Learn Zulu

The Zulu language is referred to as ‘isiZulu’, and is the most widely spoken home language of the eleven official languages in South Africa. The word Zulu means ‘heavens’ or ‘sky’, and the amaZulu are the ‘People of heaven’.

Learn isiZulu

With over 8 million Zulu people in KwaZulu-Natal, it is useful to know a few words and phrases to help you communicate and get by. This page has a few tips on learning isiZulu and a few phrases that are sure to be useful to you during your visit to us in Eshowe, Zululand.

Greeting / Basic Expressions / Numbers / Days of the Week / Pronunciation Guide / Clicks in Zulu

Greeting is a very important part of human interaction everywhere in the world. Here are some of the basic greeting phrases used in isiZulu.

English siZulu
Hello (To one person) Sawubona
Hello (To more than one person) Sanibonani
How are you? Unjani?
I am well, how are you? Ngisaphila, wena unjani?
What is your name? Ngubani igama lakho?
My name is… Igama lami ngu…
How can I help you? Ngingakusiza ngani?
Goodbye (To person leaving) Hamba kahle (Go well)
Goodbye (If you are leaving) Sala kahle (Stay well)
Good luck Ngikufisela inhlanhla
Have a safe journey Ube nohambo oluhle

The conversation would go as follows:

John: ‘Sawubona’ (Plural – ‘Sanibona’)
Peter: ‘Yebo sawubona’;
John: ‘Kunjani’ or ‘Unjani’ (Plural – ‘Ninjani’)
Peter: ‘Ngisaphila, wena unjani’ (Plural – ‘Sisaphila, nina ninjani’)
John: ‘Nami ngisaphila’

A few phrases and that may be of use to anyone wishing to have a basic conversation in Zulu are:

Basic Expressions in Zulu
Yes Yebo
No Cha
Please Ngiyakucela
Thank you Ngiyabonga
Help Siza
Danger Ingozi
Emergency Kuyaphuthuma
Excuse me Uxolo
I am sorry Ngiyaxolisa
I love you Ngiyakuthanda


Numbers / Counting in Zulu
1 One Kunye
2 Two Kubili
3 Three Kuthathu
4 Four Kune
5 Five Kuhlanu
6 Six Yisithupa
7 Seven Yisikhombisa
8 Eight Yisishiyagalombili
9 Nine Yisishiyagalolunye
10 Ten Yishumi
11 Eleven Yishumi nanye
12 Twelve Yishumi nambili
13 Thirteen Yishumi nantathu
14 Fourteen Yishumi nane
15 Fifteen Yishume nesihlanu
20 Twenty Amashumi amabili
21 Twenty one Amashumi amabili nanye
22 Twenty two Amashumi amabili nambili
50 Fifty Amashumi amahlanu
100 One hundred Ikhulu
1000 One thousand Inkulungwane
Days of the week in Zulu
Monday uMsombuluko
Tuesday uLwesibili
Wednesday uLwesithathu
Thursday uLwesine
Friday uLwesihlanu
Saturday uMgqibelo
Sunday iSonto

Computers and Internet terms

Some words in modern urban Zulu are ‘borrowed’ from English or Afrikaans, and you’ll often find that different words have the same meaning. There will be an official translation which would be derived from standard Zulu, and an informal or slang term with the same meaning.

Computer Ikhompiyutha
Email i-imeyili iposi likagesi
Internet i-intanethi
website i-webhusayithi isizindalwazi

General prefixes when having a conversation

When speaking isiZulu, the prefix indicates the number of people you are addressing, or whether the word is a plural or singular. In English to make a word plural, one would generally add an ‘s’ whereas in isiZulu it is the prefix that indicates this.

The word ‘funa’ means ‘want’, see how the prefix changes:

Ngi I Ngifuna ushukela I want sugar
U You/He/She Ufuna ushukela You/He/She want(s) sugar
Si We Sifuna ushukela We want sugar
Ni You all Nifuna ushukela All of you want sugar
Ba They Bafuna ushukela They want sugar

Pronunciation in Zulu

a as in father
b like b in English but slightly softer
bh b (break in voice before saying – pronounce as if it is the first sound in word)
ch dental click (see note below)
d d (break in voice before saying – pronounce as if it is the first sound in word)
dl similar to ll in Llewellyn
s as in send
f as in fat
g as in guinea (break in voicing before saying – pronounce as if it is the first sound in word)
gc dental click (see note below)
gq palatal click (see note below)
gx lateral click (see note below)
h as in how
hh as in hotel
hl similar to ll in Llewellyn
i as ea in tea
j as j in join (break in voicing before saying – pronounce as if it is the first sound in word)
k as g in good
k as ck in tick
kh as c in call, followed by a strong rush of air
kl combination of k and first sound in Llewellyn
l as l in lull
m as m in mum
n as n in nun
nc dental click (see note below)
ng as ng in linger
nq palatal click (see note below)
nx lateral click (see note below)
ny similar to ny in Kenya
o as a in all
p as p in tip
ph p in push, followed by a strong rush of air
qh palatal click (see note below)
s as s in say
sh as sh in show
t as t in pot
th as t in take, followed by a strong rush of air
ts as ts in pots, but sharper
tsh like ch in cheese, but with a more forceful puff of air
u as o in to
v as v in vain
w as w in well
xh lateral click (see note below)
y as y in you
z as z in zoo

Clicks in Zulu

C – To pronounce the dental click, c, press the tip of the tongue against the front teeth, and then withdraw it sharply, at the same time dropping the back of the tongue from the soft palate. This sound may be compared with the sound you would make when sucking something from your upper teeth, or the sound of sympathy when someone says ts-ts.

Q – To pronounce the palatal click, q, press the tip of the tongue against the front palate and then follow with the same procedure as with c. This sound may be compared with the sound a person would make when trying to imitate the sound of a cork being pulled from a bottle.

X – To pronounce the lateral click, x, place the tip of the tongue against the hard palate as if you were going to produce the n sound. Press one side of the tongue against the side of the jaw. Then, without shifting the tip of the tongue from the hard palate, withdraw the side sharply from the jaw. This sound differs from the other two in that the release takes place at the side(s) of the tongue and not at the front. This sound is sometimes made to express regret or to spur on a horse.


Zulu lessons are available; just ask when you are here…