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.
Indigenous Languages spoken in Kenya
- Dahalo Tribe
- Digo Tribe
- Duruma Tribe
- Edo Tribe
- El Molo Tribe
- Embu Tribe
- Garreh-Ajuran Tribe
- Giryama Tribe
- Kalenjin Tribe
- Kamba Tribe
- Kikuyu Tribe
- Kisii Tribe
- Kuria Tribe
- Luhya Tribe
- Luo Tribe
- Masai Tribe
- Meru Tribe
- Mijikenda Tribe
- Ogiek Tribe
- Rendille Tribe
- Samburu Tribe
- Somali Tribe
- Swahili Tribe
- Taita Tribe
- Teso Tribe
- Tharaka Tribe
- Turkana Tribe
- Yaaku Tribe
Kenya Language: 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.
Here is some basic Swahili words.
Kenya Language – Greetings
|Good morning||Habari ya asubuhi|
|Good afternoon||Habari ya mchana|
|Good evening||Habari ya jioni|
|Good night||Usiku mwema|
Kenya Language – Polite Expressions
|I love you||Nakupenda|
|Can I please have…||Tafadhali nipatie…|
|You are welcome||Karibu|
|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?|
|Safe journey||Safari njema|
|Do you speak English?||Unajua kizungu?|
|Good / Fine||Sawa / Sawasawa|