Jambo from The Jambo Collection

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Interesting fact. There are 68 different languages spoken in Kenya!

This is largely due to there being such a diverse population. There are two large language families ruling the roost locally. They are Niger-Congo, spoken by the Bantu population and Nilo-Saharan, spoken by the Nilotic population. Then there are 42 different ethnic groups, each speaking their own dialect.

There is a strong British influence in Kenya, due to the colonial past and trading as far back as the 1800’s. Consequently, English is spoken fairly widely across the Country and is one of the two official languages.

Swahili is another national language found all over Kenya and spoken by nearly all Kenyans.

Swahili is supposedly easy to learn, due to its rigid grammar and it being a phonetic language (meaning it sounds the same as it is written – not like silly our language!). The only tricky bit with Swahili is that there are prefixes, suffixes and infixes all over the shop. Plus, a complicated class system for nouns… but let’s ignore that and give it a go!

Let’s Learn Some!

Firstly, something you may already know; jambo! It is a word used commonly throughout the country to greet others. Although used to mean “hello”, the literal translation of the word is “problems”. So you’re asking “have you got any problems?!” and the reply (also Jambo), “no thanks, all good!” or “no problems here, thanks”. We can cope with that!

Now let’s learn a bit more, because you never know when it’ll come in handy! “Asante” means thank you. “Ndiyo”, literally meaning “it is so” is used for “yes” and “Hapana”, “no”. When you come to the end of your Swahili knowledge you can say “Mimi Mwingereza”, “I’m British”, and revert back to English, phew! It’s always nice to make an effort though and the Kenyan locals will be thrilled, greeting you with lots of smiles.

Other Languages

So, apart from the dominant languages, other native tongues are mostly used in the home setting or found in remote towns and villages. The most common of Kenyan languages are Kikuyu (8 million speakers), Dholuo (4.27 million speakers) and Luhya. There is also a new language forming in Nairobi which is a commonly used slang mixing Swahili and English, with a few words thrown in from other indigenous languages.

The Jambo Collection

We’re proud that our cowhides and materials are all sourced directly from Kenya and come into contact with locals speaking a variety of Kenyan dialects. Take a look at the gorgeous Kenyan materials crafted into our luxury bags here (“mkoba” – handbag, just to add another word to your Swahili repertoire before we go)!