Our language pick of the month is Swahili, spoken predominantly in east Africa which drives our imagination to exciting life safaris, extensive flora and fauna, a myriad of out-door activities, lush beaches, waterfalls and jagged peaks, coupled with the clichéd image of tribal people and spirit cults dancing around a bonfire with masks and beads. Join us in discovering this culture of coral houses, humble women wrapped in their bright cotton lesos and stews infused with pilau seasoning.
Swahili –what’s that?
Swahili is a Bantu language estimated to be spoken by well over 50 million people from east Africa especially in Tanzania and Kenya, and in pockets across Zanzibar, Uganda, DR Congo, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Rwanda, Burundi and the Comoro Islands. With a significant fraction of Arabic words integrated with words from Bantu-speaking communities of East Africa, it also ropes in words from Persian, English, Portuguese, Hebrew and French.
How’s it trending
Your trivia for the day – the popular expression “Hakuna matata” (meaning no worries) that gained popularity in the Disney movie The Lion King, is very much Swahili in origin!
Spoken by a community of littoral people (i.e. seashore-based) Swahili by itself means coastal language. Officially known as Kiswahili, it is the lingua franca in many East African and Central African countries, ergo giving you one more reason to learn it!
Factor in Globalisation
For an English speaker, it is considered one of the easiest languages to pick up, since it has no lexical tone and words can be read out just the way they are written. It has also borrowed many words from English (such as police, picture, socks and box, to name a few).
The European missionaries introduced the Roman alphabet post 19th century, but it’s quite interesting how the earliest written Swahili documents dating back to 1711 A.D. found in Kilwa, were in the Arabic script. More exciting is the fact that these documents are preserved in the Historical Archives of Goa today.
Last but not the least
A vibrant melting pot of European, Arab and Indian infusions, this devotional community will often greet you with a cheerful “Jambo” (“How are you?”) and their celebrations usually encircle activities like henna painting, camel races, dancing, safari rallies and dhow sailing.