This article refers to the Bemba language. For other uses, see Bemba (disambiguation).
The Bemba language, Chibemba, also known as Cibemba, Ichibemba, Icibemba and Chiwemba, is a Bantu language that is spoken primarily in Zambia by the Bemba people and about 18 related ethnic groups. The noun class prefix 'chi-' indicates languages and the prefix 'ba-' indicates people, so 'Babemba' also means the Bemba people.
Chibemba and its dialects are spoken and understood by a sizable percentage of the population of Zambia. Over three million people are estimated to be native Chibemba speakers in Zambia alone, with others using Chibemba as a second language. Chibemba is used as a lingua franca in Zambian cities and, according to Ethnologue, it "has higher social status than other languages except English" within Zambia (but Ethnologue has been criticised for these kinds of statements, and this is disputed by some).
All Greetings can be succeeded by the word "Mukwai" which adds respect for the person you are greeting.
Muli shani? / Uli shani? - How are you? (Plural / Singular (Plural is used for a single person if one wants to show them respect)(Reply is "bwino" meaning "good", or "bwino panono" meaning "a bit good")
Mwashibuka shani? also Mwabuka shani- Good morning (direct translation - "how was your getting up?")(Reply with "bwino")
Mwashibukeni - You have awaken (Reply with "eya mukwai" meaning yes or acknowledging the greeting)
Mwabombeni - You are working (Used during working hours - reply with "eya mukwai")
Mwabomba shani? - How is the work? (direct translation - "how are you working?") (Reply with "bwino")
Cungulopo or (more commonly) Cungulo - Good afternoon/evening (reply with "eya mukwai")
Mwapoleni? - general greeting (direct translation is "are you in good health," used for numerous applications: an acknowledgment of someone else's greeting; akin to "pleased to meet you," or to greet someone who has recovered from illness)
Meaning: "You can only thank the person who helped you walk in the night once it is dawn." This saying implies that most beneficial things are difficult to implement, but once implemented everyone can see the benefits and are grateful.
2. Umwana ashenda atontonkanya nyina anaya ukucila.
Meaning: "The child that has never travelled thinks its mother is the best cook." This saying implies that until you are exposed to other places by travelling, your notion will always be that what you see around your country is the best. Yet there can be, and there are, cultures more advanced than yours in their own ways. In a more general sense it means that all your preferences in life may only stem from ignorance of the possible alternative.
3. Uko ushili imbwa yobe taikata
Meaning: "In your absence your dog will not catch." This saying comes from the practice of hunting. If your dog catches some game, you can see it for yourself if you are present. If you are absent, you will be told that your dog didn't catch any. There is a lot of dishonesty in many practices, and the best way to avoid it is to be present in the dealings.
4. Umukashana wa mabele talangwa nshila
Meaning: "You can not easily offer directions or guide a grown young maiden (with breasts)." (direct translation - "a girl with breasts cannot be shown the way") This saying implies that however good the advice is that you would try to give a young lady, it will be scoffed at by her. Her perception is that you have a vested interest in her and thus anything you might say will only serve your own goal of relations with her.
5. Imiti ikula e mpanga
Meaning: "Small trees will someday make a forest". This saying applies to children who are the future of tomorrow.
6. Chimbwi afwile intangalila
The meaning is in this context: Chimbwi is a Chibemba word for hyena. The saying generally means that the hyena died due to its greediness, given two choices, the hyena wants to take both in a situation where only one choice is allowed. The end is that the hyena had nothing.
7. Akasuba kamo takabosha insofu
Meaning: "An elephant does not decompose in one day". This implies that great ventures take time and you must undertake them steadily and patiently. This proverb has the same meaning as an English one, "Rome was not built in a day".