Swahili language

Swahili, also known by its native name Kiswahili, is a Bantu language and the native language of the Swahili people. It is one of two official languages (the other being English) of the East African Community (EAC) countries, namely Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. It is a lingua franca of other areas in the African Great Lakes region and East and Southern Africa, including some parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, and Zambia.[7][8][9] Swahili is also one of the working languages of the African Union and of the Southern African Development Community. The exact number of Swahili speakers, be they native or second-language speakers, is estimated to be between 50 million to 150 million.[10]

Ajami: كِيْسَوَاحِيْلِيْ
PronunciationSwahili: [kiswɑˈhili] (listen)
Native tomainly in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bajuni Islands (part of Somalia), Mozambique (mostly Mwani), Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya,[1] Comoros, Mayotte, Zambia, Malawi, and Madagascar
Native speakers
Estimates range from 2 million (2003)[2] to 18 million (2012)[3]
L2 speakers: 90 million (1991–2015)[3]
Early form
Official status
Official language in
4 countries
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated by
Language codes
ISO 639-1sw
ISO 639-2swa
ISO 639-3swa – inclusive code
Individual codes:
swc  Congo Swahili
swh  Coastal Swahili
ymk  Makwe
wmw  Mwani
  • G.42–43;
  • G.40.A–H (pidgins & creoles)
  Regions where Swahili is the main language
  Regions where Swahili is a second language
  Regions where Swahili is an official language but not a majority native language
  Regions where Swahili is a minority language
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Sixteen to twenty percent of Swahili vocabulary are Arabic loanwords, including the word swahili, from Arabic sawāḥilī (سَوَاحِلي, a plural adjectival form of an Arabic word meaning 'of the coast'). The Arabic loanwords date from the contacts of Arabian traders with the Bantu inhabitants of the east coast of Africa over many centuries, which was also when Swahili emerged as a lingua franca.[11]

In 2018, South Africa legalized the teaching of Swahili in schools as an optional subject to begin in 2020.[12] Botswana followed in 2020,[13] and Namibia plans to introduce the language as well.[14] Shikomor (or Comorian), an official language in Comoros and also spoken in Mayotte (Shimaore), is closely related to Swahili and is sometimes considered a dialect of Swahili, although other authorities consider it a distinct language.[15][16]