Many Africans in America express an interest in learning a language from their ancestors. In some cases this may be a daunting challenge, however Kiswahili remains one of the most accessible African languages.

  1. It is the most widely spoken African language in the world (based on both primary and secondary speakers). Thus it is the best example of a Pan-African language.
  2. It has enjoyed a rich history of writing for centuries, from an Arabic based script (Ajami) to Latin script. As such, Kiswahili has a broad body of literature.
  3. It reflects the cosmopolitanism of the Swahili Coast with its loan words from Gujarati, Farsi, Arabic, other Bantu languages, and so on.
  4. Its diffusion as a commercial language, and later as an administrative language of the colonial powers also enabled it to function as a common language for those struggling for independence. Thus, Kiswahili has been a language of liberatory struggle.
  5. It became the default African language of the Black Power Movement in the United States as numerous institutions, organizations, individuals, and slogans were derived from Swahili. Thus Kiswahili words and phrases such as imani, nia, uhuru sasa, and simba may already be familiar to you.
  6. It forms the basis of the Pan-African holiday of Kwanzaa, created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966.
  7. Unlike most African languages, it is non-tonal with a simple five vowel system, making it less difficult for some learners to vocalize.
  8. There are numerous free resources available to learn the language.
  9. There are many beautiful and profound proverbs that have been developed in the Swahili culture.
  10. It is a conceptually or philosophically rich language, containing complex and important ideas such as ujamaa (socialism or cooperative economics), kujitegemea (self-reliance), umoja (unity), ukweli (truth), utu (humanity), and so on.

This list was adapted from a list created by @SemaKiswahili

Ten reasons to learn Kiswahili

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One thought on “Ten reasons to learn Kiswahili

  1. Habari gana Kamau,

    I tried to study Kiswahili in 1980. The class was offered by Rose Kyoma. I was the only person to enroll. I did learn basic greetings, days of the week etc. The challenge of speaking an African language is having someone else with which to learn and speak it.
    Even with mdw ntr and Coptic which I have taken recently I find it is difficult to have a group to study with on an ongoing basis. How does one commit to learning this language in relation to all the other challenges going on the the African community which seem to cause us to put language acquisition on the back burner.

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