Although Zambia is considered a multilingual country, its government only recognizes one language as official: English. English belongs to the West Germanic subgroup of the Indo-European language and is written in the Latin alphabet. This language was introduced to the area during the period of British colonization. Since then, it has remained the working language of the government of Zambia, as well as the mass media and public school institutions. Additionally, English is used as the language of business and trade in this country.

The entire population of Zambia is estimated at over 16.59 million individuals. Of these people, only 1.91 million can speak or understand the English language. Only around 110,000 of these 1.91 million individuals claim that English is their mother tongue. Of all the language spoken in Zambia (approximately 72 in total), Bemba is the most widely spoken. It has around 3.81 million speakers, which is over 33.5% of the national population. Most Bemba speakers can be found in the northeastern regions of the country. Bemba is followed by Chichewa, also known as Chewa or Nyanja. Around 2.18 million individuals speak this language, primarily in the eastern and central regions of Zambia.

Although English is the official language of Zambia, tourists planning a trip to this country should know some of the unique ways it is used by the speakers here. Zambian English is the dialect spoken here. It is unique to the area in that it attempts to simplify some of the more complicated phrases in English. Phrasal verbs, for example, are often shortened to just one word in Zambian English. Nyanja, as one of the most widely spoken native language, also has a number of important phrases for travelers. Some of these include: “how are you?” (muli bwanji), “good morning” (mwauka bwanji), “yes” (inde), and “no” (iyayi).

A large number of other indigenous and immigrant languages can be heard throughout Zambia. Some of the most common of these minority languages include: Tonga, Lunda, and Lozi. Each of these languages belongs to the Bantu subgroup of the Niger-Congo language family. Tonga is spoken by around 1.33 million individuals, who are concentrated in the south central region of the country. Lunda is spoken by around 225,000 people and can be heard most commonly in the northwestern region of Zambia. Finally, Lozi is the language of approximately 612,000, most of whom live in the northwestern area of this country.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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