Swahili (or Kiswahili as it is called when one is speaking the language) is the most important and widely studied indigenous language of Africa, the National and official language of Kenya and Tanzania. It is spoken as native language on the East coast of Africa and the islands adjacent to the coast from Southern Somalia in the north down through the Kenyan and Tanzanian coasts.
It is also a Lingua franca of the African Continent spoken as a second language by millions of people mainly in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Eastern Zaire. There are also speakers in Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Malawi, Southern Arabian countries such as Yemen and Oman, as well as other parts of the world.
Swahili is taught in academic institutions from Japan in the east to Mexico in the west. It can be used to fulfill language requirements. The study of Swahili also provides interesting issues regarding language policies and language planning. Whatever the area of research one is in, be it linguistics, anthropology, geography, archaeology, or even sociology, knowledge of Swahili and its many varieties is essential if one is working in the East African region.
There are many benefits of knowing the Swahili language, including the fact that it serves as a good vehicle to accessing Swahili culture. Swahili is a long written tradition and remarkable history. Finally, knowing Swahili enhances the credibility of researchers interested in East Africa.
Who Speaks Swahili?
Over 50 million people in eastern and central Africa speak Swahili. It is widely used in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. A little over one million people speak Swahili fluently as a second, third or fourth language.
(Source The National African Language Resource Center (NALRC), University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI.)