Swahili: Facts To Keep You Abreast| by AZEEZ PRECIOUS DAMILOLA

swahili facts

Ever heard of the astounding beauty of the African culture and heritage? Okay, let’s take a short, fun trip down to the East African region, to explore the SWAHILI language. Get ready to have your mind blown with amazing facts that you probably never knew before now. *winks.

Swahili is a National Language In Many Countries

The Swahili language is a highly merited language that became a national language in countries like Tanzania, Kenya, Congo(Kinshasha) and Uganda. In Tanzania, it is the language of administration and primary education. In Kenya, it is, after English, the main language for the same purposes of administration and primary education. Going to Congo (Kinshasa), a form of Swahili is one of the four major languages, the main one being French. And in Uganda, it is again a national language where the main language is English.

Swahili is a Lavish Blend of Other Languages                                

Swahili is predominantly a mix of local Bantu languages and Arabic. Decades of intensive trade along the East African coast resulted in this mix of cultures. Besides Arabic and Bantu, it also has English, Persian, Portuguese, German and French influences, due to trade contact. Under Arab influence, it originated as a lingua franca used by several closely related Bantu-speaking tribal groups. In the early 19th century, the trade across the Swahili coast helped the spread of the language to countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Central African Republic, and Mozambique.

Millions Speak the Language

People whose mother tongue is Swahili are about 5 to 15 million worldwide and they are often referred to as Waswahili. However, there are estimatedly, 50 to 100 million speakers worldwide. The language, is also called kiSwahili, or Kiswahili, spoken either as a mother tongue or as a fluent second language on the east coast of Africa, in an area extending from Lamu Island. It is the most spoken indigenous language in Africa.

It has Roots in Arabic

Swahili has been greatly influenced by Arabic; there is an enormous number of Arabic loanwords in the language, including the word “Swahili”, from Arabic sawāḥilī (a plural adjectival form of an Arabic word meaning “of the coast”). The language dates to the contacts of Arabian traders with the inhabitants of the East Coast of Africa over many centuries. Around 35% of the Swahili vocabulary comes from Arabic but it has also quite literally adopted words from English, such as: polisi – police, televisheni – television, redio – radio, and baiskeli – bicycle. You could call that “Swahilized English”. Lol.

swahili facts

It’s Easy to Learn

Thinking about learning an African language? Give Swahili a try. It’s the easiest African language for English Language speakers to learn, as it’s one of the few Sub-Saharan African languages without lexical tone, similar to English.

It’s Easy to Read

Besides speaking, Swahili is also easier to read as the words are pronounced the same way they are written.

There are Lots of Swahili Dialects

Just like Yorùbá which has lots of versions, Swahili is an incredibly fluid language, and knows many different dialects, even within one country. Some dialects are hardly understandable even for other Swahili speakers.

There’s a Hybrid Dialect of Swahili and English too

In Nairobi they speak Sheng, a dialect completely different to the Swahili spoken on the coast. Sheng is a mix between Swahili and English (the ‘h’ was apparently included in the term because ‘Seng’ would sound strange) and originated as the language of the urban youth in Nairobi. It’s now quickly spreading to both Tanzania and Uganda.

swahili facts

It’s been around for centuries

The earliest known documents of the Swahili language are letters written in Arabic script, written in 1711 in the region of Kilwa, present-day Tanzania. They are now preserved in the Historical Archives of Goa, India. However, Relativists believe that the language has been around, long before then.

It Is Used in the Popular Movie, The Lion King

Remember the “Hakuna Matata” Phrase from Lion King; The Movie? It’s a Swahili phrase which means “No Worries”. Also, “Simba” is another Swahili word which means “Lion”.

Now that you have learnt these interesting facts about Swahili, how about adding it to your Language repertoire? What ya say?

Curated by Azeez Precious Damilola

Azeez Precious Damilola, also known as A_Precious is a Singer, Writer, Theatre Artiste and a Social Entrepreneur who has developed a passion for general creativity and aesthetics. Her works border around Faith, Love, Dissidence and the Tragedies of life. Her dedication and attention to details influences her art and for this, her literary works have been featured in prominent editorials like PUNCH.

Precious is a sticker for explorations and wherever she goes, her reputation for scampering excitement precedes her. When she is not creating, she would most definitely be found reading, interacting with friends or singing away like the deft nightingale that she is.

References were made from Culture Trip and Glcom. See more here.

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13 thoughts on “Swahili: Facts To Keep You Abreast| by AZEEZ PRECIOUS DAMILOLA

  1. I never knew this fact before I decided to learn Swahili. Now that I know, it triggers more enthusiasm towards learning to the end.

      1. Wow this is amazing… just got more enlightened about the swahili language. And this article has also helped create more interest in learning about the other African cultures and their origins.
        Thanks for this.

  2. This is a great work, it is Enlightening, Captivating, Intriguing, Elevating

    You’re making Africa great again by your words

    Keep digging the goodies, jewels, hidden riches of Africa out for us to see. We await more

    Personally, I wanna know more… Ninasikia njaa “I am hungry” to know more of my continent

    Africa – A continent of greatness, great people, great power, great energy, great passion and zeal

    Africa my pride, Africa my continent

    “Make Africa Great Again”

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