The official language in Tanzania is Swahili (also known as Kiswahili), which is spoken by over 90% of the population. English has official status – it is used in foreign trade, diplomacy, higher courts and partly as classroom language in secondary school and higher education. Arabic is also widespread, especially in the coastal region and in Dar es Salaam. It is also the official language on Zanzibar.
There are also more than 120 other languages and dialects, which are usually spoken regionally. Most Tanzanians first learn their local tribal language. Later, in elementary school, they learn Swahili and then English if they attend secondary school. Education in secondary schools and universities is usually in English. Overall, English is therefore quite common in Tanzania, but is spoken in particular in larger cities and in tourist areas.
Common words and phrases
If you would like to speak one word or two of Swahili on the spot, here’s a small list of common words and phrases for you:
- Hello – Jambo
- Goodbye – Kwa heri
- Please – Tafadhali
- Thank you – Asante
- Thank you very much – Asante sana
- Gladly (done) – Karibu
- There are no problems – Hakuna Matata
- My name is … – Ninaitwa …
- Yes – Ndiyo
- No – Hapana
- No thanks – Hapana asante
- Slowly – Polepole
- Freedom – Uhuru (“Uhuru Peak”, the summit of Kilimanjaro)
- How are you? – Habari Gani?
- I’m fine – Mzuri
- (Not) good – (Si) nzuri
Here you find further information on this topic.