will help with English to Shona translations

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

What is the Shona name for a ‘honey badger’? Or the Shona words for the number 10,000? Or how about the other way; how many Shona speaking people reading this know what a mhumhi is? I bet less than half! It’s even worse if, like me, Shona is not their first language.

If you’re one of those people that have no idea what the answers are, there’s a site that can help you know more Shona, and it’s called Set up by a guy called Martin Shumba, the site’s primary objective is to create a “good reference for the Shona language as spoken in Zimbabwe.”

We loved that the site is not in a dictionary format that forces you to enter words from your head to find their meanings. You can just browse through the site for common words, numbers, animals, proverbs etc… This is great for someone that just wants to learn even when they don’t have specific words to look up.

As for the reason he’s doing this, well, Shona, like many vernaculars around the world, is considered uncool by the younger generations, who prefer English, French, Portuguese and other such. His words:

Indoctrination by colonialists has led to the general mindset of the average Zimbabwean that it is uncivilized to speak in these dialects. It is for this reason that some Shona people are ashamed to speak in vernacular in public.

Written Shona is constantly evolving. Unfortunately the language is deteriorating because of the tendency to assimilate foreign languages. It is no longer a pure language as spoken by my grandparents. The corruption of the language is recent. Although this website is not a Shona tutorial, it is a good reference for Shona language as spoken in Zimbabwe.

According to the site, it has been running since 2004. We just wish someone would build a site to do the same thing for the Ndebele language, which is also widely spoken in Zimbabwe, especially in the Matebeleland province.


  1. MI5

    the website ( needs to be nicely designed, even tho it is useful and interesting!

  2. ngth

    I have used this site before to lookup shona words (I can only speak English) and it was great, however one of the biggest problems is the basic technology used on for example the English to Shona translation page. By loading lists with tens of thousands of words it can be very slow and cumbersome to use.

    I would recommend the designer make use of Ajax, auto complete etc to make the experience much more efficient.

  3. Farai ‘Dabu’ Marimbi

    You do know that the word Shona itself was given by the English to describe the language used by the Karangas, Zezuru, Manica etc

    1. tinma@n

      Actually, from the history we learnt, it was said to be derived from “abentshonalanga” or “those who hail from the East”, which was a name to describe the people who were from the (North) East relative to kwaBulawayo, the Ndebele capital

      1. Sethu Nsele

        @tinma, I don’t speak Shona but I would like to comment on the meaning of ‘abentshonalanga’. In Zulu, that would mean those from the ‘west’ instead of east. Ntshonalanga translate to where the sun sets which is west.

    2. Hlompho

      I love shona language and i need someone who can teach me this language on whatsapp if it is possible.he/she can contact me on ths numbers…0631235213.

  4. Tapiwa ✔

    I ran into and it has machine translation for to/from English Shona. It’s far from perfect (being machine translated) – according to it, “Honey Badger” is “Huchi Tsere”

    Off-topic: I ran into that site after Garikai used his bully pulpit to bad-mouth a volunteer on the Ubuntu Shona translation team. I wonder what he has accomplished so far & how he’d like to be on the receiving end of that kind of tongue-lashing…

  5. Time

    “Shona, like many vernaculars around the world, is considered uncool by the younger generations…”

    No. The problem is some of us grew up in upper middle class families where speaking English and Shona was a norm. Unfortunately developing that deep Shona accent could not happen so now everytime we the young generation try and speak Shona it is met with giggles and snares like “hona mu salala uyo”. So we now stick with English as we can laugh at your shona entagnled english which certainly feels better than you laughing at our english entagled shona 🙂


    i would like to learn more shona

  7. Godfrey

    Urgently English to Shona translation required 200 pages book

  8. jacob

    i am a south african who loves to learn shona

  9. Gareth Jones

    What is the shona word for the honey badger

  10. elison parebwa

    what is chigunguru shrub in english