Language Primer: Xangana / Shangana / Changana


As visitors to Maputo will attest, it’s useful to know some Xangana/Shangana/Changana. A colourful language and one of Mozambique’s indigenous Bantu tongues, the dialect seems to encapsulate its mother city. The beat is rhythmic and the pulse smooth, held together by a thin veneer of chaos. Unlike Portuguese – the country’s accepted lingua franca – which writhes as though borne of smoke, Xangana is an altogether bouncier option that’s surprisingly easy to pick up.

Its usefulness stems not from any sense of necessity. Mozambique is, after all, a multilingual country, and its capital city is no different. A smidgen of English with a smattering of Portuguese should more than suffice for those passing through.

No, where Xangana excels is its barrier-breaking. Try deploying a few phrases hither and thither. Like countless other places, it opens most unexpected doors and fosters a keener understanding of one’s surroundings. It’s also a polite thing to do. The key to travel is making the effort, and at least attempting to pick up the vernacular is no exception.

‘Understand the language,’ no-one ever said, ‘to understand the heart.’ While we don’t necessarily agree with this invisible aphorism, we should like to expand on it. Simply put, Xangana is the key to unlocking the brightest of smiles in Mozambique’s southern citadel.

(Transparency Editor: At this point, we’d be remiss to class this list as ‘definitive’. It’s not. We gleaned it from an afternoon exploring Maputo and present it as is, inevitable mistakes included.)


I – Mina

You – Wena

He/she/it – Yena

We – Gina

You (pl.) – Wona

Yes – Ina

No – Hum-mh

Hello – Onjane

You! – Hawen! (greeting)

Good morning – Dzixile (‘di-chi-li’)

Good afternoon – Inlekani

Goodbye – Hambanini / Nofomba

Thank you – Kanimambu

How are you? – U bom?

I’m ok – Ni bom

I’m not ok – A ni bom

What’s your name? – Mane vitou dzaku/sago?

My name is (Tom) – Vitou dzanga hi (Tom)

Nice to meet you – Ne no shile

You not buy? – Hou chave?

I’m just looking – No la vise

I like your nose – Mina nakukuna saiy

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