Languages of Zambia
Indigenous Zambian languages
Zambia is widely claimed to have over 72 languages and dialects. Most of these might be better regarded as dialects and some of them, have a long history within Zambia, while others, such as Silozi, arose as a result of 18th and 19th-century migrations. All of Zambia's vernacular languages are members of the Bantu family and are closely related to one another.
Although there are several Languages spoken in Zambia, Seven of them were officially recognised as regional languages and they still have this official status. Together these represent the major languages of each province: Bemba (Northern Province, Luapula, Muchinga and the Copperbelt), Nyanja (Lusaka), Lozi (Western Province), Tonga and Lozi (Southern Province), and Kaonde, Luvale and Lunda (Northwestern Province). These seven languages are used, together with English, in early primary schooling and in some government publications. A common orthography was approved by the Ministry of Education in 1977.
In some languages, particularly Bemba and Nyanja, Zambians distinguish between a "deep" form of the language, associated with older and more traditional speakers in rural areas, and urban forms (sometimes called "town language" or Chitauni, such as Town Bemba and Town Nyanja) that incorporate a large number of borrowings from English and other innovations.
An urban variety of Nyanja is the lingua franca of the capital Lusaka and is widely spoken as a second language throughout Zambia. Bemba, the country's largest indigenous language, also serves as a lingua franca is some areas.
Significance of Zambian languages
Local Zambian languages play an important role in different sectors of society. For instance, in the education sector, local languages allow pupils to express themselves freely.
English, the former colonial language, serves as a common language among educated Zambians. At independence in 1964, English was declared the national language. English is the first language of only 2% of Zambians but is the most commonly used second language.
The English spoken in Zambia has some distinctive features, such as the omission of certain object pronouns that would be obligatory in Western English ("Did you reach?"), the simplification of some phrasal verbs ("throw" instead of "throw away"), subtle differences in the usage of auxiliary verbs such as "should", simplification of vowel sounds (some Zambians may regard "taste" and "test" as homophones), and the incorporation of particles derived from Zambia's indigenous languages (such as chi "big/bad" and ka "little"). Zambian English also incorporates South African words such as braai for "barbecue".
Percentage distribution of major language groups
Source: 2010 Census
List of languages
- Chanda and Mkandawire (2013)
- Chimuka (1977)
- Kashoki (1981).
- Central Statistical Office, Government of Zambia. "2010 Census Population Summaries" (PDF). Retrieved 6 March 2018.
- Chimuka, S. S. (1977). Zambian languages: orthography approved by the Ministry of Education. Lusaka : National Educational Company of Zambia (NECZAM).
- Kashoki, Mubanga E. and Ohannessian, Sirarpa. (1978) Language in Zambia. London: International African Institute.
- Kashoki, Mubanga E. (1981). Harmonization of African languages: standardization of orthography in Zambia in In African Languages: Proceedings of the Meeting of Experts on the Transcription and Harmonization of African Languages, Niamey (Niger), 17–21 July 1978, (pp. 164–75). Paris: UNESCO.
- Kashoki, Mubanga E. (1990) The Factor of Language in Zambia. Lusaka: Kenneth Kaunda Foundation.
- Marten, Lutz; Kula, Nancy C. (2008) "One Zambia, One Nation, Many Languages" in Simpson, A. ed., 2008, Language and National Identity in Africa, Oxford: OUP, 291-313.
- Chanda, Vincent M. and Mkandawire, Sitwe Benson. (2013). 'Speak Zambian Languages'. Lusaka: UNZAPRESS
- Mkandawire, S. B. (2017). "Familiar Language Based Instruction versus Unfamiliar Language for the Teaching of Reading and Writing Skills: A Focus on Zambian Languages and English at two Primary Schools in Lusaka". Zambian Journal of Language Studies, 1(1), 53-82. ISSN 2415-668X
- Mkandawire, Sitwe Benson (2017b). "Terminological Dilemma on Familiar language based instruction and English language: A reflection on Language of Initial Literacy Instruction in Zambia" Journal of Lexicography and Terminology, 1(1), 45-58. ISSN 2517-9306
- Tambulukani, Geoffrey Kazembe (2015). "First Language Teaching of Initial Reading: Blessing or Curse for the Zambian Children under Primary Reading Programme?" Ph.D. thesis, University of Zambia.
- Tordoff, William (ed.) (1974) Politics in Zambia. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
- Republic of Zambia. Constitution of Zambia 1991 (as amended by Act no. 18 of 1996).
- Census data from Zambia from Central Statistical Office, Zambia
- Ethnologue Listing of Zambian Languages
- Bibliography of books on languages spoken in Zambia