Languages in Kenya

samburu Swahili was the first native African language to get Twitter recognition

More than 60 different languages are indigenous to in Kenya. The official languages are English, which is widely spoken to a high standard in the tourist industry, and KiSwahili, an East African lingua franca that originates from the coast and spread inland along trade routes in the early 19th century. Other major languages include Kikuyu, Luo, Akamba and Maa.

Most languages spoken locally belong to two broad language families: Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan, spoken by the country’s Bantu and Nilotic populations, respectively. The Cushitic and Arab ethnic minorities speak languages belonging to the separate Afroasiatic family, with the Hindustani and British residents speaking languages from the Indo-European family.

Kenya’s various ethnic groups typically speak their mother tongues within their own communities. The two official languages, are used in varying degrees of fluency for communication with other populations. English is widely spoken in commerce, schooling and government. Peri-urban and rural dwellers are less multilingual, with many in rural areas speaking only their native languages.


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