Swahili OR Kiswahili: MY JOURNEY WITH THE KISWAHILI LANGUAGE.

Ever thought of a world without a language?

Language is key for the effective running of activities in any society, company, organization etc.

With over 23 years’ experience in Swahili, the language (Kiswahili) has become my native language. My interaction and knowledge of Kiswahili began long ago at the age of two (mostly because my parents and the society at large used it).

Learning Kiswahili and English in pre-school, primary school, high school, and eventually taking Kiswahili as a course unit of study during University has enabled me to acquire a vast knowledge in the language.

The following facts about Swahili/Kiswahili are important to note:

  1. SWAHILI is a community (the users) while KISWAHILI is a language. This is entirely dependent on the speakers.
  2. It is a mixture of languages. Not only is it predominantly a mixture of Bantu and Arabic languages, but it also includes words from English and Portuguese. 
  3. The language originates from East African countries mainly due to the trade that took place between the Arabic nations, Coastal Africans, and the Europeans.
  4. Kiswahili is a language spoken widely across Africa by approximately 90 million speakers. It is still on the rise, especially in Africa.
  5. It is a national language in Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda.
  6. The language has dynamics which include the following:

/a/, /∑/, /i/, /ↄ/ and /u/

  • It has five vowel phonemes:-
  • The writing system used is the Latin script.
  • The plural formation is through the changing of the beginning of a word rather than its ending. e.g The singular word child is mtoto and in plural children is watoto, dawati(desk) in singular changes to madawati (desks) in the plural.
  • Concept of time.

In the Swahili culture and language, a day begins at 7:00 a.m (usually sunrise time).  This, therefore, implies that 7:00 a.m is ‘hour one’ i.e. saa moja, (moja is a word for one); 8 am is saa mbili (hour two)

7. Kiswahili is easier compared to English

  • It has no gender nouns or articles. Gender nouns can be one of the most frustrating parts for learning a language, especially for English speakers. Contrary to this, there is no worry in reference to either masculine or feminine gender in Swahili.
There is no worry about gender pronouns he, she. e.g Yeye ni mtafsiri means he is a translator or she is a translator. 
From this aspect, it can generally be argued that Kiswahili is by default a gender-inclusive language in a world that increasingly recognizes the binary aspect of gender.
  • Kiswahili has neither definite (the) nor indefinite (a, an) articles. E.g Ninahitaji gari  means I need a car or I need the car. Ninahitaji means I need and gari means car.

With my many years of experience in Swahili culture and the Kiswahili language, I can conclude that Kiswahili is an integral part of ‘Making Global Local’.