Baba yetu uliye mbinguni,
jina lako litukuzwe.
Ufalme wako ufike.
Utakalo lifanyike duniani mbinguni.
Utupe leo mkate wetu wa kila siku.
Utusamehe makosa yetu,
kama tunavyowasamehe na sisi waliotukosea.
Usitutie katika kishawishi,
lakini utuopoe maovuni.
Swahili (900- ), also called Kiswahili, is a common second language in East Africa. Only 5 million speak it as their first language, but probably over 100 million speak it as a second language, in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and eastern D.R. Congo.
The top languages of Africa as a first or second language:
- Arabic: 170 million speakers
- English: 130m
- French: 115m
- Swahili: 100m, with estimates ranging from 55m to 140m.
- Berber: 50m
- Hausa: 50m
Worldwide, Swahili is #12. By 2100, it will probably be #4.
East Africa is divided into hundreds of languages. The governments of Kenya and Tanzania, like the British before them, push Swahili as a common language of instruction and lower-level government. Because it is a Bantu language like most languages in the region, it is way easier for most East Africans to learn than English. English is still used at universities and, in Kenya, in the media and at at the top levels of government.
History: Bantu languages, starting somewhere near Nigeria 2,000 years ago, spread east and south across much of Africa. They reached the east coast by 500. The Bantu language of those who traded with Arabs along the coast became Swahili. The name comes from the Arabic word for coast: sahel. While the grammar and most everyday words in Swahili are Bantu, a third of all words come from Arabic. Like Latin words in English, the Arabic words are often the high-sounding ones.
From 1000 to 1500 Swahili-speaking Muslim city-states sprang up, like Mombasa, Mogadishu and Kilwa. After 1500, the Portuguese and later other Europeans took over the sea trade: East Africa became a poor backwaters. After 1800, Swahili began to spread inland.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s European empires and their missionaries pushed Swahili as a common language. They wrote it with Roman letters instead of Arabic ones. Words for Western things were taken mainly from English, like mashine (machine), keki (cake) and penseli (pencil).
Swahili also has words from other languages, like German (shule, school), Persian (chai, tea) and Portuguese (pesa, money).
Standard Swahili, the kind taught at school, is based on the Swahili of Zanzibar.
A dialect hated by schoolteachers, one that uses more English words than most, is Sheng. The “eng” in Sheng is for English. It started in the slums of Nairobi and is used by rappers, the young and the fashionable.
If you watched the Disney film “The Lion King” (1994) you already know some Swahili words:
- hakuna matata – no problem
- simba – lion
- rafiki – friend
- nala – gift
- pumbaa – careless
- shenzi – barbarous
Some names from Swahili (some come from Arabic):
- Aaliyah – the very highest
- Aisha – hope
- Akila – wise
- Baraka – blessing
- Imani – faith
- Jahleel – noble
- Jamela – beautiful
- Latifah – kind
- Nbushe – godly one
- Nia – will
- Rashida – rightly guided
- Sanaa – art
- Taraji – expectations
- Uhura – freedom
– Abagond, 2010.
- Swahili links: BBC, Wikipedia, other.
- Roman alphabet
- British Empire
- Portuguese Empire
- Africa: the last 13,000 years
- Bantu Expansion
- Swahili civilization: 700 to 1500
- Top languages