Did you know that Swahili is one of the most spoken languages in Africa? It’s really special because it’s the main language that comes from the African continent and is used by lots of people all over the world.
Learning Swahili can open up many exciting opportunities. You’ll be able to talk to people from different African countries where Swahili is used. However, just like learning any language, becoming really good at Swahili takes a lot of hard work and time. But don’t worry, with dedication, you can become fluent!
You might be wondering, “How much time do I need to learn Swahili?” Well, the answer isn’t the same for everyone. It could take a short time like a year, or it might even take many years like a decade. It all depends on a bunch of things, not just how tricky the language is.
Your learning speed isn’t only about how tough Swahili is. It also matters how good you want to become, how much time you spend learning each day, what you’ve learned before, how excited you are to learn, and how regularly you practice.
For someone who studies one hour every day without stopping, it might take around three years to get pretty good at speaking Swahili. So, remember, the more you put in, the better you’ll get!
How Long Does It Take to Learn Swahili?
It takes about 36 weeks or 900 hours to learn the Swahili language. Swahili is a Bantu language primarily spoken in the African Great Lakes region, as well as parts of southern and eastern Africa. The language is also spoken in various countries outside of Africa. It is the most widely spoken African language, with about 50 million speakers across the African Great Lakes region.
Factors to Consider When Learning Swahili
To learn a language like Swahili, you need to practice, and that can be hard for some people because of their busy schedules. It is important to understand the factors that determine how long it takes to learn a language. Factors like age, time of year, experience, and motivation all play a part in how long it takes to learn a language.
Let’s look at some of the factors that determine how long it takes to learn the Swahili language:
1. What’s Your Native Language?
The number of similarities and differences present between Swahili and English will determine the time it will take for you to learn the Swahili language. One of the prime similarities between Swahili and English is that Swahili verbs typically come with their subject and sometimes objects as well as the corresponding tense.
This is commonly found in English, too, such as the example ‘Ninakula’ meaning ‘I am eating.’ In addition, the personal pronouns in the Swahili language are single words, like in English; for example, ‘Mimi’ means ‘I’ and ‘Sisi’ means ‘We’.
One can note various similarities between Swahili and English; for instance, both languages emphasize the seven days of the week. Moreover, the 24-hour day is recognized in both, though the point of reference may differ slightly at periods. For example, Saturday is considered the first day in Swahili, while Thursday is acknowledged as the sixth.
So based on the number of differences and similarities that the Swahili language has in regard to English, you will be able to learn the language. If you stick positively and focus on the similarities rather than the differences, you will be able to learn the language efficiently.
2. Language You’re learning
Swahili is a challenging language to learn due to its distinct features. The language’s sound system includes five vowel sounds and 36 consonant sounds, enabling word differentiation. Its syllable structure avoids consonant clusters ending in vowels, often adding extra vowels to loanwords with closing consonants. Swahili also uses complex syllables with vowel sequences.
Unusual consonant features include implosive sounds (inhaled air) and prenasalized consonants, with /m/ forming syllables (e.g., mti for ‘tree’). Nouns are divided into 15 classes, common in Bantu languages. Six classes denote singular nouns, five plural nouns, one abstract nouns, one verbal infinitives, and three locations. Class-specific prefixes indicate singular and plural forms, even for adjectives, numerals, and absorbed foreign words.
Learning time depends on which aspects you find easier. Nouns and pronouns rules or consonant rules may impact your learning pace. It’s up to you to master Swahili based on its unique characteristics.
3. How You Are Learning
Even in our tech-driven era, the value of writing remains significant. Don’t let handwritten notes become obsolete. Keep a notebook to record new Swahili words, phrases, and grammar points encountered during learning. Physically writing down information aids memory retention, and using colorful inks can make it engaging.
Learning through songs is both enjoyable and effective. Many venture into language learning to understand song lyrics in their original language. Embrace this route if you’re drawn to Swahili tunes, even if the song’s meaning surprises you.
Adjusting your social media language settings is a helpful immersion strategy. While challenging, scrolling through posts, stories, and activities in the target language exposes you to common words. Google Translate might still be needed occasionally, but don’t be disheartened.
While time-consuming, these techniques are effective. The same applies to song-based learning.
4. How Much Time Do You Have?
When learning Swahili, your desired proficiency level plays a crucial role. Whether you aim for intermediate skills or native-like fluency is your choice. The time you invest will determine your progress. Basic fluency for self-introductions or simple questions requires less daily study compared to full fluency.
Breaking your Swahili journey into manageable goals is helpful. Allocate days for nouns, pronunciation, and even relaxation like watching Netflix in Swahili when you need a break from active learning. Dedication to a few hours of focused daily study is essential for higher fluency goals.
5. Your Motivation
Swahili, a versatile language, holds significant benefits for professional and personal growth. In the business world, where expansion into remote areas is sought, Swahili proficiency can lead to better job opportunities and career advancement. Building connections becomes smoother, enhancing collaboration with Swahili speakers and proving more efficient than learning various tribal languages.
East Africa’s growing economy, rich natural resources, like Oil and Gas, and thriving tourism make Swahili essential for investment in the region. Learning it, spoken by over a million people worldwide, can facilitate business ventures and broaden horizons.
Making international friends becomes accessible through Swahili proficiency. Learning the language boosts the chances of connecting with Swahili-speaking individuals and expanding your social circle.
Your personal motivation to learn Swahili matters greatly. Without it, the learning journey could stretch for years.
My name is Arslan Hussain and I am co-founder of The Different Languages blog. Have years of experience in digital marketing, My best hobby is blogging and feel awesome to spend time in it.