The Africa Classroom Package:
Swahili Swirl

Activity #4: One Million Swahili Sentences - And the Math to Prove It! 

  Congratulations! If you have completed all of the activities in Parts 1-3 of Swahili Swirl, you are only one simple step away from reaching our goal of being able to form over one million Swahili sentences. All you have to do now is learn the two words of Group D and follow a simple formula to create your sentences. Of course, it would take quite a long time to actually write over one million Swahili sentences; so, after you've made a bunch just for fun, we'll prove the one million figure using math.

      For now, all you have to do is memorize the two words in Group D.

Group D Words: 'And' and 'But'

1. na = and
2. lakini = but

      Actually, if you learned any Swahili numbers past 'ten' in Part 3, then you already know the first one. Na means 'and' in Swahili and lakini means 'but.'

  Easy enough! Now - using all four groups of Swahili words that you've learned, you're ready to form your sentences. So, first, let's just review the four groups of words you've learned so far. (Click here to see the Swahili pronunciation and spelling tips) They are:

Group A Words: 'Have' and 'Want'

nina = I have
ana = he/she has
tuna = we have
ninataka = I want
anataka = he/she wants

Group B Words: Swahili Borrow Words

redio = radio
karoti = carrot
skuli (also shule) = school
soda = soda                              daktari = doctor
televishioni = television                deski = desk
koti = coat                                  peya = pear
spinachi = spinach                      peni = penny
betri = battery                            waya = wire
blauzi = blouse                          komishna = commissioner
suweta = sweater                      garaji = garage
dola = dollar                              biya = beer
treni = train                                picha = picture
tai = tie                                    sigireti = cigarette
kalenda = calendar                    penseli = pencil
senti = cent                              futboli = football (soccer)
gilasi = glass                            soksi = sock
postkadi = postcard                    basi = bus
kontinenti = continent                  taula = towel
motoka = motorcar

Group C Words - Numbers 1-10

moja - one
mbili - two
tatu - three
nne - four
tano - five
sita - six
saba - seven
nane - eight
tisa - nine
kumi - ten

Group D Words: 'And' and 'But'

1. na = and
2. lakini = but

      That's it for the review. Now for the formula and the math.

Here's the formula to follow when making your Swahili sentences: A+B+C,+D+A+B+C.

      Here's what it means: The first word in your sentence may be any word from Group A, the second any word from Group B, etc. Here are some sample sentences - see if you can figure them out:

1. Nina karoti mbili, lakina ana karoti kumi.
2. Tunataka suweta tatu, lakini ana suweta moja.
3. Ana karoti moja, na ninataka karoti nane.

      Note that, in Swahili, numbers come after the nouns they modify. Also remember that the nouns that we are using (but not all Swahili nouns) have the same singular and plural forms: that is, they don't change when they become plural. So, the above sentences translate as follows.

1. I have two carrots, but he has ten carrots.
2. We want three sweaters, but she has (only) one.
3. She has one carrot and I want eight carrots.

      Can you figure out how to say the following sentences in Swahili?

1. I want one car and he has one train.
2. She has six desks, but I have one desk.
3. I have six cents and we have one dollar.

      Now, it's your turn. Make up a few sentences using the formula and the lists - and, for fun, challenge your classmates to decipher them.

        ....Have you reached one million yet? Don't worry, you don't have to write a million sentences to prove that you can. That's what math is for. To figure out the total possible number of sentence combinations you could form using the above formula (A+B+C,+D+A+B+C.) and lists, all you need to do is multiply the number of possible A words X the number of possible B words X the number of possible C words X the number of possible of possible D words X the number of possible A words again X the number of possible B words again X the number of possible C words again. Sounds complicated, but it's not really. There are 6 words in Group A, so there are six possibilities for the first word of the sentence - and for for the fifth word (also from Group A); there are 34 Group B words, so 34 possibilities for the second and for the sixth words; there are ten Group C words, so ten possibilities for the third and seventh words; and there are two Group D words, so two possibilities for the fourth word.

      So, the total number of word combinations (sentences) following the formula is 6 X 34 X 10 X 2 X 6 X 34 X 10. Let's see: 6 X 34 is 204 X 10 is 2040 X 2 is 4080 X 6 is 24,480 X 34 is 832,320 X 10 is 8,323,200 - which is FAR MORE THAN A MILLION! Hakuna matata! (No problem!)

      Now that you've reached the goal, here's just one more challenge for you: If, in addition to the lists above, you learned the word for 'zero' in Swahili, plus the numbers 11-29, plus the words for 'mother,' 'father,' 'brother' and 'sister,' (all of which were mentioned in previous parts of Swahili Swirl) how many total sentences could you make following our formula above?

      Have fun figuring it out - and kwaheri ya kuonana! (Bye for now!)

This is the end of Swahili Swirl. 

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