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Eastafrica language

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© Lonely Planet Publications
649

Language
Burundi

CONTENTS
Who Speaks What Where?
Swahili
Pronunciation
Accommodation
Conversation & Essentials
Directions
Emergencies
Health
Language Difficulties
Numbers
Paperwork
Question Words
Shopping & Services
Time & Dates
Transport
Travel with Children

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654

WHO SPEAKS WHAT WHERE?

Kenya
English and Swahili are the official languages and are taught in schools throughout Kenya, but Hindi and Urdu are still
spoken by south Asian residents.
Most urban Kenyans and even tribal people involved in the tourist industry speak
English, and many speak some German or
Italian, especially around the coast.
There are many other major tribal languages, including Kikuyu, Luo, Kikamba,
Maasai and Samburu, as well as a plethora
of minor tribal languages. You may also
come across Sheng, a mixture of Swahili
and English along with a fair sprinkling of
other languages – Sheng is favoured by
younger Kenyans.

Rwanda
The national language is Kinyarwanda. The
official languages are Kinyarwanda, French
and English. Kinyarwanda is the medium of
school instruction at primary level, and
French is used at secondary level (only 10%
of the population reach secondary level).
Little English is spoken beyond Kigali, but
Swahili can be useful in some areas.

Tanzania
Swahili and English are the official languages. English is widely spoken in major
towns, but in rural areas it helps to know at
least a few Swahili phrases. Outside cities
and towns, far fewer people speak English
than in comparable areas of Kenya.
The predominant Swahili dialect on the
Tanzanian mainland is Kiunguja (the Swahili of Zanzibar Island), from which ‘standard’ Swahili has developed. Over 100 other
African languages are spoken, including
Sukuma, Makonde, Haya, Ha, Gogo and
Yao, all of which belong to the Bantu group,
and Maasai, which belongs to the Nilotic
ethno-linguistic group.

LANGUAGE

In polyglot East Africa you’ll find people
speaking languages belonging to all four
major African ethno-linguistic families.
The largest of these is the Niger-Congo
family, which encompasses Swahili and
other Bantu languages. Others are the NiloSaharan family (which includes Nilotic and
Nilo-Hamitic languages such as Maasai),
and the Afro-Asiatic (or Hamito-Semitic)
family, whose Cushitic branch includes
Iraqw and Somali. The smallest family is
Khoisan, which consists of only a few dozen
languages, characterised by their distincti...
649
CONTENTS
LANGUAGE
Language
Burundi
The official languages are Kirundi and
French, although Swahili is also useful.
Hardly anyone speaks English, except in
Bujumbura.
Kenya
English and Swahili are the official lan-
guages and are taught in schools through-
out Kenya, but Hindi and Urdu are still
spoken by south Asian residents.
Most urban Kenyans and even tribal peo-
ple involved in the tourist industry speak
English, and many speak some German or
Italian, especially around the coast.
There are many other major tribal lan-
guages, including Kikuyu, Luo, Kikamba,
Maasai and Samburu, as well as a plethora
of minor tribal languages. You may also
come across Sheng, a mixture of Swahili
and English along with a fair sprinkling of
other languages – Sheng is favoured by
younger Kenyans.
Rwanda
The national language is Kinyarwanda. The
official languages are Kinyarwanda, French
and English. Kinyarwanda is the medium of
school instruction at primary level, and
French is used at secondary level (only 10%
of the population reach secondary level).
Little English is spoken beyond Kigali, but
Swahili can be useful in some areas.
Tanzania
Swahili and English are the official lan-
guages. English is widely spoken in major
towns, but in rural areas it helps to know at
least a few Swahili phrases. Outside cities
and towns, far fewer people speak English
than in comparable areas of Kenya.
The predominant Swahili dialect on the
Tanzanian mainland is Kiunguja (the Swa-
hili of Zanzibar Island), from which ‘stand-
ard’ Swahili has developed. Over 100 other
African languages are spoken, including
Sukuma, Makonde, Haya, Ha, Gogo and
Yao, all of which belong to the Bantu group,
and Maasai, which belongs to the Nilotic
ethno-linguistic group.
WHO SPEAKS WHAT WHERE?
In polyglot East Africa you’ll find people
speaking languages belonging to all four
major African ethno-linguistic families.
The largest of these is the Niger-Congo
family, which encompasses Swahili and
other Bantu languages. Others are the Nilo-
Saharan family (which includes Nilotic and
Nilo-Hamitic languages such as Maasai),
and the Afro-Asiatic (or Hamito-Semitic)
family, whose Cushitic branch includes
Iraqw and Somali. The smallest family is
Khoisan, which consists of only a few dozen
languages, characterised by their distinctive
‘clicks’ (where clicking sounds are made by
the tongue). The main click languages
found in East Africa are Sandawe and, more
distantly, Hadza (Hadzabe), both spoken by
small, somewhat scattered populations in
north-central Tanzania who still follow trad-
itional hunter-gatherer lifestyles.
Throughout the region, attempting to
speak even just a few words of Swahili – or
whatever the local African language is – will
enrich your travels and be greatly appreci-
ated by the people you meet, no matter how
rudimentary your attempts. Good luck and
Safari njema! (happy travels).
Who Speaks What Where? 649
Swahili 650
Pronunciation 650
Accommodation 650
Conversation & Essentials 651
Directions 651
Emergencies 652
Health 652
Language Difficulties 652
Numbers 652
Paperwork 652
Question Words 652
Shopping & Services 653
Time & Dates 653
Transport 653
Travel with Children 654
© Lonely Planet Publications
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