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Swahili of the Congo - UniLang

Swahili of the Congo

Trebor
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Swahili of the Congo

Postby Trebor » 2014-02-01, 6:46

Hi all,

I know someone who will be going in Malawi fairly soon and intends to work with refugees from Central Africa. Swahili looks to be perhaps the most useful language to learn for that context. However, I've read that the standard variety differs to some extent from that spoken inland. Does anyone know of good learning materials, online or offline, for the Swahili of the Congo in particular?

Asante,
T.
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Lazar Taxon
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Re: Swahili of the Congo

Postby Lazar Taxon » 2014-02-01, 15:16

I've wondered about that question too. In Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, is the English influence replaced with French influence?
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Re: Swahili of the Congo

Postby melski » 2014-02-01, 15:37

I don't speak Swahili, but I have two Congolese roomates who use a fairly good amount of French when speaking in Swahili (they have almost no knowledge of English)
If that helps...
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Trebor
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Re: Swahili of the Congo

Postby Trebor » 2014-02-01, 22:02

melski wrote:I don't speak Swahili, but I have two Congolese roomates who use a fairly good amount of French when speaking in Swahili (they have almost no knowledge of English)
If that helps...


Hmm, interesting. Could you talk to them about this issue--the degree of difference between the Swahili of Tanzania and that of the Congo--and report back to us? :)
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Re: Swahili of the Congo

Postby vijayjohn » 2014-02-02, 17:02

According to TY Swahili, there are some differences between Congolese Swahili and Kenyan/Tanzanian Swahili, but it's still recognizably Swahili, and if you're in the eastern Congo, it's better to know some Standard Swahili than none at all.

In any case, I personally find that learning Swahili has helped me feel pretty comfortable with other Eastern (and even Southern) Bantu languages in general.

In Congo, I'm pretty sure the dominant language is still very much French, so yes, I would think there would be quite a bit of French influence at least in the Swahili of educated (eastern) Congolese. In Rwanda, however (and perhaps also in Burundi), English is becoming more popular than French as a foreign language, so it seems that the usefulness of French there is pretty limited, but Swahili is still a useful language in Rwanda (and probably Burundi!) as well.

Trebor
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Re: Swahili of the Congo

Postby Trebor » 2014-02-02, 20:15

vijayjohn wrote:According to TY Swahili, there are some differences between Congolese Swahili and Kenyan/Tanzanian Swahili, but it's still recognizably Swahili, and if you're in the eastern Congo, it's better to know some Standard Swahili than none at all.


Does the book list some of the similarities and differences between those varieties of Swahili? Surely refugees are bound to have differing levels of education, so perhaps those Congolese, Rwandans, and Burundians less familiar with French and the Zanzibari standard actually speak a form of Swahili incomprehensible to a Westerner?

In any case, I personally find that learning Swahili has helped me feel pretty comfortable with other Eastern (and even Southern) Bantu languages in general.


Cool. Which other Bantu languages have you looked at? In what areas has Swahili helped you? (The lady going to Malawi has also mentioned learning Kinyarwanda, which is supposed to be a fair bit tougher than Swahili.)

In Congo, I'm pretty sure the dominant language is still very much French, so yes, I would think there would be quite a bit of French influence at least in the Swahili of educated (eastern) Congolese. In Rwanda, however (and perhaps also in Burundi), English is becoming more popular than French as a foreign language, so it seems that the usefulness of French there is pretty limited, but Swahili is still a useful language in Rwanda (and probably Burundi!) as well.


Rwanda made English an official language in 2008--

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/200 ... h-genocide

--though Burundi hasn't taken that step, at least so far. Based on what I've read/heard, French isn't as useful in Rwanda, but still is in Burundi.
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vijayjohn
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Re: Swahili of the Congo

Postby vijayjohn » 2014-02-03, 6:11

Trebor wrote:Does the book list some of the similarities and differences between those varieties of Swahili? Surely refugees are bound to have differing levels of education, so perhaps those Congolese, Rwandans, and Burundians less familiar with French and the Zanzibari standard actually speak a form of Swahili incomprehensible to a Westerner?

Nope, unfortunately, that's all it says. Sorry. :( I've never looked into Congolese Swahili, TBH, even though I have been curious about it.

Cool. Which other Bantu languages have you looked at? In what areas has Swahili helped you? (The lady going to Malawi has also mentioned learning Kinyarwanda, which is supposed to be a fair bit tougher than Swahili.)

Short answer: A handful. And it's helped with morphology and syntax, basically.

Longer answer: I've looked at [including the initial suffix in all of the names in this paragraph] Kinyarwanda/Kirundi, Chishona, Isixhosa, Isizulu (which I believe is pretty much mutually intelligible with Isixhosa), some examples of Chichewa in literature on syntax, a data set of Kikuria (spoken in Tanzania), and another of Luganda. All of those looked pretty familiar to me. However, I've also heard a clip of Luganda (while trying to guess what language it was in without any other clues), and I failed even to identify the language as a Bantu language, though at least I could tell it was Niger-Congo lol. I've heard a clip of Chibemba as well, but couldn't understand much of it at all just from listening to it. I've also seen bits and pieces of Kikongo and Lingala, both of which look a bit less familiar from what little I've seen of them. I've looked at Setswana and Sesotho; those two look considerably weirder to me (mostly because of their phonology and/or orthography), but Sesotho perhaps slightly less so than Setswana. For some reason, I feel compelled to mention Sindebele and Kikuyu as well, even though I've seen next to nothing in either of those. :?

Swahili has really helped with all those Bantu noun-class prefixes, for sure (and subject-agreement prefixes on verbs). To a lesser extent, it's also helped with vocabulary. It's helped with some other quirky aspects of Bantu morphology/syntax as well; for example, Bantu languages are pretty unusual for having a word for 'all' that agrees not only with noun classes when modifying a noun but also with pronouns when it modifies those. Since I've already seen that in Swahili, it didn't seem odd at all to me when I saw it in e.g. Kinyarwanda, even though it's supposed to be really unusual cross-linguistically.

Rwanda made English an official language in 2008--

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/200 ... h-genocide

--though Burundi hasn't taken that step, at least so far. Based on what I've read/heard, French isn't as useful in Rwanda, but still is in Burundi.

Yeah, I kind of knew about Rwanda but really had no idea what it was like in Burundi nowadays, so thanks for sharing that information! :D

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kasior
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Re: Swahili of the Congo

Postby kasior » 2014-02-18, 20:37

I did some basic Lingala via talk now cd & memrise.com but struggled through different spelling
as far as I know it's pretty widely spoken throughout DRC
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