East Africa has been recently recognized as the fastest-growing region in Africa. According to a report issued by the National Commission for Science, Technology, and Innovation in 2021, Kenya ranked 2nd among the top 5 African countries with the most developed startup ecosystems.
Kenya, or the Republic of Kenya, is one of the East African countries that is distinguished by its multilingual and cultural diversity with over 50 million people. Its capital is Nairobi which is famous for its modern skyscrapers.
Furthermore, Kenya is well-known for its agricultural production due to its fertile regions. Apart from its industrial and agricultural fame, Kenya has the most significant wildlife in Africa. It witnessed huge animal immigration in search of a green life to live in. In Kenya, you can see the “Little Five” which combines the antlion, the elephant shrew, the rhinoceros beetle, the buffalo weaver, and the leopard tortoise.
Kenya is also popular for its diverse population. Immigrants live there since the British colonial rule. Also, there are immigrants from India and Pakistan, in addition to European and Asian immigrants.
Kenya’s local populations are divided into three groups; Bantu, Nilotic, and Cushitic. Each group speaks different languages.
Owing to its diverse and ethnic-racial population, the languages spoken in Kenya are counted to be almost 70 languages. Are you ready to learn more about the common languages spoken in Kenya? If so, read this blog till the end.
What Are the Most Common Languages in Kenya?
In Kenya, there are official and local languages due to its diverse population. English and Swahili act as lingua francas. These two languages facilitate communication between people of different languages inside the country.
Moreover, the local languages are related to the three families; Bantu, Nilotic, and Cushiti. Each family has a varied number of languages, the most famous of all are Kikuyu, Dholuo and Kamba.
There is also the urban language called “Sheng” which is a combination of English, Swahili, and other languages.
English, in Kenya, is the official language which is used in all legal and official communication such as commercial transactions, schooling, politics, and media. It is the language of highly-educated people.
English is spoken in Kenya since the British colonialism which lasted from 1920 to 1963 and was able to leave its lingual fingerprint by spreading the English language throughout its colonial territories. Since then English has become the language of trade and an important language that should be taught at schools. It is estimated that around 2.7 million Kenyan people speak English. Only the British and the American immigrants are native speakers of English.
In addition, the standard English spoken in Kenya has a dialect known as Kenyan English. This dialect is originally created by Kenyan individuals combining features from the local Bantu languages such as Swahili and others from American English. It is a local dialect that is used by mixing words from the local language while speaking English.
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Swahili language, also known as Kiswahili, is one of the official languages in Kenya and is named as the lingua franca of southeastern Africa. It originated as a result of continuous connections between Arabian traders and people from the east coast of Africa. The language has many words from Arabic even its name is derived from the Arabic language and means “coasts”.
There are around 17 million people who speak Swahili in Kenya today. Swahili combines words from Portuguese, English and Arabic, and its grammar is taken from the Bantu language. Swahili is also used in commerce, education, and official communications. Although people in rural areas do not speak Swahili, it is taught in their schools.
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Sheng can be considered an urbanized form of Swahili. It combines many languages including English and Swahili. Its grammar and syntax are taken from Swahili.
Sheng is the language of the youth and is known for its coolness. It is used by students and other Kenyan citizens in any unofficial communication. It is used in many Kenyan cities, especially in Nairobi.
The languages that are spoken locally can be divided into the following groups;
Nilotic (Dholuo-Kalenjin languages-Maasai-Turkana)
It has been stated that around 8 million people speak Kikuyu in Kenya which is the highest number among all local languages.