Everything You Need To Learn Swahili
Swahili, or Kiswahili, is a Bantu language that is spoken in East Africa. It’s the official language of Tanzania, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo; it’s also an important second language in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi. It’s estimated that there are around 120 million Swahili speakers worldwide.
Swahili was the lingua franca of the East African coast, used by traders from various parts of Africa and the Middle East. As such, it is heavily influenced by Arabic and other Bantu languages.
Swahili is closely related to Comorian, spoken in the Comoros Islands and the Mijikenda language, spoken in various dialects along Kenya’s coast.
For the most part, Swahili is considered a popular language among language learners, and as such, you’ll find a fair number of resources available for learning it. We’ve put together a list of those we believe are most useful.
Swahili Language Learning Books
A great starting point for learning the language is a Swahili course book. Most good Swahili study books will give you instruction on pronunciation, offer example sentences to illustrate grammar points and lessons in basic vocabulary.
An English-Swahili dictionary is a must-have resource that you’ll want to keep close by. You’ll come across lots of new words, and it’s important to have a good, concise Swahili dictionary handy to look up their meanings, plus see how to use them in different contexts.
Planning a safari trip in the near future? A Swahili phrasebook would make perfect sense in this case. Designed specifically with the traveller in mind, these books will offer a good range of practical and useful Swahili words and phrases.
Swahili Children’s Books
One of the best and most fun ways to expand your vocabulary and familiarize yourself with the language, is by reading children’s books in Swahili. These stories are perfect for beginners, as they’re typically written using simple language and vocabulary, which won’t overwhelm a new reader.
What’s more, many of the Swahili kids’ books on this list are bilingual English-Swahili stories, which means you can use the English parallel text to help you read and understand the Swahili version.
Try reading some more advanced material once you feel more comfortable with the language. With Swahili books written for older readers, you’ll get a huge vocabulary boost, plus your overall comprehension will improve immensely.
The language used in these types of books is more complex and will challenge you, which will in turn strengthen your Swahili skills.
Swahili Digital Courses
Don’t want to learn with books? No problem. Try a Swahili e-course, which uses audio or video instruction to build your speaking and listening skills, as well as teach you correct grammar and pronunciation.
Both Udemy and Pimsleur have digital Swahili courses. While Udemy’s Swahili course is composed of video lessons, Pimsleur’s Conversational Swahili course offers hours of audio-only lessons.
Both can be used on any smart device, and with Udemy you get lifetime access to all future updates.