Shenton Safaris

An introduction to Maa – the language of the Maasai and Samburu people

Maasai warrior with cellphone driving a game drive vehicle

© Simon Espley

How do you prepare for the trip of a lifetime to Africa?

Once you’ve decided where to go and bought those khaki shorts and overlarge safari hat, how do you make sure that you REALLY connect with the country of your choice – that you are not merely a visitor passing through?

You learn the language.

Swahili (along with English) is the national language of Tanzania and Kenya and is surprisingly easy to learn. Tanzania is home to about 130 tribes and each of these tribes speak their own distinctive languages, however, one of the biggest tribal groups are the Maa speakers. Maa is spoken by the Maasai tribes as well as the Samburu and Datoga tribes, to name but a few.

You are bound to have contact with Maasai and Samburu people as they often reside close to famous game reserves.

So, in order to give you the tools to be able to connect with these fascinating tribal groups, and even make some friends, here are some Maa language basics:

Greetings

Supai – Greeting for men

Ipa – Reply to supai

Takwenya – Greeting for women

Iko – Reply to takwenya

Errabioto? – “Are you well?”

Arrabioto – “I am well”

Ashe – “Thank you”

Kai iloito? – “Where are you going?”

Kai ingwaa? – “Where are you from?”

Kai ijii? – “What is your name?”

Kai ita? – “What’s new?”

Kiti –  Reply to Kai ita

Ai? – “Where?”

Ng’ai? – “Who?”

Anu? – “When?”

Nyorr? – “What?”

Maasai warriors during a ceremony in Tanzania

Maasai warriors at a ceremony © Stephanie Fuchs

Sidai – nice, beautiful, good

Torronok – bad, ugly, unpleasant

Engop – ground, floor, land

Engarre – water

Enkai – God, sky

Engolong – sun

Olappa – moon

Lolkirr – stars

Animals

Ol’ngatun – lion

Ol’ngorjine – hyena

Louwaru keri – leopard

Oldome – elephant

Esiram – kudu (antelope)

Olosokwan – buffalo

Olmaaut – giraffe

Elmun – rhino

Enketeng – cow

Enkine – goat

Engirr – sheep

Maasai warrior with cattle in Kenya

Warrior chief with Ankole-Watusi cattle © Stephanie Fuchs

People

Enkitok – woman

Endito – girl

Engerai – child

Olpaijan – man

Olaiyoni – boy

Olmorani – warrior

Ilmoran – warriors

Numbers

Nabo – 1

Are – 2

Uni – 3

Omwan – 4

Imiet – 5

Ile – 6

Napichana – 7

Isiet – 8

Endoroit – 9

Tomwon – 10



Stephanie Fuchs

I am a passionate wildlife lover with an undergraduate degree in Biology. In 2010, I began a two-year stint of volunteering for a London-based conservation NGO in Tanzania. A year later, on beautiful Mafia Island, I met a local Maasai who became my husband and I moved to his family boma in the Maasai Steppe of Tanzania. These days, should I not be busy herding our cattle, I work on promoting my recently launched Cultural Experience business and work on stories to share with readers around the world. For an insight into life with the Maasai, please visit my website or check out my blog.

Africa Geographic