Counting in Swahili is very simple (compared to, say, French) so it is likely you can learn to count all the way up to a million in less than a day.
It’s also quite a beautiful language to count in, if I may say so myself!
Let’s start with the basics.
How to count to ten in Swahili:
One to ten in Swahili is rather straightforward, however there are a couple of words that might look funny in written form. No need to worry – they’re actually very easy to pronounce, as explained below.
One – Moja (pronounced moh-jah)
Two – Mbili (imm-bee-lee)
Three – Tatu (tah-too)
Four – Nne (inn-neh)
Five – Tano (Tah-noh)
Six – Sita (See-tah)
Seven – Saba (sah-bah)
Eight – Nane (nah-neh)
Nine – Tisa (tee-sah)
Ten – Kumi (koo-mee)
How to count to twenty in Swahili:
Eleven through to twenty is extremely simple, and if you can count to ten, you can use all the same words to count up to nineteen.
The basic structure is to simply say “ten and…”, so for example, eleven will be “ten and one”, twelve will be “ten and two” and so on. It really can’t get any simpler than that!
Eleven – Kumi na moja
Twelve – Kumi na mbili
Thirteen – Kumi na tatu
Fourteen – Kumi na nne
Fifteen – Kumi na tano
Sixteen – Kumi na sita
Seventeen – Kumi na saba
Eighteen – Kumi na nane
Nineteen – Kumi na tisa
How to count to one hundred in Swahili:
Counting to one hundred is almost as easy as counting to twenty.
The structure is exactly the same – “twenty and one”, “twenty and two” and so on.
However, you will need to learn new words for twenty, thirty, forty, and so forth.
Here’s how it goes:
Twenty – Ishirini (pronounced ee-shee-ree-nee)
Twenty one – Ishirini na moja (literally “twenty and one”)
Twenty two – Ishrini na mbili (literally “twenty and two”)
and so on…
The same structure is applied to all the numbers from thirty up to ninety-nine.
Thirty – Thelathini (pronounced theh – lah – thee- nee)
Forty – Arobaini (uh-row-buh-ee-nee)
Fifty – Hamsini (hum-see-nee)
Sixty – Sitini (see-tee-nee)
Seventy – Sabini (sah-bee-nee)
Eighty – Themanini (theh-mah-nee-nee)
Ninety – Tisini (tee-see-nee)
How to count to one thousand in Swahili:
Counting through the hundreds up to one thousand is done by using the word mia (pronounced mee-ah), which means hundred. Like so:
One hundred –Mia moja
Two hundred – Mia mbili
Three hundred – Mia tatu
Four hundred – Mia nne
Five hundred – Mia tano
Six hundred – Mia sita
Seven hundred – Mia saba
Eight hundred – Mia nane
Nine hundred – Mia tisa
Also note, to add on numbers in the tens and ones, you are not required to use the word na.
For example, to say one hundred and fifty, you do not need to say mia moja na hamsini.
You simply say mia moja hamsini.
To say one hundred and ninety nine, you simply say mia moja tisini na tisa.
The na conjunction is only used between the tens and ones.
How to count in the thousands in Swahili:
The swahili word for thousand is elfu (pronounced ell-foo).
Counting with thousands is exactly the same as counting with hundreds.
One thousand – Elfu moja
Two thousand – Elfu mbili
Three thousand – Elfu tatu
Four thousand – Elfu nne
Five thousand – Elfu tano
Six thousand – Elfu sita
Seven thousand – Elfu saba
Eight thousand – Elfu nane
Nine thousand – Elfu tisa
Again, to add on numbers in the hundreds, tens and ones, the word na is not required.
To say two thousand two hundred and fifty, you do not need to say Elfu mbili na mia mbili na hamsini.
You simply say, Elfu mbili mia mbili hamsini.
Ten thousands in Swahili
The ten thousands also use the word elfu. For example:
Ten thousand – Elfu kumi
Fifty thousand – Elfu hamsini
Ninety thousand – Elfu tisini
How to count to one million in Swahili:
To get to a million we need to use the word laki (pronounced just like the English word “lucky”) which means hundred thousand. For example:
One hundred thousand – Laki moja
Two hundred thousand – Laki mbili
and so on…
As an example, to say two hundred and twenty two thousand, two hundred and two, you would say:
Laki mbili, elfu ishirini na mbili, mia mbili ishirini na mbili.
Laki mbili (two hundred thousand), elfu ishirini na mbili (twenty two thousand), mia mbili (two hundred), ishirini na mbili (twenty two).
Finally the word for a million is milioni.
Again, this is used in the same way as the other counter words.
One million – Milioni moja
Two million – Milioni mbili
and so on…