Habari?! Mambo!?

For those of you who have been following along on my adventures, you know that I just finished spending two months in Arusha, Tanzania studying Kiswahili. It was an amazing couple of months that I am incredibly thankful for. I haven’t posted many long blogs since I’ve been here but if you’re interested in some more day-to-day details of my life check out my “One Sentence A Day” blog, conveniently located here.

Towards the end of my program, as most of my group was preparing to head back to the States, we had a debriefing meeting where we went through questions we might be asked upon return to the US.

Although I will still be in East Africa for a month before I actually head back to the States, I thought it would be a good idea to answer some of the possible questions I might get upon return about Kiswahili. In addition, I won’t be able to have coffee dates with everyone before I head back to Eugene, so with that… Let the questions begin!

I do not know any Kiswahili, is that one of those click languages?

Whether this question is meant to be funny or not, I’m sorry to tell you that Kiswahili is not one of those “click language” (Those are found in the southern part of Africa, for the most part, and are part of the Khoisan language family; green color).

Kiswahili is a part of the Niger-Congo B language family and furthermore part of the Bantu language group. This language family was thought to have originated from West Africa and as it migrated east, broke into two streams: Niger-Congo A and B.

In addition, I have loved learning Kiswahili because it overlaps with other languages in the Bantu language group such as Luganda (the language spoken widely in central Uganda). So, when the day comes to then learn other East African languages, I have a solid foundation to jump-start from!

ALSO, contrary to popular American belief, many of you know at least a little Kiswahili! Thanks, Disney movies!

For example :

Hakuna Matata = No worries!

Simba = lion… mind blown

Is Kiswahili hard to learn?

No! I would HIGHLY recommend learning Kiswahili if you are at all interested in the region, want to take a class that will expand your world knowledge, or want to take a fun class (Kiswahili class kept me sane throughout the year & made me enjoy school even more)!

Also, I actually like how the grammar is structured. I always like to say the grammar is just like a puzzle and you put different parts together to form words.

FINALLY, it does indeed use the English alphabet (ALSO, Kiswahili has less letters than English — there is no q, x, c [alone]. Also, each letter has only one sound, so no short and/or long “a,” you’re already part of the way there!

Why did the US Department of State sponsor the study of Kiswahili?

According to their website, “The CLS Program is part of a US government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages.” In short, by adding Kiswahili to the 12 other languages offered, the US State Department is showing the growing importance of the East African region for American foreign affairs.

Why do you want to learn Kiswahili?

As many of you already know, I am obsessed with East Africa. But even beyond that, I hope to live/work/be involved in the region for the rest of my life. Kiswahili has speakers in over 13 countries for a combined speaker population of over 150 million people. Additionally, Kiswahili is a growing language as it is slowly becoming the lingua franca and commerce language of East Africa. By learning Kiswahili, I will open many opportunities for myself in my career and understanding of the region.

Are you fluent?

Not yet! I am currently at an Intermediate level, after studying for only one year, something I am very proud of. I will continue my studies of Kiswahili at the University of Oregon, completing 3rd-year and then hopefully studying more in-country to improve my speaking.

To conclude…

Should you learn it? Yes

That is all! I hope you enjoyed learning about Kiswahili and if you’d like to learn more, please please please reach out!

Asante Sana,