Kiswahili is the national and the official languages of Kenya. Swahili is considered as to be a first or second language and is widely spoken in the country. It is a Bantu language that grew as a result of to the interactions of the Arabs and the indigenous Bantu languages. It has 36 phoneme consonants and initially used the Arab script. The British colonialists introduced the use of Latin script which later dominated the Arab Script.

According to UNESCO, 78% of Kenyans are literate. Almost all literate people in Kenya have a good knowledge of Kiswahili and English. Another 15% of the remaining illiterate population has a good knowledge of the language and can sustain a conversation in Kiswahili. Therefore, over 90% of Kenyans are conversant with Kiswahili. It is mostly the older population, of individuals that are 80 years and above that have difficulties in expressing themselves in Kiswahili.

Kiswahili is almost similar to English in terms of pronunciation. It is therefore easy for an English speaker to learn Kiswahili. To enrich its vocabulary, Kiswahili has been borrowing heavily from Bantu languages and English. English words are modernized to fit into the spelling and pronunciation rules of Kiswahili. For example, television becomes televisheni and computer become kompyuta.

Apart from Kiswahili, English is also considered to be an official language of Kenya. It is mostly learned as a second or third language. It is used in schools and for other official use in the country. It is the second most spoken language, with over 60% of the total population. There are over 60 indigenous ethnic languages that are spoken mostly as first languages and as mother tongues. They are categorized into three, Bantu, Nilotic, and Cushitic languages. Examples include Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya, Kamba, and Meru among other languages. Most of these languages are mainly regional and commonly spoken in respective provinces.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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