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Kenya Language – Languages Spoken in Kenya

What is the official language of Kenya

English is the official language in Kenya. English was inherited from Kenya’s British colonial past and is used for international trade, education and jurisprudence

Swahili (also called Kiswahili) is the national language of Kenya. Swahili is a unifying African language spoken by nearly 100 percent of the Kenyan population. Even illiterate Kenyans know some basic Swahili. The purest form of Kiswahili is spoken along the coast where native Swahili people live. Swahili is one of the most common African languages and it is spoken in many countries other than Kenya, such as Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda and Zaire.

Kiswahili is the National language of Kenya and together with English are the official languages.

Indigenous languages spoken in Kenya

42 distinct languages are spoken in Kenya and many children in the rural areas continue to use their mother tongue as the first language of communication. Languages in Kenya have important implications in the passage of culture and oral traditions, which are the basis for community identity, interaction and integration. Local languages in Kenya are still on the decline, especially in their written form. Efforts by renowned Kenyan authors such as Ngugi wa Thiong’o to promote ethnic languages remain a dream.

Languages in Kenya – Indigenous Languages spoken in Kenya

  1. Dahalo Tribe
  2. Digo Tribe
  3. Duruma Tribe
  4. Edo Tribe
  5. El Molo Tribe
  6. Embu Tribe
  7. Garreh-Ajuran Tribe
  8. Giryama Tribe
  9. Kalenjin Tribe
  10. Kamba Tribe
  11. Kikuyu Tribe
  12. Kisii Tribe
  13. Kuria Tribe
  14. Luhya Tribe
  15. Luo Tribe
  16. Masai Tribe
  17. Meru Tribe
  18. Mijikenda Tribe
  19. Ogiek Tribe
  20. Rendille Tribe
  21. Samburu Tribe
  22. Somali Tribe
  23. Swahili Tribe
  24. Taita Tribe
  25. Teso Tribe
  26. Tharaka Tribe
  27. Turkana Tribe
  28. Yaaku Tribe

 Sheng Language in Kenya

Urban Kenyans are, however, so creative that they have come up with a slang known as Sheng that has spread in usage from urban youth to all sectors of society. Sheng is a combination of English and Kiswahili and has borrowed from a majority of the ethnic languages spoken in Nairobi. It evolves rapidly, making words that are fashionable today ‘old’ tomorrow.

It is part of popular street culture in Nairobi and many other large towns. The use of Sheng by music artistes in their lyrics has made its growth much more rapid in recent years.

Kenya Language – Language Policy in Kenya

Kenya’s population is largely African but there are minorities: Asians (Indians, Pakistanis and Goans) and Europeans.

Kiswahili has a heavy base in Bantu languages at the Coast with a mixture of Arabic. Originally spoken at the Coast, the language is now widely spoken throughout Kenya and, indeed, eastern Africa.

Kiswahili aims to create national cohesion and understanding based on communication of values through a common language. As Kenyans intermarry, Kiswahili has taken a new shape as it borrows from local languages and English to create a new language, Sheng.

Languages in Kenya - Language Policy in Kenya

Languages in Kenya – Language Policy in Kenya

Kenya Language – Basic Swahili Words

Here is some basic Swahili words.

Kenya Language – Greetings

Hello Jambo
Good morning Habari ya asubuhi
Good afternoon Habari ya mchana
Good evening Habari ya jioni
Good night Usiku mwema

Kenya Language – Polite Expressions

Thank you Asante
I love you Nakupenda
Excuse me Samahani
Can I please have… Tafadhali nipatie…
Please Tafadhali
You are welcome Karibu
Sorry Pole
No problem! Hakuna matata!

Kenya Language – Introductions

My name is… Ninaitwa / Jina langu ni…
What is your name? Unaitwa nani?
Where are you from? Unatoka wapi?
I come from… Ninatoka…

Kenya Language – Other popular English to Swahili Expressions

How much money? Shillingi ngapi?
Don’t worry Usijali
Safe journey Safari njema
Water Maji
Do you speak English? Unajua kizungu?
Pardon Samahani
Good / Fine Sawa / Sawasawa
Listen Sikiza
What? Nini?
Why? Kwa nini?
Where? Wapi?
Who? Nani

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