Swahili-English/English-Swahili Practical Dictionary: Spoken in Eastern and Southern Africa (Hippocrene Practical Dictionary) Paperback – 1 Nov 2000
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As it is written in the foreword, this practical dictionary proves to be "an aid in navigating the growing global vocabulary of politics, telecommunications, computers, the Internet, tourism, business and travel."
At the end of the book there are some useful pages on English irregular verbs (infinitive Swahili verbs are given in brackets), Swahili noun classes, useful phrases and vocabulary, cardinal numbers, ordinal numbers, weighs and measures, time, days of the week, months, star signs.
It's a similar size to the ubiquitous Oxford Handbooks, so it fits nicely into the pocket of a white coat.
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In general, the entries only provide extremely skeletal information. For example, nowhere in the entries for "hungry" or "hunger" does it tell you that the idiom for "to be hungry" is "kuwa na njaa" (to have hunger). The entry for "tungamo" tells you that it translates as "mass," but without giving any other information. "Mass" can mean a lot of things: mass communication, a cancerous mass, the mass of an object. If you then flip to the English-Swahili section and look up "mass," you won't find any clarification, because the only noun listed as a translation back into Swahili is "wingi," which means something different.
So if you're sitting at a desk with an internet connection, I don't think you're likely to find this dictionary the most useful resource -- but if you're traveling, it's far too bulky to carry around.
I'm a native English speaker, so I don't need the pronunciations given for the English word, but they look a little odd. They all seem to be given for a particular British dialect, so, e.g., "stair" is shown as two syllables, "ste"+schwa. I checked with a British English speaker who seemed to speak a pretty standard, educated London dialect, and she pronounced "stair" as one syllable. I'm sure the pronunciations given here are correct for some dialect in England -- maybe it's the "received pronunciation" dialect of British English that used to be considered the "Queen's English?" East African users of this dictionary should be aware that many of the pronunciations are nothing like what you would hear in Texas or Scotland, and not even necessarily the same as in London.
It's very big, which is good, but a lot of the words and phrases they offer are useless, and it contains a lot of baffling s*** like "scorched earth policy" and "nuclear waste" that aren't even translated very well. I'd say more than half of this book is just words that nobody would ever have any use for, but if you're heading off to East Africa to join a militia or fight in a revolution, 5 stars, this is the book you're looking for.
If you're really looking for the best Swahili dictionary in existence, and cost is no issue, Baba Malaika's Friendly Modern Swahili-English Dictionary is the best in existence. Unfortunately it was published by an African publisher nearly 20 years ago and is now out of print. It can be difficult to find.
My biggest criticism--and it is a big criticism, for the price of this dictionary--is that there is no indication of noun classes. This is one area of the language that I am struggling with and it would have been very helpful to include with each word, seeing as it is such a fundamental aspect of Kiswahili.
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