Language Resources

Comprehensive Material Websites

  • Swahili Language and Culture Resources is a website run from The University of Iowa which has a compilation of numerous resources for Swahili language and cultural resources. The website contains resource materials for the following themes: Dictionaries, Encyclopedias and Digital Libraries, Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening and Speaking, Online Materials, Open Educational Resources, News and Media as well as Arts and Music. This is definitely a good place to start as you look for learning resources.
  • WLL Resources in Swahili is a website run from Portland University in the World Languages & Literature with a list of resources for Swahili learners. If you need information or resources on the African Language Map, Language Learning, Swahili Poetry and Literature, Swahili Audio News, Newspapers, Kenyan History and People and Travel Photos then this is a good website to use.
  • Center For Advanced Research For Language Acquisition (CARLA) is a website ran by the University of Minnesota. The Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL) section contains sharable instructional material for 28 different languages. There is also Virtual Pictures and Audio-Video resources limited to certain languages. This is a neat website where you can find where Swahili is being taught in the US (in case you are looking for a mentor), a way to stay in touch with other people teaching LCTLs and then student exercises and resources for learners.


Cultural Materials

  • Swahili Proverbsis a website produced by the Center for African Studies, University of Illinois—Urbana Champaign. Not only does it give the proverb in Swahili, provide a direct translation, and an explanation of meaning, but it also has a recorded pronunciation of each proverb. This is a good website to use if you are working on Swahili literature or are interested in learning Swahili beyond the intermediate level.
  • Mwambaoand Kiswahili.net are other websites with proverbs as well as riddles, jokes, music, and more that could be a helpful supplement to Swahili Proverbs.
  • Jamii Forumsis a huge online forum of user-generated content run out of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania with over 24,000,000 published posts (as of November 2017). Jamii Forums also runs a very active Instagram and Facebook account in Swahili, but with news, cartoons, pictures, and videos from all over Africa.
  • Mama Lisa is a good online resource if you are looking for songs that can help you with your language learning at the beginner level. It has songs and rhymes from all around the word which can help you with listening, comprehension and pronunciation.


News Sources

There are many news services available in Swahili for reading and listening practice. While these services are all in Swahili, they cover international news with a focus on Africa generally and East Africa. See the following list for some suggestions:


  • Awde, N. (2002). Swahili: Swahili-English, English-Swahili dictionary and Phrasebook. Hippocrene Books.
    • This dictionary is an essential dictionary for Swahili learners. It contains Swahili-English and English-Swahili dictionaries, along with phrases. It also has different sections of vocabulary one might need quickly such as finance, weather, animals, food & drink, and travel. The introduction provides an overview of Swahili culture.
  • Baraza la Kiswahili la Taifa (Tanzania). (2014). Furahia Kiswahili: Kiswahili kwa Wageni.
    • This is a comprehensive beginner guide to Swahili. Apart from the sequential arrangement of contents, its special features are the cultural note, catchy illustrations, keys to all questions and compiled vocabulary list provided.
  • Hinnebusch, T. J., & Mirza, S. M. (n.d.). Swahili: A foundation for speaking, reading and writing. Univ. Press of America.
    • Swahili: A foundation for speaking, reading and writing is a great resource for self-guided learning. This book guides the learner through reading, writing, and speaking exercises that build upon each other. The book would be a good compliment for a mentor relationship too as it contains many speaking drills to practice. It is easy to follow and understand
  • Jahadhmy, A. A. (1969). Swahili structures, drills, and readings College Printing & Typing Co: Madison
    • This is a valuable resource for learners seeking a comprehensive understanding of Swahili grammar. Through its structured approach, extensive drills, and authentic readings, this book offers a solid framework for mastering the structural elements of the Swahili language and developing essential language skills.
  • McGrath, D., & Marten, L. (2005). Colloquial Swahili: The Complete Course for Beginners. Routledge: New York
    • Colloquial Swahili is a comprehensive language resource designed to help learners develop conversational skills in Swahili this book offers a practical approach to learning Swahili in a colloquial context, focusing on everyday conversational situations
  • Newton, E. K. (2018) Concise Bilingual English-Swahili & Swahili-English Dictionary Africa Proper Education Network: Dar es Salam
    • This is a concise dictionary with pictures. The illustrations are sectioned into fruits, vegetables, foods, grains and nuts, crops, animals, colors, clothes, furniture, electronics, professions and transportation. It also has vocabulary list of expressions organized by themes.
  • Thompson, K. and Schleicher, A. F. (2001) Swahili Learners’ Reference Grammar
    • This book provides comprehension information about Swahili grammar. The systematic, organized and clear manner of the presentation of grammatical concepts makes it easier for English language speakers to understand.
  • Safari, J. F. Swahili Made Easy: beginner’s complete course. Mkuki na Nyota
    • The book provides dialogues, exercises, and interactive activities that encourage learners to actively engage with the language and practice their speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. Through these exercises, learners gain confidence in their ability to use Swahili in real-life situations.
  • Walibora, K. & Mohammed, S. (2015) Homa ya Nyumbani na Hadithi Nyingine Ramco: Kenya
    • Homa ya Nyumbani na Hadithi Nyingine is a collection of short stories that should be an easy read for mid intermediate learners.
  • Wilson, P. M. (1985). Simplified Swahili. Longman: Essex
    • offers a practical and accessible entry point for learners interested in acquiring basic Swahili language skills. Through its straightforward explanations, practical exercises, and cultural insights, this book provides learners with the necessary tools to develop a solid foundation in Swahili communication.

Vocabulary and Grammar

  • African Languages Dictionary: “This bilingual Swahili – English dictionary contains over 16,000 entries/phrases, over 36,000 translation equivalents, over 20,000 words and phrases in the English index, and a basic morphological decomposition search for Swahili compound words (e.g. tunaota). Related cross-references are also automatically displayed… The dictionary also includes an integrated Sheng sub-lexicon – these entries are marked accordingly. You can also search the Sheng lexicon specifically by clicking here.”
  • The Tuki English-Swahili Dictionarywas created by the Institute of Kiswahili Research at the University of Dar es Salaam. “This dictionary, which is not only new but also the biggest ever among Kiswahili dictionaries is a result of serious and doughty teams of the Institute who spent their precious time on the over 50,000 entries in order to introduce language learners and dictionary users into current language usage. A dictionary of this kind and size needs concerted efforts of many people especially when it is taken into account that the whole work, from compilation to printing, was done in house. The teams that accomplished this work included Lexicographers, Editors, Secretaries, Proofreaders and members of the printing section.”
  • Kiswahili at the University of Kansasis a great website developed by the African Studies Department at the University of Kansas and offers 65 lessons that covers introductions through to complex grammar and vocabulary. The lessons are downloadable in PDF format and are good for clear grammar explanations and examples. For an advanced student, this website provides helpful reviews on grammar and some vocabulary areas, it may be more helpful for intermediate students.
  • KIKO: Kiswahili kwa Kompyutais an online course developed by the African Studies Institute at the University of Georgia, which offers lessons for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students. KIKO has content rich lessons that combine reading passages with multimedia to work on listening skills as well as offering grammar notes for each lesson and diagnostic tests after completing each unit. It is a good website for the student trying to learn Swahili on their own because they can work on reading, writing, and listening in Swahili-it is particularly good for listening exercises.
  • Mwana Simba: Kiswahili? Hakuna Matata! is a website that provides online lessons with an informative grammar guide, plus Swahili-English and English-Swahili dictionaries. It provides resources divided into study and entertainment (including games in Swahili).
  • eScholarship is a website run by UC that provides access to many scholarly publishing and repository services. They have a lot of material in Swahili. By searching this database, one can find either publications, journals or publishers who have material in Swahili. Some of the resources they are usually from UC-affiliates which can be hard to find in other places. Most of the material are for advanced students.
  • GoSwahili is a useful website for Swahili. The main function is a online dictionary where you can search a large amount of words. The site is really useful as it lists which noun class the words you search for are in and any other common definitions. It also gives examples of the word in different sentences and with different definitions. Additionally, there are some Swahili learning resources and a tool for analyzing Swahili.
  • SwahiliPod is a Youtube Channel that uses short, engaging videos to teach Swahili. You can follow along with the videos to learn simple Swahili or mix-and-match videos for your specific needs.


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Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages Copyright © by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.