Here Are The Countries Where Swahili Is Spoken

  • Yodet Addisalem
    Written byYodet Addisalem
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Here Are The Countries Where Swahili Is Spoken

Swahili is Africa’s most spoken language with over 200 million speakers.

Swahili’s a national language of Tanzania and Kenya and is also spoken in countries like Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique.

You can also find Swahili in Comoros, Djibouti, Rwanda, Somalia and Zambia.

Swahili’s also the official language in over a dozen countries, and one of the official languages of the African Union.

It’s predominantly spoken in East Africa and is a Bantu language that’s closely related to other Bantu languages spoken in the region.

The language originated on the coast of East Africa and its original speakers came from Bantu tribes in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Around the 10th century, they began to settle along the East African coast.

By the 13th century, they had established several powerful city-states, including Kilwa, Mogadishu, and Mombasa.

Swahili was originally written in Arabic script (it’s still heavily influenced by Arabic) but later developed its own unique alphabet.

The language spread rapidly throughout the region, and by the 16th century, it was the primary language of trade and commerce in East Africa.


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The main countries where Swahili is spoken

There are proficient and functional speakers of Swahili all over Africa and in the African diaspora around the world, but below you’ll find the main countries where Swahili can be heard.

1. Tanzania

Tanzania

Kiswahili, also known as Swahili, is the national language of Tanzania.

It is estimated that about 80% of the population is fluent in Kiswahili. In Tanzania, around 95% of the population speaks Swahili as a first or second language.

Tanzania has over 30 million speakers of Swahili as the national language.

There are different dialects of Swahili spoken in different parts of Tanzania, but the official language is based on the dialect spoken in the coastal city of Dar es Salaam.

Swahili is a vital part of Tanzania’s culture and plays a significant role in its economy.

2. Kenya

Kenya

Swahili is one of the two official languages of Kenya (the other being English), as well as one of the four national languages according to the constitution.

It is estimated that around 85% of the Kenyan population speaks Swahili as a first or second language. In Kenya, it’s used as a national language for communication between different ethnic groups, as well as in the education system and in the media.

The Kenyan government has been promoting Swahili as a national language in recent years, in an effort to increase its use and stature both within Kenya and internationally.

There have been campaigns to encourage people to use Swahili in daily life and to make it mandatory in schools. Statistics show that Swahili is indeed becoming increasingly popular in Kenya.

A study showed that the number of people using Swahili on a daily basis had increased from 50% to 60% over the previous decade.

The same study also found that around 80% of Kenyans feel that it’s important for the country to have a national language.

3. Uganda

Uganda

It is estimated that there are over 24 million Swahili speakers in Uganda, making it one of the most widely spoken languages in the country.

The vast majority of Swahili speakers in Uganda live in the capital city of Kampala, where the language is used in many different contexts, including in the media, government, education, and business.

Swahili is also one of the official languages of Uganda, along with English and French.

It is taught in schools and used in some government communications. In recent years, there has been a growing movement to promote the use of Swahili in Uganda, as a way to help foster national unity and dialogue between different linguistic communities.

In Uganda, Swahili was considered a military language. The majority of Swahili speakers in Uganda live in the eastern part of the country.

During the colonial period, Swahili was used as a lingua franca between the British and the Ugandan people. After independence, it continued to be used as a military language between the Ugandan army and the rebels.

In the early 1990s, the Ugandan government tried to promote Swahili as a national language, but this effort was unsuccessful.

4. The Democratic Republic of Congo

Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is situated in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa and is bordered by nine other countries, including Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi.

The country has a population of approximately 80 million people, and the official language is French.

However, there are over 200 different languages spoken in the DRC, with Swahili being one of the most widely used.

It is estimated that around 10 million people in the DRC use Swahili as their first language, making it the second most spoken language in the country after French.

In the DRC, Swahili is mostly spoken in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, as well as in the capital, Kinshasa.

The use of Swahili in the DRC has been boosted by a number of initiatives in recent years, including the introduction of Swahili-language classes in schools and the establishment of a weekly Swahili-language radio show.

These initiatives have helped to raise the profile of Swahili in the country and have increased the number of people using the language.

5. Mozambique

Mozambique

In Mozambique, the Swahili language is used as a second language by about 10% of the population.

Where is Swahili spoken?

It is mostly spoken in the northern and central parts of the country. It is also used as a first language by a small minority of people in Mozambique, mostly in the same regions.

Swahili first began to be used in Mozambique in the late 19th century, when the country was under Portuguese rule.

It became more widespread during the period of Mozambican independence when it was promoted as a national language.

However, its use has declined since the end of the civil war in 1992, when Portuguese once again became the dominant language in the country. Swahili is Mozambique’s lingua franca and is used in the media, in education, and in government.

The majority of Mozambicans who speak Swahili as a second language use it for business and trade.

6. Rwanda

Rwanda

The Swahili language is the most common language spoken in Rwanda.

It is estimated that about four million people in Rwanda speak Swahili as a first or second language.

Swahili is a member of the Bantu family of languages. It is closely related to spoken languages like Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, and Gheg. Swahili first became popular in Rwanda during the colonial period. It was the language of commerce and administration in the country.

After Rwanda gained independence in 1962, Swahili continued to be used as a lingua franca between different ethnic groups in the country.

In recent years, the Rwandan government has been promoting the use of Swahili in schools and in the media.

The government hopes that Swahili will help to promote national unity and integration.

Conclusion

The vast majority of Swahili speakers live in eastern Africa. Smaller numbers of Swahili speakers can be found in other places Burundi, Malawi, Somalia, and Zambia.

Swahili’s an important language in Africa and globally, as it’s one of the most widely spoken African languages.

The Swahili language has made life much easier for many people in Africa as it’s an easy language to learn, and its simple grammar rules make it very straightforward to use. Swahili is also a very flexible language and can be used in a variety of different situations.

For these reasons, Swahili has become the lingua franca of many parts of Africa.

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Greek
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