Linguistic Landscape in Kenya
“Kenya is a multiracial society, and according to the culture, you belong to a tribe. And each tribe has its own [unclear], each tribe has its own language. So, for me, I have my own language that my mother and father speak. And a few other people within the, it’s actually within the Rift Valley, and this language that is known as Kalenjin. Then closer to the Kalenjins, on the border line are the Luos. And then we have the Kisii on the other side. We have the Maasais.
“You have to start from point one, that’s from where you belong, to speak that language, your own mother’s language. And of course you have to communicate with the rest of Kenya, and you have to learn [to] speak Swahili, it’s the language that is taught in school. And you also have to speak and learn English because that is the language of instruction when you go to school, too, and introduced at a very young stage, when you go to first grade. So, all the way to university level, because a requirement, you must pass in both Swahili and English to be, in order to qualify to go to university.
“So, apart from the three major languages that any Kenyan would know, because they have to know their own language, and must know Swahili, [and] must know English; they also have to speak other languages from their neighbors. So, if you are Kalenjin, chances are you’ll also have to speak Luo, because there’s intermarriage, there is trade. People stay and work in the same offices, and you pick a language. You can pick Kisii, you can pick Kikuyu, which is from the [biggest] tribe of the Kenyan population. So the chances are you’ll get to know at least five or six languages.”
In this video, a native Kenyan discusses multilingualism in Kenya.