By Valtteri Nurminen, COCO Volunteer
This is the seventh and second-last blog of our series introducing East African languages. Next week your language skills will be tested as there will be a quiz! Therefore, I encourage all of you to go back to the previous blogs and rehearse Luhya, Luo, Maa, Luganda, Ngoni and Kalenjin.
This week’s language, Kiswahili or Swahili is the largest African indigenous language. While Swahili is a Bantu language, it is not entirely African as Swahili was developed by Arabic traders and it includes many loan words from English.
Swahili is very widespread as it is the official language of Tanzania and Kenya and also widely spoken in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros Islands, Burundi, Rwanda, Zambia, Somalia, Malawi and Mozambique.
In total, there are more than 100 million speakers of Swahili. Furthermore, Swahili is the only African language that is recognised as the official language of the African Union. Swahili is also an important language in trading and politics.
Swahili is actually a language that together with English threatens the existence of various East African local languages – for example, in Tanzania. However, at the same time, Kiswahili is also slowly dying itself because of the growing role of English. This demonstrates the complex interplay between the local languages, Swahili and the colonial languages of English and French.
It is important to acknowledge the importance of Swahili in bringing the various diverse East African cultures together and enabling mutual communication. In the future, Kiswahili has the opportunity to integrate the nations of East Africa more closely as Swahili can help to create a common East African identity and vision.
Swahili is an easy and useful language to learn – arguably, the easiest African language for an English speaker to learn. What’s best is that Swahili is pronounced exactly as it is written. Also, grammar rules are not very complex. The fact that Swahili is spoken in so many countries means that it is a very useful language to learn.
And as it’s so easy to learn... I’m sure you can learn the following words and sayings very quickly!
Hello – Halo
What is your name? – Jina lako nani?
I am/my name is… – Jina langu ni…
How are you? – Habari yako?
Great – Vinzuri
Thanks – Asante
Thank you very much – Asante sana
Yes – Ndiyo
No – Hapana
School – Shule
Football – Mpira
Father – Baba
Mother – Mama
See you – Tutaonana
Goodbye – Kwaheri
No trouble/no worries – Hakuna matata
Big thanks for Epaphras