A day may come when we have a Bemba word for “calculus”. In the meantime, this highly adaptable language has incorporated new words into everyday use. Counting is one such area. In this lesson we cover how to count in Bemba from 1 to 999,999, the easy way.
If you were to stop someone on the streets of Kitwe and asked them what “Umwanda umo na cimo” means, chances are that not one in ten will be able to tell you. Everyone practically uses the English terms for counting, especially in the urban areas. Thousands of Kwacha are spent in the course of groceries shopping and people are perfectly comfortable talking about “millions”, “thousands” and “hundreds” of Kwacha.
The Bemba words for low counts between 1 and 5 are adjectives. Therefore the prefix determines which choice of word you use, eg. :
1 kamo cimo
2 tubili fibili
3 tutatu fitati
4 tune fine
5 tusano fisano
One small guitar – Akalimba kamo.
One big guitar – Icilimba cimo
7 cine lubali (“four on one side”)
8 cine konse konse (“four on each side”)
9 pabula (“one short”)
10 ikumi limo
12 ikumi limo na fibili (“one ten and two”)
20 amakumi yabili (“two tens”)
21 amakumi yabili na cimo (“two tens and one”)
22 amakumi yabili na fibili (“two tens and two”)
23 a makumi yabili na fitatu (“two tens and three”)
30 amakumi yatatu
40 amakumi yane
50 amakumi yasano
60 amakumi mutanda
70 amakumi cine lubali
80 amakumi cine konse konse
90 amakumi pabula
100 umwanda umo
101 umwanda umo na cimo
102 umwanda umo na fibili
103 umwanda umo na fitatu
200 imyanda ibili
300 imyanda itatu
1,000 ikana limo
2,000 amakana yabili
3,000 amakana yatatu
1,000,000 umuntapendwa umo (“One uncountable”)
2,000,000 imintapendwa ibili (“Two uncountables”)
So there you have it. You can now practice and use real Bemba words for counting. There are 72 other Zambian languages out there. We want to do the same for each one of them here on KitweOnLine.
Do you speak any of the other Zambian languages? Work with us to fill in the gaps. Get in touch below. We want to hear from you.