Swahili is mainly spoken in East Africa by approximately 50 million people in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. In Tanzania and Kenya it is the official national language. However, for most people who speak Swahili it is not their native language. That's it for just 5 million of the said 50 million speakers.

Swahili, called Kiswahili by the Tanzanians (the preposition "ki" indicates that it concerns a language), is still used in primary education, among other things. English is also widely used, including in secondary and higher education, in parliament and on official occasions.

Swahili is a mixed language of original bantu languages, strongly influenced by Arabic, Portuguese and Hindi. Swahili used to be a lingua franca or common trade language. The word Swahili comes from the Arabic "sawa hili", which means "from the coast".

Swahili has fifteen dialects of which Kiunguja is the most common. Other dialects include Kimvita, Kiamu, Kipemba, Kimtang'ata, Kimrima, Kiamu, Kipate, Kisiu, Kitikuu, Kivumba, Kingwana and Kingozi, a literary dialect used in classical Swahili poetry.

Special about Swahili is that every letter is pronounced, regardless of whether it is part of a group of consonants. If a letter is written twice, it is also spoken twice. In Swahili, the emphasis is almost always on the second to last syllable.

Furthermore, all tribes have their own language.

Some Swahili Words and Phrases

hello - hujambo

good morning - habari ya asubuhi

good night - lala salama

yes - ndiyo

no - hapana

doctor - daktari

bicycle - baiskeli

ketchup - tomato sos

sugar - sukari

coffee - kahawa

milk - maziwa

Monday - Jumatatu

Sunday - jumapili

a - moja

two - mbili

three - tatu

ten - kumi

one hundred - mia

thousand - elfu

yesterday - jana

tomorrow - kesho

what time is it? - saa ngapi?

the day after tomorrow - kesho kutwa

do you speak English? - unasema Kiingereza


Heale, J. / Tanzania
Marshall Cavendish


Vlugt, B. / Kenia, Tanzania, Zanzibar

Waard, P. de / Reishandboek Tanzania

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated August 2020
Copyright: Team Landenweb