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Swahili in different countries

I was just wondering how similar Swahili is across different countries? Is it like English where people have different accents and some words are different (e.g. between American and British English we use different words for parts of the car - trunk/boot, hood/bonnet, gas/petrol)? If so which version of Swahili is this course based on? Thanks

February 26, 2017



I don't have in-depth knowledge on the topic but I know of some differences.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo Swahili is spoken mainly in the eastern parts. Here, Swahili has many influences from French, and use some different concords from the standard, Zanzibar Swahili.

In both Kenya and Tanzania, Swahili is widely spoken, but it's more ubiquitous in Tanzania. In Tanzania, when you go to a shop or restaurant and ask for something, you use the word "naomba" (short for ninaomba, I beg/ask/pray for), while Kenyans generally use "nataka" (short for ninataka, I want). For a Kenyan, naomba might sounds like someone is begging for something, as in asking to get something for free, while to a Tanzanian, nataka sounds rude.


For someone who doesn't have in depth knowledge, you're pretty knowledgeable:-)


Thanks, I was mainly asking because I'm learning Swahili partly because I have friends who speak it as their first or second language (they are from DRC) so I was wondering how similar the Swahili on here is to the Swahili that they speak...


"Swahili was born in Zanzibar, raised in Tanzania, killed in Kenya and buried in the DRC" ;-)

The Swahili spoken in DRC is pretty far from standard Swahili (the one being taught in the course), but people will understand you quite well.


AndreasII, hur lyckades du komma till nivå 11 redan? Trädet ger ju bara lite drygt 10....? Du måste köra måååånga repitioner!


Ja, det gjør jeg. Jeg er bare litt over halvveis i treet.


They have chosen to use the Tanzanian flag, so it's probably that version that is taught.


The three Swahili coordinators are all working in some capacity with the U.S. Peace Corps in Tanzania.


Yes that's right, even Swahili within a country sounds different.


I lived in Kenya on the border of TZ for a couple years, TZ knows the deepest best Kiswahili (which is what is being taught here). Kenya's kiswahili is much more basic, they mix it with english and other languages and keep the grammar a bit simpler. This is because in Kenya English is the language taught and used in education after primary school and the language of business. Also, insular tribal communities in Kenya rely on their indigenous tongue. TZ's first president on the other hand made it a mission to unify the country through Kiswahili, so that is the national language. So if you learn the TZ version, you'll be fine in other places - although you may end up speaking a more bookish version than what people in Kenya use.


This may be generally true, however there are actual members of the Swahili tribal people in coastal Kenya. After learning a basic level of Swahili in Kenya, I had the opportunity to meet someone who was a native Mswahili. His kiswahili was so clear that I could understand everything he was saying to me. Conversely, I often had trouble understanding the swahili spoken by people who were speaking it as a second language, such as Kikuyus. Swahili is much more utilized on the Kenyan coast.

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