Languages In Kenya

Most of the people I encountered in Kenya spoke three languages - Swahili, English, and their tribal language. Everyone has a tribal language also known as their vernacular or their mother tongue. When kids go to school they are taught Swahili and eventually English.

In Kenya, Swahili is the national language and English is the official language. Confusing, huh? Basically, this means that everyone should know Swahili. English is used on all official and international documents.

So now that you understand EVERYTHING (yeah, right), here is a link to my Teso primer and to lots of other language resources.

Random Swahili Word

Interesting Swahili Notes

Did you know that the Swahili word for "Swahili" is Kiswahili?

The Swahili word nyanya means "tomato" - it also means "grandmother".

In English you might say "That smells!" implying something smells bad. You could also say "That smells bad!". To say something smelled good you'd say "That smells good!" With Swahili there are two words for the verb "to smell". The first is kunuka which means "to smell bad". The second is kunukia which means "to smell good". You don't need to stipulate if it's good or bad - just be sure you use the right verb.

Chai is a common word in Kenya. It means 'tea'. However, it is also used in reference to a bribe.

Swahili Archive
Swahili words used on this site. Includes definitions, phonetic pronunciations, and audio.

Jambo Means Hello
A children's Swahili alphabet book by Muriel Feelings.

Kenya's National Language
The language of Swahili has interesting origins. Learn more about this melting pot of languages.

Sampling Swahili
Although you do not need to know Swahili to visit Kenya, you may want to learn a few phrases.

Teso Words I Learned
A handful of words in the tribal language of the Iteso. There are pronunciations of the words plus wav files to listen to. Time In Kenya
Telling time in Kenya is a bit different in Kenya if you speak Swahili.

submit to reddit Delicious Share on MySpace

All Things Kenyan Feeds All Things Kenyan Feeds

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...

The content on was written about my experiences in Kenya in the early 1990's therefore some articles may seem out of date. They are left here for historical reasons.

© Copyright 1997-2015 All Things Kenyan,; All texts and images, and the selection and arrangement thereof, are protected by copyright ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Copyright © Copyright 1997-2015 All Things Kenyan, These materials may not be copied, reproduced, redisplayed, or distributed in any way for any purpose without permission from the author. Exception is made and permission hereby given for individual computer-printed copies made for non-commercial non-profit personal (e.g., home) use or non-commercial non-profit educational (e.g., classroom) use.

Italian Wedding Themes - Romantic Ideas for Any Wedding - Anywhere  A Book by Lisa Shea