Methali Continued

In Swahili, methali (proverbs) are commonly used throughout conversation.  For example, if someone shares an issue they are having, an appropriate methali will remind them of the right path or moral direction they should take.

Swahili example:

Problem Dadangu alinikataa kunisaidia kuhamia.
My sister refused to help me move.
Methali Aninyimaye mbazi kanipunguzia mashuzi.
Direct translation He/she/(nonbinary) they who denies me beans rids me of farts.
Sage meaning He/she/(nonbinary) they who refuses to answer your request for help keeps you from accumulating debt.


Problem Mwanaume huyo anazungumzia vibaya kuhusu mimi sana.
That man talks badly about me a lot.
Methali Pilipili usioila ya kuwashia nini.
Direct translation If you didn’t eat the pepper why are you concerned with it.
Sage meaning Let go of what doesn’t directly effect you.


Please find the following 10 flashcards to learn and practice new methali! And don’t forget: Bahati ipiga hodi ni lazima ufungue mlango mwenyewe. (When you’re given an opportunity, take it fearlessly and without hesitation! – Aka study these!) You will find the methali’s on one side and their sage advice on the other.

For best results, use the methali and practice applying them in relevant contexts when speaking Swahili!

Most of the above methali compiled and their translations were taken from MSTCDC’s (Usa River, Arusha, TZ) Longa Kiswahili Kozi ya Pili workbook. Created and continually revised by, Yusta Mganga, Joachim Kisanji, Frida Teri, Guadenicia Lwakatare, Elda Mtalo, Rita Tarimo, Godson Kimaro. I received this workbook as a supplement to my 6-week advanced tailor-made study program (May-July 2018). I learned some methali shared above from conversations with Swahili speakers.

Methali can also be found on kanga — fabrics typically worn by women to protect clothes during varied activities — cooking, commuting, cleaning, etc. Despite their practical use, kanga are beautiful and can decorate furniture, or serve as fabric in clothing design. To learn more methali or to scroll through vibrant kanga see @thekangabook on Instagram. A few of their pictures below (please note these pictures were taken and/or posted by @thekangabook. I do not have any rights to these photos and they should not be repurposed outside of to learn new Swahili words/methali and to experience awe). Mehtali za kanga often honors mothers and G-d. See the examples below!


And, here’s a cute video of a baby learning methali!



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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.