My English-Swahili phrasebook is a bit unreliable. Lots of pages have been printed twice and some seem to be missing altogether, so the list of numbers only starts at 300; and the list of food and drink, in alphabetical order, begins with “ham”. The first entry under “useful expressions” is also pretty telling: it really is the most useful expression – mainly with reckless taxi drivers.
The language barrier is much more real than I had imagined. I had thought that English would be widely spoken, but even in Dar many people don’t speak a word. Even civil servants don’t always speak much English, something that’s not doing Tanzania any favours on a global scale, compared to its much more anglophile neighbours like Kenya and Uganda. Tanzania’s linguistic roots stem from Nyerere, the first president after independence, who made Swahili the official, and unifying, language in a land of over a hundred different tongues. English remains a second language, and primary education – which kids attend till aged 13 or even older – is given in Swahili. Apparently there is even a discussion to make secondary education taught in Swahili, which seems incredible given that the country could gain a lot from having an English-speaking workforce to do business with.
Either way, I’ve got a lot to learn… might need to get hold of a better phrasebook.