Many have been wording and asking me whether the Bantu language spoken in the Great lakes region of Africa is called Kiswahili or Swahili. We have been running a translations agency for over 10 years now but the questions regarding the right pronunciation and spelling of the language (Swahili/Kiswahili) has been dominant from our clients. Our website has the word Swahili used as a language offered for translation but clients who know it as Kiswahili often wonder whether that is the same language or their some subtleties between the two words.
The Explanation between Swahili and Kiswahili
Just like other languages as French (Français), Spanish (Español) Swahili is an English word to mean Kiswahili. When an English man is writing and he is meaning that language spoken in France, he will refer it as French, but when a French man is writing he will refer it as Français like wise to Spanish and Swahili. Of course history says that Swahili is a mixture of several languages which were used for commercial purposes therefore regarding it as a lingua franca language. For that respect, history regards Kiswahili as Swahili that was spoken before the language got mixed up with Arabic dialect. In reality there is no difference between Kiswahili and Swahili rather Kiswahili is pure Swahili. As I said above that Swahili is an English word to mean Kiswahili, it doesn’t mean when someone uses the word Kiswahili to mean Swahili when speaking or writing in English that he/she is wrong.
Origins of Swahili/Kiswahili
Traditionally, Swahili is regarded to be a language of the Great lakes region of Africa especially the coastal areas of Tanganyika present Tanzania and Kenya. The language is believed to have been first spoken by natives of the coastal mainland and spread to various Islands surround South Eastern Africa mostly by fishermen. This then regarded Swahili as a fisherman’s language. Swahili language was a language of engagement between traders and the coastal people in the early 2nd century before it rapidly spread to the Swahili coast in the 6th century.
There is also a cultural aspect that suggests that Swahili is as a result of early Zaromo people who settled in Zanzibar from Tanganyika (Tanzania). The version of African tradition believes that the language descended from the early settlers of the aromatic flower buds known as coves from the Oman an Arab country in the south-eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The Oman people had their journey to Africa with the interest of spreading I slam and their by adding slowly a few words to Swahili language. They built forts and castles in major trading and cultural centres. This stretched far as Sofala in Mozambique and Kilwa in 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.