Language section number:
Swahili, also known as Kiswahili, is a Bantu language and the first language of the Swahili people. It is traditionally regarded as being the language of coastal areas of Tanzania and Kenya. It was formalised after independence by presidents of the African Great Lakes region but first spoken by natives of the coastal mainland. It spread as a fisherman's language to the various islands surrounding the Swahili Coast. Traders from these islands had extensive contact with the coastal peoples from at least the 2nd century A.D., and Swahili began to spread along the Swahili Coast from at least the 6th century. There is also cultural evidence of early Zaramo people settlement on Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam in present-day Tanzania.
Clove farmers from Oman and the Persian Gulf farmed the Zanzibar Archipelago, slowly spreading Islam, adding a few words to Swahili, and building forts and castles in major trading and cultural centers as far as Sofala (Mozambique) and Kilwa (Tanzania) to the south, Mombasa and Lamu in Kenya, the Comoros Islands and northern Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, and Barawa to the north in southern Somalia. Demand for cloves soon led to the establishment of permanent trade routes, and Swahili-speaking merchants settled in stops along the new trade routes. For the most part, this process started the development of the modern Swahili language.
Although only around five to fifteen million people speak Swahili as their first language, it is used as a lingua franca in much of Southeast Africa. Estimates of the total number of Swahili speakers vary widely, from 60 million to over 150 million. Swahili serves as a national language of four nations: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Shikomor, the official language in Comoros and also spoken in Mayotte (Shimaore), is related to Swahili. Swahili is also one of the working languages of the African Union and one of the official languages of the East African Community.