Bemba Lesson 3 – Learn How To Count In Bemba

Calculus-KitweOnLine

Calculus-KitweOnLine

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. :

             SMALL                           BIG

1           kamo                               cimo

2           tubili                                 fibili

3           tutatu                                fitati

4           tune                                  fine

5           tusano                              fisano

Examples:

                   One small guitar    –      Akalimba kamo.

                   One big guitar           –   Icilimba cimo

6          mutanda

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”)

24         (etc.)

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

104  (etc.)

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.

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  1. I would like to thank the people that established this website. I am a 17 year old Zambian and i can barley speak my mother tongue (Mambwe). I was brought up speaking bemba and being able to learn more bemba is just a blessing. Thank you, please continue your work. The new generation of children need to be able to speak atleast 2 or more local languages. we need to preserve our culture and language as it is slowly disintegrating. Also include lessons for other languages if you can 🙂
    thanks a bunch

  2. With all due respect, I dont agree with Bwalya. That is not how we count in bemba whether in sentences or just counting the numbers on their own. Were ever you got that from I dont think its right. The way the author has put it as in Kamo, tubili, tutatu etc is correct and thats how I have heard my grandma say it too.

  3. Ba Bwalya,

    Thanks for your suggestion. Your approach makes it clearer to understand the concept. We are amending the illustration accordingly.

    Thank you very much.

    • BA EDITOR BA BWALYA THANKS VERY MUCH FOR THIS INITIATIVE. IT’S A BRILLIANT IDEA. CAN YOU ALSO REVIVE DANCES LIKE IMBENI, AKALELA, INFINKUTU, THE BEMBA DRUM-BEATING SUCH AS ITUMBA, CHITWA NSOMBO’S DRUMING STYLE AND MANY MORE. THERE USED TO BE IMBENI DANCED MAINLY BY MINERS EVERY FRIDAY EVENING IN ALL COPPERBELT TOWNS. PLEASE, RE-ORGANISE THESE DANCES BEFORE THE OLD PEOPLE WHO NEW THE SONGS AND DANCING, DIE AND GET 6FT UNDER WITH THAT RICH CULTURE. LET’S BE LIKE SOUTH AFRICANS WHO ARE PROUD OF THEIR CULTURAL HERITAGES. CAN THERE ALSO BE A CAMPAIGN FOR ALL SCHOOLS TO TEACH VERNACULAR LANGUAGES FROM NURSERY TO UNIVERSITY. WHOEVER COMES TO ZAMBIA MUST LEARN AT LEAST ONE OF THE MAJOR ZAMBIA’S LANGUAGES. THANK YOU.

      • Ba Peter,

        We look forward to documenting more of our Zambian cultural practices.
        We encourage more readers to come up with ideas and contacts for such projects. If anyone knows of people who are good at these dances and drumming styles, we would like to hear from you.
        Do you have stories and memories to share? Feel free to share them here.

  4. The correct form is: 1=mo; 2=bili; 3=tatu; 4=ne; 5=sano;…
    You add the “big/small” connotation only in sentences.

  5. Ba Chanda,

    Thanks for your valuable contribution. We have made the amendments you advised.

    We hope more people will follow your example and participate. Thanks once again.

  6. 1,000 is ikana limo
    2,000 amakana yabili
    1,000,000 is umuntapendwa umo
    2,000,000 imintapendwa ibili
     
    etc
     
    Please amend accordingly