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Kiswahili Language Day

7 July

In the 1950s the United Nations established the Kiswahili language unit of United Nations Radio, and today Kiswahili is the only African language within the Directorate of the Global Communications at the United Nations. The United Nations General Assembly, through its resolution 71/328 of 11 September 2017, on multilingualism, welcomed implementation of a day dedicated to each of its official languages in order to inform and raise awareness of their history, culture and use, and encouraged the Secretary-General and institutions such as UNESCO to consider extending this important initiative to other non-official languages spoken throughout the world.

In that regard, the 41st session of the General Conference of UNESCO adopted resolution 41 C/61 that recognized the role the Kiswahili language plays in promoting cultural diversity, creating awareness and fostering dialogue among civilizations and noted the need to promote multilingualism as a core value of the United Nations and an essential factor in harmonious communication between peoples, which promotes unity in diversity and international understanding, tolerance and dialogue. The resolution proclaimed 7 July of each year as World Kiswahili Language Day. Kiswahili is the first African language to the recognized in such a manner by the UN.

UNESCO Director-General's message for the World Kiswahili Language Day

Kiswahili is a language that speaks to both past and present. With over 200 million speakers, it is one of the most widely used African languages, encompassing more than a dozen main dialects. Over the centuries, this Bantu language has emerged as a common form of communication in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, in addition to the Middle East.

 

 

Celebrations at UNESCO HQ and in Field Offices

UNESCO Headquarters

The Permanent Delegation of Tanzania to UNESCO spearheaded the Commemoration of the World Kiswahili Language Day at the UNESCO Headquarters, in partnership with the permanent delegations of Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda to UNESCO, with technical support from UNESCO’s Sector for Priority Africa and External Relations (PAX). 

The ceremony commenced with a video message by Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, followed by a statement by H.E. Ernest Niyokindi, Permanent delegate of Burundi to UNESCO, and another video message by H.E. Amb Minata Samaté Cessouma Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development of the African Union Commission. Honorable Tabia Maulid Mwita, Tanzania’s Minister for Information, Youth, Culture and Sports was also in attendance to deliver a keynote speech during the inaugural ceremony.

This high-level segment was followed by a roundtable discussion, which reviewed the cultural, historical and pedagogical aspects of Kiswahili, as well as the youth-led solutions and ideas for the promotion of Kiswahili in the technology and art domains. 

Cultural performances and a cocktail followed, with the participation of renowned Tanzanian poet, Mr Mrisho Mpoto, who recited Shabaan Robert’s poem: “Titi la Mama”. The formal commemoration concluded with closing remarks from Mr. Firmin E. Matoko, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Priority Africa and External Relations, and H.E. Samwel W. Shelukindo, Permanent Delegate of the United Republic of Tanzania to UNESCO.

See the link here

 

In the Field Offices

Addis Ababa Liaison office to the African Union and ECA:

UNESCO Addis Ababa Liaison Office to the African Union in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Africa led the celebrations in Ethiopia, which were attended by Officials of the African Union, Ambassadors of the Member States of the East African Community, the Executive Secretary of The African Academy of Languages ACALAN and the Chairperson of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union. The ceremony was marked by the interpretation of the Malaika song from the Pan-African artist Miriam Makeba, in chorus by all participants. This was followed by a round table discussion under the theme: Kiswahili Language: Towards Peace, Prosperity and Unity.

See the link here.

 

UN Headquarters - UNESCO Liaison office in New York:

The UNESCO Liaison Office in New York co-hosted a parallel official ceremony in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Tanzania to the UN and the Southern African Development Community. The ceremony served as a platform to advocate for the potential of Kiswahili in the attainment of the 2030 and 2063 agendas and constituted a high-level segment, an interactive panel, and cultural performances from the Habari Academy. Moderated by Mr. Sherwin Bryce-Pease, Bureau Chief and UN Correspondent South African Broadcasting Corporation, the interactive panel focused on Kiswahili as a means to foster international cooperation and sustainable peace, underlining the important role of the Kiswahili language and culture in uniting communities, as well as promoting social cohesion and sustainable peace across Africa. Ms. Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, provided her remarks in presentia, which particularly highlighted the role of Kiswahili as a transformative instrument for the promotion of peace, prosperity and regional integration.

 See the link here.

 

UNESCO Nairobi Regional Office

The National Commission of Kenya to UNESCO, closely collaborated with the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa in Nairobi and other key players to devise the national Kiswahili Day celebrations in Kenya. The ceremony was officially opened by Amb.  Amina C. Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage. Other keynote speakers at the event included Hon. Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Dr. Evangeline Njoka, Secretary-General, Kenya National Commission to UNESCO and Prof. Hubert Gijzen, Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, whose remarks echoed the importance of the recognition of Kiswahili as a unifying language with more than 200 million speakers, and the historical significance of the day.

In Tanzania, there were various week-long activities, most notably a peace march, symposia, talk shows, and a national cultural Festival, between 1st-7th July 2022.

See the link here.

Kiswahili is one of the most widely used languages of the African family, and the most widely spoken in sub-Saharan Africa. It is among the 10 most widely spoken languages in the world, with more than 200 million speakers.The language is one of the lingua franca in many countries within East, Central and Southern Africa as well as in the Middle East. It is also taught across major universities and colleges globally. 

Celebration at UNESCO Headquarters
Director General message

One word (in Kiswahili) - different languages!

As we look forward in celebrating the first World Kiswahili Language Day, we call on you to join us by recording video of you saying a kiswahili word and translating it to your mother language, in our attempt to bring Kiswahili Language closer to home.

For example:
Nakupenda in Kiswahili means I love you ( in English ) Je t’aime (in french)…and Aheri( in Luo)….. Ke a go rata (setswana) …..

Now you can try the greetings below (Jambo which means hello) , in a video or photo . You will need to write on an A4 page  (the Swahili word and its meaning in your mother tongue), take a photo and send it to us before Friday 8 July. 

For more information please contact m.bowe@unesco.org  

Learn Kiswahili

Greetings

  • Hello: jambo/ hujambo/ salama
  • How are you?: habari gani
  • Fine (response): nzuri
  • Goodbye: kwa heri/ kwa herini (more than one peson)
  • See you later: tutaonana
  • Nice to meet you: nafurahi kukuona
  • Goodnight: lala salama

Civilities

  • Yes: ndiyo
  • No: hapana
  • Thank you: asante
  • Thank you very much: asante sana
  • Please: tafadhali
  • OK: sawa
  • Excuse me: samahani
  • You're welcome: starehe
  • Can you help me?: tafadhali, naomba msaada
  • What is your name?: jina lako nani?
  • My name is: jina langu ni
  • Where are you from?: unatoka wapi?
  • I'm from: natokea
  • Do you speak Swahili?: unasema Kiswahili?

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UNESCO
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James Currey
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V3: Africa from the seventh to the eleventh century
UNESCO
University of California Press
James Currey
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V4: Africa from the twelfth to the sixteenth century
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University of California Press
James Currey
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V5: Africa from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century
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University of California Press
James Currey
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V6: Africa in the nineteenth century until the 1880s
UNESCO
University of California Press
James Currey
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V7: Africa under colonial domination, 1880-1935
UNESCO
University of California Press
James Currey
Heinemann
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V8: Africa since 1935
UNESCO
University of California Press
Heinemann Educational Books
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