Swahili language

Bantu language spoken mainly in East Africa / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Swahili, also known by its local name Kiswahili, is a Bantu language originally spoken by the Swahili people, who are found primarily in Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique (along the East African coast and adjacent littoral islands).[6] The number of current Swahili speakers, be they native or second-language speakers, is estimated to be over 200 million,[7] with Tanzania known to have most of the native speakers.

Quick facts: Swahili, Pronunciation, Native to, Ethni...
PronunciationSwahili: [kiswɑˈhili]
Native toTanzania, Kenya, Comoros, Mayotte, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Bajuni Islands (part of Somalia), southern Somalia (see Bravanese dialect),[1] Zambia, Malawi, Madagascar and Oman
SpeakersL1: 18 million (2012–2019)[2]
L2: 55 million (2015–2019)[2]
Early form
Official status
Official language in
4 countries
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated by
Language codes
ISO 639-1sw
ISO 639-2swa
ISO 639-3swa – inclusive code
Individual codes:
swc  Congo Swahili
swh  Coastal Swahili
ymk  Makwe (?)
wmw  Mwani (?)
  • G.42–43;
  • G.40.A–H (pidgins & creoles)
Geographic-administrative extent of Swahili. Dark: native range (the Swahili coast). Medium green: Spoken by a majority alongside indigenous languages. Light green: Spoken by a minority.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
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Swahili has a significant number of loanwords from other languages, mainly Arabic, as well as from Portuguese, English and German. Around fifteen percent of Swahili vocabulary consists of Arabic loanwords,[8] including the name of the language (سَوَاحِلي sawāḥilī, a plural adjectival form of an Arabic word meaning 'of the coasts'). The loanwords date from the era of contact between Arab traders and the Bantu inhabitants of the east coast of Africa, which was also the time period when Swahili emerged as a lingua franca in the region.[9]

Due to concerted efforts by the government of Tanzania, Swahili is one of three official languages (the others being English and French) of the East African Community (EAC) countries, namely Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. It is the lingua franca of other areas in the African Great Lakes region and East and Southern Africa, including some parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the southern tip of Somalia.[10][11][12] Swahili is also one of the working languages of the African Union and of the Southern African Development Community. The East African Community created an institution called the East African Kiswahili Commission (EAKC) which began operations in 2015. The institution currently serves as the leading body for promoting the language in the East African region, as well as for coordinating its development and usage for regional integration and sustainable development.[13] In recent years South Africa,[14] Botswana,[15] Namibia,[16] Ethiopia,[17] and South Sudan[18] have begun offering Swahili as a subject in schools or have developed plans to do so.

Shikomor (or Comorian), an official language in Comoros and also spoken in Mayotte (Shimaore), is closely related to Swahili and is sometimes considered a dialect of Swahili, although other authorities consider it a distinct language.[19][20] In 2022, based on Swahili's growth as a prominent international language, the United Nations declared Swahili Language Day as 7 July to commemorate the date that Julius Nyerere adopted Swahili as a unifying language for African independence struggles.[21]

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