Today you are going to learn the most important ‘must know’ phrase of the language. If you appreciate magic, and wish to see instant, bewildering results from a Swahili conjuror’s command, all you need to do is point your finger and utter these words:
(pronounced: tanganesa hee)
Miraculously the person addressed will divine what you’re getting at and – Shazam! – it’s done. That’s because, literally translated,
‘tengeneza hii‘ means:
‘Make this right!’
Try it on your room steward, for instance, on your first day in East Africa. If, at nightfall, you point in the direction of the drapes and declaim the phrase ‘tengeneza hii’ he will close them forthwith. Repeat it next morning and he’ll immediately let in the brilliant early African sunlight. It’s sheer magic!
It’s also the same command if you want a cedar log fire lit against the chill of a Mount Kenya evening. Or perhaps, more urgently, if you need a refill at the bar. Just point at your empty glass and say ‘tengeneza hii!’