Languages in Zambia
Multiple ethnicity in Zambia mean a plethora of languages and dialects
Zambia’s official language is English, but there are more than 70 different languages and dialects spoken throughout the country. Almost everyone will speak or understand some English and most Zambians living in the urban centres speak it fluently.
Signs and official documentation are almost always in English and/or Bemba and Nyanja, the country’s two most widely spoken local languages. Bemba is spoken by more than two million Zambians and is used frequently in education and administration. Nyanja, a Bantu language spoken by approximately one million Zambians, is also prominent in major centres, especially Lusaka and Livingstone.
Nyanja is the official language of the police and also spoken in neighbouring Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique. Tonga is spoken by about 11% of the population, and is commonly used in the media.
Other major languages include Lozi (about 500000 speakers), Tumbuka (about 400000 speakers), Nsenga (about 300000 speakers), Lunda (about 200000 speakers) and Luvale (also about 200000 speakers). Luyana, Mambwe-Lungu, Mashi, Mbunda, Nkoya-Mbwela, Luchazi, and Nyika make up the rest of Zambia’s main languages, spoken by various groups across the country.