Uganda has 2 official languages: Swahili and English. Swahili belongs to the Niger-Congo language family and is considered a subclassification of the Bantu subgroup. This language can be written in one of two alphabet systems: the Latin alphabet, which is used by the English language, or the Arabic alphabet, which is a cursive style that is written from right to left. English belongs to the Indo-European language family and is a subclassification of the West Germanic subgroup. It is written with the Latin alphabet. English was introduced to Uganda during colonial times and has remained an important tool for communication since then.

The entire population of Uganda is estimated at around 34.85 million. Of these individuals, 34.114 million people can communicate in Swahili, which represents the vast majority of the population. Most of these speakers, however, speak Swahili as a second language. Only 313,000 people claim it as their native tongue. English speakers in Uganda are fewer. Around 2.5 individuals report being able to communicate in English as a second language. English tends to be used by the government, while Swahili is often considered the language of business. Both languages are largely rejected by the Buganda region, a kingdom within the borders of Uganda.

Getting to know the local languages in Uganda is an excellent way for tourists to better communicate with the people of the country. Learning some phrases in Swahili is highly recommended, particularly for greetings and polite exchanges. Another interesting language in Uganda is Uglish, a Ugandan English dialect. It has been influenced by many of the indigenous languages in this country and uses many English words in a unique manner. Some examples of this include: “godown” (refers to a basement), “hotel” (may mean a restaurant in small towns), “pop” (can mean to come over or to bring), “Irish” (refers to white potatoes), “potatoes” (refers to sweet potatoes), and “John demands Sarah” (means that Sarah owes John money).

A wide variety of indigenous and immigrant languages can be heard throughout Uganda. One of the most widely spoken minority languages in this country is Ganda, also known as Luganda. This language is the native tongue of around 5.56 million individuals and the second language of an additional one million people. It is sometimes considered the national language and was once a candidate to become one of the official languages of Uganda. It belongs to the Bantu subgroup of the Niger-Congo language family and is the primary language in the Buganda Kingdom, where it is spoken by the Baganda indigenous people.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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