|Pronunciation||Swahili: [kiswɑˈhili] ⓘ|
|Native to||Mainly in Tanzania, Kenya and, Comoros, Mayotte, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Bajuni Islands (part of Somalia), southern Somalia (see Bravanese dialect), Zambia, Malawi, Madagascar and Oman|
|Speakers||L1: 18 million (2012–2019)|
L2: 55 million (2015–2019)
Official language in
Geographic-administrative extent of Swahili. Dark: native range (the Swahili coast). Medium green: Spoken by a majority alongside indigenous languages. Light green: Spoken by a minority.
Swahili, also known by its local name Kiswahili, is a Bantu language spoken by the Swahili people, who are found primarily in Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique (along the East African coast and adjacent littoral islands).
Swahili has a high number of loanwords from other languages, mainly Arabic, as well as from Portuguese, English and German. Around fifteen percent of Swahili vocabulary consists of Arabic loanwords, including the name of the language (سَوَاحِلي sawāḥilī, a plural adjectival form of an Arabic word meaning 'of the coast'). The loanwords date from the era of contact between Arab slave traders and the Bantu inhabitants of the east coast of Africa, which was also the time period when Swahili emerged as a lingua franca in the region. The number of Swahili speakers, be they native or second-language speakers, is estimated to be over 200 million.
Due to concerted efforts by the government of Tanzania, Swahili is one of three official languages (the others being English and French) of the East African Community (EAC) countries, namely Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. It is a lingua franca of other areas in the African Great Lakes region and East and Southern Africa, including some parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Malawi, Mozambique, the southern tip of Somalia, and Zambia. Swahili is also one of the working languages of the African Union and of the Southern African Development Community. The East African Community created an institution called the East African Kiswahili Commission (EAKC) which began operations in 2015. The institution currently serves as the leading body for promoting the language in the East African region, as well as for coordinating its development and usage for regional integration and sustainable development. In recent years South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Ethiopia, and South Sudan have begun offering Swahili as a subject in schools or have developed plans to do so.
Shikomor (or Comorian), an official language in Comoros and also spoken in Mayotte (Shimaore), is closely related to Swahili and is sometimes considered a dialect of Swahili, although other authorities consider it a distinct language. In 2022, based on Swahili's growth as a prominent international language, the United Nations declared Swahili Language Day as 7 July to commemorate the date that Julius Nyerere adopted Swahili as a unifying language for African independence struggles.
Kiswahili is one of the most widely used languages of the African family, and the most widely spoken in sub-Saharan Africa. It is among the 10 most widely spoken languages in the world, with more than 200 million speakers.