The Swahili language, also known as Kiswahili, is a Bantu language widely spoken in lots of African countries as a first or a second language. Swahili belongs to the Benue-Congo branch of the Niger-Congo language family. The language has a lot of borrowings, including borrowed Arabic words that appeared in Swahili as the result of the Muslim Swahili people using the Quran written in Arabic. It is interesting to know that the word Swahili used by early Arab visitors means “the coast”. It can be appealed both the language and the people.
Some scholars attribute that the Swahili language appeared due to the intercourse of African and Asiatic people on the coast of East Africa. Also, it is believed that the language originates from Arabs and Persians who moved to the East African coast. Despite Bantu syntax and grammar, the vocabulary of the language is commonly associated with these groups. Considering the history of the Swahili language, we can clearly see that there are also some borrowings from Portuguese in the Swahili, as well as there are some borrowings from such languages as English and German. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that nearly every language on earth was somehow influenced by other languages and the Swahili language is not the exception.
Some linguists suggest that the Swahili language has a long history that dates back to the 2nd century AD or even earlier times. They believe so, because of “|Periplus of Erythrean Sea” – the earliest known document telling about the past situation of the East African coast that was written exactly in the 2nd AD in the Greek language by an anonymous author at Alexandria in Egypt. According to this document, merchants who came from the Southern Arabia spoke with the natives who lived on the East African coast using its local language. Though the name of the language was not mentioned, many people believe that it was possibly the antiquity of the Swahili language.
For centuries, the Swahili language was associated with people of the East African coast. Due to so historical events, the language spread to distant places such as the islands of Comoro and Madagascar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Central African Republic, and Mozambique.
It is worth to mention that Christian missioners who learned to speak Swahili to spread the Gospel in Eastern Africa, helped to spread the language far from the East African coast. Also, it is worth to mention that the first Swahili-English dictionary was published exactly by a missionary.
During the colonial time, Swahili was used as the main language of communication. That is why there was a need to standardize the language. As the epicenter of culture and commerce of that time was Zanzibar, its dialect was chosen as a standard of Swahili. For formal communication such as in schools, mass media, books and publications, Uganda dialect was chosen.
Today, the Swahili language is considered to be the most widely spoken language of Eastern Africa. It is an official language of Tanzania, a national language of Kenya and a widely used language in Uganda, especially in the military.
The Swahili language is one of the languages that feature in some world radio stations such as, the BBC, Radio Cairo, the Voice of America, Radio Deutschewelle, Radio Moscow International, Radio Japan International, Radio China International, Radio Sudan, and Radio South Africa. It is also used in writing songs, making movies and television programs. The language is also included in education curriculum for higher institutions of learning. So if you want to learn Swahili, it is possible to join one of the numerous programmes existing throughout the world.