Bemba Lesson 1 – Learn ici Bemba (Language) – Instructions

Bemba is one of Zambia’s second most widely spoken language. Some would say it was the most widely spoken. It is also spoken in neighbouring countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Angola, Botswana and Tanzania.

As a tourist visiting the Copperbelt you can expect to come across someone who only speaks Bemba. Learning a new language is part of the excitement of traveling to new places and getting to interact and integrate with local people. Bemba is a very respectful language.

Plural forms of pronouns are used to convey respect for peers and for those older than yourself. When used in the singular form, pronouns would be directed at young children. The curious fact is that traditional rappers at the king’s court actually use pronouns in the singular to enhance the veneration of the king. But this is very advanced language! In general any man older than yourself is addressed as “father” – (ba) tata, an older woman is addressed as “mother” – (ba) mayo.

Bemba spoken along the line of rail (Kitwe to Livingstone) contains some English and Nyanja terms. English-Bemba terms:

Singular Plural
Be careful Cenjela Cenjeleni
Call Ita Iteni
Carry Senda Sendeni
Close Isala Isaleni
Come here Isa kuno Iseni kuno
Cut here Putula apa Putuleni apa
Don’t make noise Wipanga icongo Mwipanga icongo
Drop Ponya Ponyeni
Fetch Fwaya Fwayeni
Gently Bwinobwino
Go Away Kabiye Kabiyeni
Go backwards Bwelela kunuma Bweleleni kunuma
Go forward Kabiye kuntanshi Kabiyeni kuntanshi
Go sideways Kabiye kulubali Kabiyeni kulubali
Go there Kabiye kulya Kabiyeni kulya
Go to the left Kabiye kukuso Kabiyeni kukuso
Go to the right Kabiye kukulyo Kabiyeni kukulyo
Hit Uma Umeni
Hurry up Endesha Endesheni
Kneel down Fukama Fukameni
Let’s go Tiye Tiyeni
Lie down Sendama Sendameni
Lift Imya Imyeni
Listen Umfwa Umfweni
Little by little Panono panono
Look here Lolesha kuno Lolesheni kuno
Look there Lolesha kulya Lolesheni kulya
Open Isula Isuleni
Paddle Oba Obeni
Pour Itila Itileni
Pull Tinta Tinteni
Push Sunka Sunkeni
Put down Bika panshi Bikeni panshi
Shout Punda Pundeni
Shut up/Be quiet Ikala tondolo Ikaleni tondolo
Slowly Panono panono
Stop/End Leka Lekeni
Take that Bula cilya Buleni cilya
Take this Bula ichi Buleni ichi
Throw Posa Poseni
Walk(quickly) Endesha Endesheni

Look out for more Bemba lessons here.

For a more comprehensive cover of the language, grab yourself an English-Bemba dictionary and enjoy the journey of learning a new language.

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  25 comments for “Bemba Lesson 1 – Learn ici Bemba (Language) – Instructions

  1. Elaine Jere
    April 15, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Hello, i think this is a great website. Is there anywhere i can learn with a real person, someone willing to tutor me. I think that will help so much with my spoken bemba. Thank you so much .

    • JS
      May 2, 2017 at 6:34 am

      Hi Elaine.
      Kitwe Online has no current program but one place you could try is Alliance Française of Lusaka. Plot 22725 Alick Nkhata Avenue, Long acres. Tel: +260 211 253 467. Email: secretaryaflusaka@gmail .

  2. Usman Houston
    August 21, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    i love bemba language,but am a Nigerian

    • JS
      August 24, 2016 at 7:21 am

      Hi Usman,
      I think a language is like a song in a different language. You can enjoy it even before you understand a word.

  3. John Sungura
    August 3, 2016 at 8:22 am

    thanks for good lesson

    • JS
      August 9, 2016 at 11:56 am

      Hi John. Thanks for your feedback.

  4. Peter Chileshe Mukosela
    May 17, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Let’s go in bemba can be translated as “tuleya and in plural in tuleyeni” and the pronunciation tuleya will differentiate it from sounding like its a question

    • Laura Ingwe
      June 2, 2016 at 5:26 pm

      translate “naiwe kali lowesha” to english.

      • JS
        June 7, 2016 at 5:39 am

        Hi Laura,
        “kalilowesha” means “It is very sweet.”
        “Naiwe” is equivalent to “you” as in “I am telling you ….”

  5. Laura
    December 15, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    What does this Bemba walisa nolubuli mean in English?

  6. December 2, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    I like icibemba icinecine because iam bemba by tribe.

  7. Kim Taylor
    September 9, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    Would you please help with this translation: ” Mwalamba mwani muchikope” and what does it mean.

    • JS
      September 17, 2015 at 8:08 pm

      Hi Kim. I’m reliably informed that “Mwalamba mwane muchikope.” (note spelling of “mwane” – used as a sign of respect) is a Kaonde compliment meaning “You have a beautiful image.”

  8. Njabulo Ndlovu
    August 21, 2015 at 6:07 am

    Ho do you say this in bemba. “I’ve been away for a long time”

  9. Randoll Rex
    July 2, 2015 at 9:52 am

    How do you say “I’ve never been there in Bemba….Natotela in advance.

    • JS
      July 2, 2015 at 5:01 pm

      Hi Rex,
      “I’ve never been there” = “Nshayako. ”
      To go = Ukuya
      I’ve never = Nsha …
      There = Kulya (contracted to “ko”)

  10. MsP
    January 20, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    Exciting time for me on a journey to learn Bemba

  11. Denise
    August 5, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Thank you for this helpful site. I’m hoping to learn Bemba so that I can teach my (adult) friend to read. She lives in Cape Town and speaks English. I’m hoping that she will be able to read if she learns to read in her mother tongue. That would be my greatest joy!

    • JS
      August 5, 2013 at 11:07 pm

      Hi Denise,
      It sounds like you have an interesting goal. I hope you will find our lessons helpful.

      Let me know if there are particular topics you would like us to cover.

  12. Peter
    December 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm



    • JS
      December 31, 2012 at 9:41 pm

      Ba Peter,

      Thank you for your correction. We have changed the script accordingly.
      The aim is to inform and with your help and the help of other readers, we will do that.
      Thank you very much for your contribution.

      January 1, 2013 at 6:34 am

      “COME HERE” in its singular usage indeed means, ISA KUNO.However,it can also be plural.In this case it means ISENI KUNO.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Hi Christian
    You can vist any of the following bookshops in Kitwe for your books in Icibemba.You can visit Christian Bookshop at Sanlam building and it is next to Zesco Customer Service Centre.You may also visit BooKNook along Obote Street.BookNook is just opposite the Kitwe District Commiszioner’s Office.You may also visit Book World along Kabelenga Street. Book World is on the new building next to the Catholic Church in Kitwe City Centre.You may also go to ESKYATS on Matuka Avenue.ESAYATS is just around where the Mposa Mabwe statue is situated in Kitwe main business Centre.There are selected street vendors who have books in Icibemba.The other place where you can buy your books in Icibemba is at the Copperbelt University Campus.There are a number of bookshops there.The Copperbelt University can be accessed through Nkana East on Chiwala street or on Jambo Drive in Riverside.

  14. November 19, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Hi there,
    I’m a Belgian national and just established a new company in Solwezi, together with my Zambian business partner. As I intend to stay in Zambia for a very long time, I thought it would be nice to learn at least the most widely spoken dialect of the Zambian people, being Bemba, if I’m not mistaken. And most of all, I also would like to do so just out of respect for them. Your site is very useful in learning Bemba, and I thank you for that, but I know learning on how to pronounce is equally important as just to learn words. Could you please tell me if there is a way to solve this problem ? And could you also tell me where and how I could find books that could also help me to learn this very beautiful language ? Not in Solwezi, as I found out…
    Thanks so much for your attention and for your quick reply.

    Natotela !


    • Jonathan McNally (Wupe wa kwa Lesa)
      January 24, 2013 at 5:37 am

      Hi Christian, I only know a few words but it seems that a c is pronounced ‘ch’ (with K and S being the same as in English). Also good look with pronouncing the Bemba letter “ng” ;). Lesa Mupalu, Jonathan

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