Kiswahili is the glue that binds Tanzania together. It’s essentially a Bantu tongue, enriched by thousands of loan words, primarily Persian and Arabic, but also Hindi, Portuguese, German and English.
Kiswahili is pronounced exactly as it’s written, with the stress nearly always on the penultimate syllable. Where an apostrophe precedes a vowel (eg ng’ombe; cattle), the vowel is accentuated, something like a gulp.
The ability to pepper conversation with appropriate proverbs (methali) is also much admired in Tanzania – as elsewhere in Africa. The pithier sayings even find their way onto kangas worn by women, to express sentiments that might be taboo if spoken aloud.
Here are a few of our favourites, taken from the new Rough Guide to Tanzania.