What is Swahili?
is an agglutinative Bantu language mainly spoken in East
and Central Africa.
Waswahili refers to the speakers of this coastal language, while
Kiswahili is the Language itself.
is the origin of the word Swahili?
is derived from Arabic word sawahil which means "coast" and
has been "Swahilinised" as Swahili. Kiswahili is
linguistically affiliated with the Sabaki subgroup of northeastern
coast Bantu languages. It is closest, however, to the Kenyan Bantu
languages such as Ilwana, Pokomo, Mijikenda, Digo, Giryama and Duruma,
which are spoken in the Kenyan coastal hinterland. Swahili is also
close to the Comorian Bantu languages, such as Ngazija,Nzuani, Mwali,
and Maore, spoken in the Comoro
How does Swahili
relate with the other languages of the world?
Swahili is a
cosmopolitan language, infusing many loan words from a variety of
languages. Arabic, Portuguese, English, German, Farsi (Persian) and
Indian words have all found their way into Swahili. This is due to
numerous interactions between the Waswahili and coastal visitors who
speak said languages. The lexical and cultural concepts of the visitors
have been infused into the Swahili language over a long period of time.
is Swahili spoken?
Swahili is the
mother tongue of the Waswahili people who inhabit 1500 km strip in the East African Coast.
It is the official and national language of both Kenya and Tanzania. Recently, Uganda
has put measures in place to promote its official use as has its
immediate neighbors. Swahili is one of the four national languages of
the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).
Other countries where Swahili is widely used include Rwanda, Burundi,
some parts of Somalia,
and the Comoro
Swahili is also used as a Lingua Franca for Eastern
Africa and the neighboring countries.
Today, Swahili has
touched each and every corner of the world. So much so that its
speakers are advised not to speak ill of other people anywhere
because you never know who is listening. In fact, many Swahili speakers
have been approached in Asia, Europe, and the Americas
by the people they least expected to know a word they were saying.
should one learn Swahili? What are the benefits of learning it?
Though people have
different reasons for learning Swahili, the most common interests in
the language have been: its usefulness for research and travel purposes
and Central Africa; meeting foreign language requirements in
foreign academic institutions; and retracing the roots for the East
African people living in Diaspora.
are the other benefits of learning Swahili besides the ability to
Swahili has been
called a window for accessing East African culture. Many who have
studied Swahili as a foreign language are continuously finding it
useful in voluntary work and in the job market, especially among the
many organizations that are getting involved in several projects in Africa. Many who go ahead to establish
organizations working in East and Central Africa, either driven by
social entrepreneurial goals or the traditional Aid Organizations, have
also attested to its usefulness in penetrating the region.
is Swahili taught?
developed into a very popular African language, taught in many leading
academic institutions in Africa, Europe, America
and Asia. It is offered as a subject
of study in prestigious universities like Harvard, Yale, Stanford,
Princeton, the University
and many others. It is estimated that close to a hundred institutions
teach Swahili in the U.S.
alone. Swahili has been taught in S.O.A.S. at the University of London
since the 1930s. It is also taught in Canada,
and many other countries.
should learn Swahili?
who may benefit from the many advantages already discussed should
seriously consider learning Swahili. However, Swahili should not just
be limited to these people. Any person with an ear for language and an
appetite for exotic cultures would enjoy the many joys of learning
culture is very interesting and Swahili speakers have always embraced
it with lots of passion and enthusiasm. Its speakers are welcoming,
hospitable and always out to market their language and culture. Swahili
culture has been one of the key pillars of East African tourism, along
with wildlife. Those who have ever visited Swahili-speaking cities like
Unguja, Dar-es-Salaam, Lamu, Malindi and Pate have had wonderful
experiences, living testimonies to their people back home.
learning Swahili enjoyable?
Swahili is one of the most fun experiences to be had at the University.
Swahili culture is so evident in the classroom that students who once
came in simply trying to fulfill a language requirement find themselves
wanting to visit Kenya
for themselves. The classroom is laidback and fun: students sing
Swahili songs and tell stories in Swahili. Of course, it is a very easy
language to use for a language requirement, but it is also much more.
more information about Swahili language, it's culture and speakers, additional links have been included to
supplement the learning materials in this website.