Swahili is a beautiful language spoken in many countries in Africa and around the world. In Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Burundi, Kenya, Somalia, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Swahili is the common language that bridges many cultures, cities and tribes.
Millions of people speak Swahili and it is a language with a rich and fascinating history. Learning Swahili will be a deeply rewarding experience that will allow you to explore many countries in Africa in a different way.
In this blog we discuss the Swahili language, why you should learn it and the best methods to use when learning the language.
Why you should learn Swahili
Beyond the sheer beauty of the language, there are many practical reasons to start learning Swahili. This is especially true if you happen to live in the African Great Lakes regions or if you are planning on travelling there in the future.
Swahili is the common language across a number of nations in Africa, being native to Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Madagascar and many other countries. Obviously, if you plan to live or travel to any of these countries, being able to speak Swahili will make life much easier.
Not only will you be able to converse in the common language but by learning Swahili you will be able to appreciate the culture and customs of these countries at a deeper level. You will have something in common with Kenyans, Tanzanians, Ugandans.
It is often through language that we comprehend new ideas. Learning Swahili will allow you to expand your imagination and experience the world in a different way.
Is Swahili hard to learn?
Well, how long it takes you to learn Swahili will depend on the languages you already know and your proficiency for learning new languages.
How difficult is Swahili to learn for English speakers? You might be surprised that Swahili is said to be the easiest African language for English speakers to learn. “It’s one of the few sub-Saharan African languages that have no lexical tone, just like in English. It’s also much easier to read as you read out Swahili words just the way they are written.”(BBC)
How long does it take to learn Swahili? As with any language you have to put the time in if you want to be fluent. For some people this may mean many years but others may be quite proficient within a few months. One of the main difficulties with learning Swahili is that the language uses particles at the beginning of the word to indicate verb tense (present, past, future) and person (I, you, we, they, etc). This is unlike English and other widely spoken languages and it may take a while to remember.
The best apps to learn Swahili
Nowadays, one of the best ways to learn a new language is via an app. Here are some of the best apps to use to learn Swahili:
Duolingo says that their app is the ‘world's best way to learn Swahili”. As one of the most popular language learning apps in the world right now, they’re probably right.
The simple, interactive interface makes it easy for learners of all ages and levels to engage with the app. Duolingo allows you to learn Swahili in just 5 minutes a day with their game-like lessons that try to keep the learning experience fun and engaging.
Duolingo’s bite-sized lessons are one of the most exciting ways to start learning Swahili. Plus the daily reminders ensure that you stay disciplined which is the best way to keep your progress on track.
Whether you are thinking about speaking Swahili in Uganda, Tanzania or Kenya, this app is ideal for any beginners. The Learn Swahili Free app contains over 9000 common Swahili words. The app allows you to develop a comprehensive vocabulary through simple exercises that are divided into manageable sections.
The app supports multiple languages, can function without an internet connection and uses games to encourage effective learning.
Like Duolingo, the designers of this app believe the best way to learn Swahili is through mini games and interactive learning techniques. The traditional in-class way of learning is out the window.
This app and many others prioritise regular, bite-size and engaging content to help people learn new languages. If you are motivated to learn Swahili as quickly as possible this app is a great way to get started.
Udemy is a large online course provider that creates lessons for adults and students. They have a course on the Swahili language that you can pay for today which will let you start learning at your own pace.
The course is designed by a native Swahili speaker living in Kenya. The course has videos that enables you to watch dialogues between two native speakers and it also provides downloadable flashcards that correspond to each lecture.
You can use some of these apps to learn Swahili online for free. Similarly, there is a broad range of educational content on websites like YouTube that provide free Swahili language lessons from professionals. Whether you choose to download an app, pay for some lessons or find a great teacher on YouTube, within no time you’ll be able to use Swahili greetings and common phrases in real life.
Time to get started
If you are interested in learning Swahili, it’s time to get started. We’ve listed a few ways you can go about learning the language. We recommend trying a couple before deciding which app, or website or method suits your learning style. Once you get started we’re sure you’ll enjoy learning Swahili and a new world of possibilities will be opened to you once your skills develop.
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