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. 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.
|Pronunciation||Swahili: [kiswɑˈhili] (listen)|
|Native to||mainly in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bajuni Islands (part of Somalia), Mozambique (mostly Mwani), Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Comoros, Mayotte, Zambia, Malawi, and Madagascar|
|Estimates range from 2 million (2003) to 18 million (2012)|
L2 speakers: 90 million (1991–2015)
Official language in
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
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.
In 2018, South Africa legalized the teaching of Swahili in schools as an optional subject to begin in 2020. Botswana followed in 2020, and Namibia plans to introduce the language as well. 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.