Learning Kikuyu: what resources?

Besides Swahili which – by virtue of being the lingua franca of East Africa – has been covered extensively, Kikuyu is one of the better documented languages in the region. Kikuyu is spoken primarily in central Kenya where it originated but has also become widespread in the Kenyan business sphere.

 

  • Books

Books for learners of Kikuyu are not easy to come by (in Kenya) and are of wildly varying quality. Many of the books available were written decades ago and might not reflect the language as it is currently spoken. Even then, these books are often out of print or subject to the whims of the publishing industry.

At the Africana section of University of Nairobi, this type of books is guarded by an attendant who  zealously notes down the student’s personal information and requested items before letting them in. The books cannot be borrowed but must instead be consulted within the library! Getting my hands on an old missionary manual for Kikuyu beginners took an almost comical turn.

For now, I am the proud owner of an English-Kikuyu dictionary (Oxford University Press) that even my Kikuyu tutor envies me. Another book that I was lucky enough to be allowed to borrow from a generous friend is ‘A short Kikuyu grammar’ by Dr. B. Mareka Gecaga (Mc Millan Kenya Publishers). With encouraging remarks here and there and clear explanations, it is the least boring grammar I’ve ever read! I have found it to be the most useful resource in learning Kikuyu, to the extent that the book has become my main reference.

 

  • Internet

Turning to the Internet for support, one idea is to get in touch with Twitter users (commonly known as tweeps) who tweet in Kikuyu and might be of help in boosting your learning, 140 characters at a time. Indigenous Tweets is a good place to start your search even though the highest rate of Kikuyu tweets currently stands at only 1.8%.

Wikipedia has a tiny Kikuyu interface, providing some reading material.

So far, I haven’t come across any active blogs in Kikuyu. For those interested in Kikuyu culture though, the blog Gikuyu Architecture has some captivating posts.

***

I am always happy to expand my horizons so if you have something to contribute (book reference, links, ideas etc), please share!

11 thoughts on “Learning Kikuyu: what resources?

  1. Hey there,
    Though the blog post seems a little bit old, I thought that it might never be too late to comment. Other resources you might be interested in are books by Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Some of his early works have been translated into Kikuyu (such as the Njamba Nene series). Alternatively, there used to be books called “Wirute guthoma” (Teach yourself reading) for classes 1 upto 3. (If you can find some old copies of those books, there are nice). Or you can get yourself the book “A thousand Kikuyu proverbs”.
    Am interested in ethnic languages in Kenya, not only the Kikuyu language itself. And I found this post to be useful. Was wondering if you can do a similar post for other languages (dholuo, Giriama, Kamba, Kisii, Kalenjin, Meru etc)??
    Thanks for the informative post!

    • Thanks Kevin! It’s never too late to comment, I do appreciate the interest. I have the school reader Gigikuyu Giitu at home as well as The Language Center handbook (it’s a language school located on Ngong Road) that teaches several Kenyan languages.
      I did purchase Ngugi’s ‘Murogi wa Kagogo’ recently but it was a bit hard for me, I had to use the translation as help.

      About further posts on other languages spoken in Kenya: I am not sure that I will be writing about that because I am not learning Dholuo, Giriama, Kamba, Kisii, Kalenjin or Meru right now (I may write about learning Yoruba though!). If you want to contribute a post, I’d be delighted 🙂

      • Welcome. Glad to hear that you are in a Language Center where they actually do have real books! 🙂 It’s hard nowadays to come across any Kikuyu books or other ethnic languages for that matter. I have gone to various campuses and high school libraries and even gone to Text Book Center, Westlands, Nairobi to no avail. So as you might imagine it comes as a nice surprise to hear that you do have several Kikuyu books.

        As for the book, ‘Murogi wa Kagogo’ (Wizard of The Crow), it is a hard read even for an average Kikuyu speaker.
        If you possess just a basic level Kikuyu understanding, I’d say those might not be the books for you. Go for lower level primary school books (I have a copy of one such book). I can lend you if you are interested.

        As for the guest post, I’d be more than glad to do one post. After my school semester is over (end of June). And hey, do you have a copy of “Facing Mount Kenya – Jomo Kenyatta”? It’s an English version of Kikuyu customs and traditions. You ought to own one. 🙂 🙂

      • Welcome once again. Glad you use them. And by the way, I am currently trying to learn the French language. I know the basics only “Merci, bien, oui,” etc but I am willing to do anything to take it to the next level. Could you be of any help? I mean, books, links, videos or anything that can help me learn without actually having to attend a real classroom. (I have enough of those right now :)). Merci.

  2. Yeah, other Kikuyu speakers told me the same thing about Ngugi’s book so I guess I’ll keep it on hold for now. Actually, I’ve spent the past 2 years studying in Paris and my school’s library has a surprising number of books in Kenyan languages (both for learners and more competent readers); you can check the catalog here: http://catalogue.bulac.fr/en
    I do have a copy of “Facing Mount Kenya”. It was a gift from a friend when I moved to Kenya 😉
    As for learning French + guest post, let me email you because it’s going to be off topic.

  3. i am trying to learn kuyku and swahili, but find books, cds are like looking the hen’s tooth, can someone help, i would proper the books in phonetics, finding a teaching in london, is like looking for the FBI, HELP!!

    • For kiswahili books in can help.For kikuyu, I don’t have books but I know how to speak fluently.If u need my help I’ll be glad to help

  4. Kikuyu is my native language and i am so impressed to note your interest in it. Gikuyu nikio rurimi ruakwa karing’a na nindaigua ndimuthereriku muno ni kumenya niaraguchirio nikio.

  5. Hi Barbie, if you are in the beginning stages for either Swahili or Gikuyu; the best for Swahili I have used this for is through Pimsleur. They have a audio CD series which I found very easy to understand and comprehend and it was available at my local library. As for Gikuyu, you can try online at the Hub Pages, search for the author Emmanuel Kariuki; he has lots of information on the language. You can also try and audio series calledTeach Yourself Kikuyu by William Mwangi. I was able to download this to my phone and can listen at will. Good luck to you and anyone else who is interested in the languages.

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