Swahili

The language

Swahili, or Kiswahili, is a Bantu Language spoken in Tanzania, Burundi, Congo (Kinshasa) Kenya, Mayotte, Mozambique, Oman, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Uganda, UAE and the USA. Swahili is an official language of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, and the lingua franca of East Africa. It is is used as the working language of the African Union and it is one of the official languages of the East African Community. Most Swahili vocabulary is derived from Arabic though it has also incorporated some German, Portuguese, English, Hindi and French words into its vocabulary.

The dialects

As Swahili is spoken in many different countries, there are many varieties of the language. The standard form of the language is based on Kiunguja, which originated on the island of Zanzibar. Despite some lexical differences, Swahili speakers from different countries do not have trouble understanding each other.

The script

Swahili was originally written in an Arabic script which was then replaced by a Latin alphabet.

Translation

When translating from Swahili to English, the word count tends to decrease.

Swahili culture

The name ‘Swahili’ means ‘coastal dwellers’, as the Swahili are a coastal people who historically could be found as far north as Mogadishu in Somalia, and as far south as the Rovuma River in Mozambique. Despite being scattered across different countries, Swahili speakers are bound together by the religion of Islam. The most important holidays are therefore religious holidays, such as Eid-al-Fitr which marks the end of Ramadan, although national secular holidays are also celebrated. Like the language, Swahili cuisine has African, Middle Eastern and Indian influences. The staple food is rice cooked with coconut milk, which is then served with different stews. Chicken and goat meat are popular for celebrations. Swahilis enjoy drinking sweet tea several times a day.