)
ingulube= pig
chongololo= centipede
inkukhu= chicken

Prefixes- beginning a verb/action

Unjani umngane (How are you, friend)? You may have gathered from the last post, that there are different prefixes/ beginnings for I, you, you plural, we, they etc. This is similar to the French conjugation beginnings/ prefixes, but generally the verbs stay the same in isiNdebele. Here is an example:

Ngi= I, whereas Si= we

so ngiyaphila= I am fine, whereas siyaphila= we are fine

The prefixes are:

Ngi= I
u= you(singular), he or she
si= we
li= you (plural)
ba= they

So using a common verb, hamba= go, we have:

ngihamba=I go
uhamba= you (sing.), he or she goes
sihamba= we go
lihamba= you (plural) go
bahamba= they go

Until next lesson, hambani kahle abangane

Basic Northern isiNdebele phrases

Salibonani, today we will go over about 8 basic isiNdebele phrases to get you started:

Salibonani- hello (or literally "we have seen eachother")
Unjani (linjani)?- how are you (you plural)?
Ngiyaphila (siyaphila)- I am fine (we are fine)
Ngikhona (sikhona)- I am fine (we are fine) [literally means "I am here"] 
Unjani wena?- How are you? (response)

Yebo- yes
Hayikhona/ hayi/ hayibo- no, nope, no way

Ngiyabonga (siyabonga)- I thank you (we thank you)

Hamba kahle- go well/ good bye (said by the person staying behind)
Sahle kahle- stay well/ good bye (said by the person leaving the place)

Welcome, samkele

Welcome to

This is a site for anyone interested in picking up some words in the isiNdebele language from Zimbabwe, or "Northern Ndebele". This is a language spoken by people in Southern Africa. This site just has some basic language, and does not in any way entirely cover the huge amount of isiNdebele vocabulary and grammar. Have fun abangane (friends). Please start with the posts at the bottom of the "Home" tab as this is the beginning, and then work your way to the newest posts. If you would like to learn Ndebele more formally, look at the "Lessons" tab for lessons.