February 16, 2021

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8 Fascinating Bantu language

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8 Fascinating Bantu Language
You Could Learn

The Bantu language family is a subgroup of Niger-Congo family, made up of about 520 individual languages. It is one of the major language families of Africa.

The Bantu map covers an area from South Cameroon to almost all southern Africa including eastern and central Africa. Its speakers can be found in Angola, Congo, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Uganda and Kenya.

African Bantu Language Interactive Map

(mouse over  map to show name of country)

  • Kiswahili Speaking
  • Bantu Language

The number of speakers ranges from 240 million to roughly 350 million, sorry I cannot provide an accurate number since it seems the numbers differ according to who is counting.

All Bantu language are tonal except Kiswahili. Only a few languages use the clicking sounds. Xhosa and Zulu, spoken in Southern Africa, are famously known for their clicking sounds.

Common Bantu Languages

Swahili

It has around 140 million speakers, the Bantu language with the most significant number of speakers. In your quest for learning, you might consider starting with this language and is the lingua franca across much of Southeast Africa. The national language of Kenya is Swahili and is also the official language of Kenya and Tanzania alongside English.

Swahili Greetings
Hello: Jambo/ hujambo/ salama
How are you: habari gani
Fine (response): nzuri
Goodbye: Kwaheri (to one person) kwa herini (to two or more people)
See you later: tutaonana
Nice to meet you: nafurahi kukuona
Goodnight: lala salama

Shona

Spoken by about 15 million people.
It is the principal language in Zimbabwe and also spoken in Zambia, Botswana and Mozambique. Below are some greetings and essential phrases.

Shona Greetings
Mangwanani: Good Morning
Masvera sei: How was your day (to an elder)
Wasvera sei: How was your day (casual greeting)
Mhoro: How are you? – A casual greeting extended to peers
Mhoroi: How are you? – Used when greeting an elder or senior person.

Kinyarwanda

Some 12 million people speak this Bantu language. It is the official language of Rwanda and also spoken in Burundi and Uganda. Learn how to greet in this African language.

Uraho Greetings
Uraho: Hello
Uraho nawe: Hello to you
Amakuru: What’s the news?|
Witwa nde: What’s your name?
Nejejwe no kukubona: Nice to meet you.
Urakoze: Thank you
Urabeho: Goodbye.

Zulu

About 10 million speakers speak this clicking language. It’s the most widely spoken home language in South Africa. I may not teach you how to say the clicks here but learn a few expressions.

Hello (To one person): Sawubona
Hello (To more than one person):  Sanibonani
How are you: Unjani
I am well, how are you: Ngisaphila, wena unjani
What is your name: Ngubani igama lakho
My name is…:   Igama lami ngu…
How can I help you:  Ngingakusiza ngani?
Goodbye (To person leaving):  Hamba kahle (Go well)
Goodbye (If you are leaving):   Sala kahle (Stay well)

Lingala

Some 10 million people speak it in the northwestern region of the democratic republic of Congo. Here are some useful words and phrases you should start with.

Hello: Mbote.
Hello, Mama: Mbote na yo, Mama.
Hello, friend: Mbote na yo, moninga.
How is it going: Ndenge nini
(It’s going) well: Malamu.
Are you doing well: Ozali malamu
Yes, I’m doing well: Ee, nazali malamu.
What’s new: Nsango nini
Nothing’s new: Nsango te. / Sango te.
See you later: Tikala malamu.

Rundi

It’s also known as Kirundi and spoken by about 9 million people. Kirundi is the official language of Burundi but is also spoken in Tanzania and Uganda. Learn a few expressions used in greeting here.

Hello: Bwakeye
Thank You: Urakoze
How Are You: Urakomeye?
Good Night: Ijoro ryiza
Good Evening: Mwiriwe
Good Morning: Mwaramutse
Please: Ndagusavye

Xhosa

This well-recognized language recognized for its clicking sounds is spoken by about 7.6 million people in South Africa and Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and other Southern Africa areas. Want to learn a few phrases, here you go.

Hello! (to one person): Molo!
Hello! (to more than one person):   Molweni!
How are you? (to one person): Unjani?
How are you? (to more than one person): Ninjani?
I am well: Ndiphilile, Ndiyaphila.
We are well: Siphilile. Siyaphila.
Goodbye! Stay well! (to one person): Sala kakuhle! 

Kikuyu

Kikuyu, or Gikuyu, is spoken by around 6 million people and is the largest ethnic group. The Kikuyu people love their mother tongue and use it all the time regardless of where they are. It appears like this Kenya language is third among the choice of language in Kenya.

Teach yourself some Kikuyu here below.

Hello: Wi mwega
I am fine: Ndi mwega
Fine (response): Ni kwega
See you later:  Ni tukuonana
Nice to meet you: nindakena gukumenya
Goodnight: Koma thayu

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