Time in Swahili

Video Transcript

“The way you say time in a language sometimes can be different from… Say, for example, the way you’d say time in the U.S. When it’s, the short hand is pointing at one, and [the] long hand is pointing at twelve, you’d say it’s one o’clock, one o’clock. In Swahili, in Swahili normally you would say, unless you’re using a digital clock, you would normally say ‘sasaba.’ Sasaba, which is, ‘saba’ is seven. So when in an American way, or when you’re speaking English and you say one o’clock. If you look at, therein you have a difference in the way of just expressing time. You say sasaba, which is seven, and note that you have one on the side, that’s why you’d say one in English. But the Swahili, you’ll always say the opposite side of the short hand. That’s one thing as you learn the language; since we say learning a language is not just learning how to say something, but the culture, to know how the language is used as a social tool. It’s one of those things that is, it’s good to know. So, as you speak the language, even if you just learn how to say, to count numbers one to ten. These are numbers one to ten, for example, in Swahili you will say, ‘Moja, mbili, tatu, nne, tano,’ and so on and so forth, up to ten. So just by learning how to say the numbers in Swahili doesn’t mean that you’ll also be able to say the time, just by looking at it because of the number you know. Like one is moja, when you say [to somebody], ‘Moja,’ that is seven o’clock. So it’s just one of those things that can be rather confusing for somebody learning Swahili as a foreign language. So it’s just one of those things in a language that, the nuances that come across in a language, especially one culture to another culture.”

In this video, a cultural expert discusses telling time in Swahili.