World Kiswahili Language Day Date in the current year: July 7, 2023

World Kiswahili Language Day World Kiswahili Language Day is celebrated annually on July 7. It was established by UNESCO to recognize the importance of Kiswahili as a lingua franca in much of Africa and to promote linguistic diversity and multilingualism.

Kiswahili, more widely known as Swahili, is the language of the Swahili people, who are found primarily along the East African coast. It belongs to the Bantu language group, although a significant percentage of its vocabulary has been borrowed from Arabic. Even the name of the language is a loan word; it can be roughly translated from Arabic as “of the coast”. Originally written primarily in the Arabic script, Kiswahili now uses the Latin alphabet.

According to Wikipedia, the number of Kiswahili speakers is estimated to be around 80 million, including 20 million first language speakers. However, UNESCO claims that Kiswahili has more than 200 million speakers. Be that as it may, Kiswahili is one of the world’s most widely spoken languages by total number of speakers, as well as the most widely spoken language in sub-Saharan Africa.

Kiswahili is an official language in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, and a recognized minority language in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique. Outside of these countries, it is also spoken in the Comoros, Madagascar, Malawi, Mayotte, Somalia, and Zambia. Due to this, Kiswahili is a lingua franca in East, Central and Southern Africa and the Middle East.

Kiswahili is one of the working languages of several international organizations, including the African Union, the East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community. In 2015, the EAC created the East African Kiswahili Commission to promote Kiswahili in the East African region and coordinate it usage for regional integration and sustainable development. In recent years, a number of African countries have added Kiswahili to school curricula or have expressed intentions to do so; they include Botswana, Ethiopia, Namibia, South Africa and South Sudan.

Kiswahili has been represented in the United Nations since the establishment of the Kiswahili Language Unit of United Nations Radio in the 1950. Today, it is the only African language within the United Nations Department of Global Communications. Although Kiswahili is not an official language of the UN, it has a UN language day dedicated to it. The only other language to have a UN language day without being an official language of the United Nations is Portuguese.

World Kiswahili Language Day was established at the 41st session of UNESCO’s General Conference that took place in November 2021. It is celebrated on July 7 to commemorate the day in 1954 when the newly formed Tanganyika African National Union led by Julius Nyerere adopted Kiswahili as a unifying language for Tanganyika’s struggle for independence. In addition, on July 7, 2000, the East African Community was revived to promote cooperation between the countries in the African Great Lakes Region, where Kiswahili is widely spoken.

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UN Observances

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World Kiswahili Language Day, international observances, UN observances, UNESCO observances, Swahili, Kiswahili