Quick Snapshot of Spoken Languages of Tanzania

Quick Snapshot of Spoken Languages of Tanzania

Tanzania is a country with more than one language, therefore if anyone asks the question “what is the language of Tanzania”, the answer is simply that there is no single language of Tanzania. As you know, there are so many kinds of languages in the world, but none of them is spoken natively by a large population of people at once. Kiswahili and English, the latter of which came from colonial rule (visit the article Tanganyika territory), are widely spoken as the common language and the other is language for business, the main importance of English language in Tanzania. English is also generally considered and used as the working language of Tanzania.

Now, what is the official language of Tanzania? Swahili language is the main language of Tanzania and official. There are more Kiswahili speakers than English in Tanzania. And due to Kiswahili influence, it is currently the language of Kenya and Tanzania, plus spreading to other regions of Africa such as Congo and South Africa.


Basing on Ethnologue, There is a group of 126 spoken languages which includes the national language of Tanzania, Swahili. Two are institutional, 18 are growing, 58 are strong, 40 are in danger of disappearing, and 8 are dying. There are also three languages ​​that are completely gone in just recent times.

Many of the spoken languages ​​of Tanzania exist in two large linguistic families: Niger-Congo (Bantu branch) and Nilo-Saharan (branch office), spoken by the Bantu and Nailic population in the country, particularly. In addition, Hadza and Sandawe who are hunter-gatherers that speak the language using consonants that have a click sound, which are pulled out of the Khoisani phylum (even though Hadza language can be a separate language). The small Ethiopian and Semitic tribes speak a variety of African-Asian languages, and Hindus and English speak a language from the Indo-European family.

The various ethnic groups in Tanzania usually speak their native languages ​​in their own tribal circles. While, the two official languages, English and Kiswahili, with distinctly different levels of fluency are used for communication with other people. According to the official national language policy enacted in year 1984, Swahili is the political and social sphere language in addition to being used in primary and adult education, when on the other end  English is the language of instruction in Tanzania secondary education, universities, technology, and higher courts. As a result of this, there has been a high importance of English language in Tanzania among the intellects, young people and all others involved with academics. But, in year 2015 the government made an announcement regarding suspending the use of English as the language of education as part of the transformation of the school system in Tanzania. This initiative hasn’t impacted the status of English language in Tanzania to a high extent, but it is the move that intended and may shift the paradigm and role English language in Tanzania as the future progresses.

In addition, there are several sign languages being used in Tanzania.

Language Groups

Main Languages

The main spoken languages of Tanzania include:

Nyamwezi people
Nyamwezi people
  • Niger-Congo
    • Bantu
      • Bemba
      • Bena (592 thousand, 2009)
      • Chagga
      • Digo (166 thousand, 2009)
      • Gogo (1.08 million, 2009)
      • Haya (1.94 million, 2016)
      • Hehe (1.21 million, 2016)
      • Iramba
      • Luguru(404 thousand, 2009)
      • Makonde (1.47 million, 2016)
      • Ngoni
      • Nyakyusa
      • Nyamwezi (1.47 million, 2016)
      • Nyika
      • Pare
      • Rangi (410 thousand, 2007)
      • Safwa (322 thousand, 2009)
      • Sonjo
      • Sukuma (8.13 million, 2016)
      • Swahili
      • Turu
      • Yao (630 thousand, 2016)
    • Nilo-Saharan

Minor Languages

Languages of Tanzania spoken by smaller ethnic groups include:

  • Khoisan
    • Khoe
      • Hadza (possibly a language isolate)
        Hadza tribe man practising shooting with an arrow
        Hadza tribe man practising shooting with an arrow
      • Sandawe
    • Afro-Asiatic
      • Cushitic
      • Semitic
        • Arabic
      • Indo-European
        • Indo-Iranian
          • Gujarati
          • Hindustani
          • Kutchi
        • Germanic
          • English
          • German
        • Romance
          • French
          • Portuguese

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