The official language
of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
. Four other languages have the status of national language
There is an estimated total of 242 languages spoken (Ethnologue.com lists 214 living languages). When the country was a Belgian colony, the four national languages were already used in primary schools, which makes the country one of the few to have had literacy in local languages during the occupation by Europeans.
is the official language of the country since its colonial period under Belgian
rule. The colonial language has been kept as the official language since the time of independence because it's widely spoken around the educated groups in the country, it's ethnically neutral, and eases communication between all the different ethnic groups of the Congo.
See also: French in Africa
The constitution says Kikongo
is one of the national languages, but the term Kikongo
can mean different languages. According to Ethnologue, Kikongo is a macrolanguage that consists of several languages which may or may not be mutually intelligible.
It is commonly accepted that the Kituba variant, also called Kikongo ya Leta (Kikongo of the government) is the language used in the administration in the provinces of Kongo Central (which is inhabited by the Bakongo), Kwango and Kwilu. Kituba has become a vernacular language in many urban centres including Kikwit, Bandundu, Matadi, Boma and Muanda.
is a language which gained its modern form in the colonial period, with the push of missionaries to uniformize and teach a local vehicular language
. It was originally spoken in the upper Congo river area but rapidly spread to the middle Congo area and eventually became the major Bantu language
in Kinshasa for many reasons.
Lingala was made the official language of the army under Mobutu, but since the rebellions the army has also used Swahili in the east. With the transition period and the consolidation of different armed groups into the Congolese Army, the linguistic policy has returned to its previous form and Lingala is again the official language of the Army.
is the most spoken vehicular language spoken in Eastern Equatorial Africa
. Many variations of Swahili are spoken in the country but the major one is Kingwana, sometimes called Copperbelt Swahili
especially in the Katanga area.
The constitution does not specify which variation of Tshiluba
is a national language. There are two major variations of Tshiluba: Luba-Kasai
, spoken in the East Kasai Region
) and Luba-Lulua
, in the West Kasai Region
(Bena Lulua people
). Luba-Kasai seems to be the language used by the administration.
There are 12 deaf institutions in the country, most teach French Sign Language
or variations. American Sign Language
is also practiced in the country.
The most noticeable other languages of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are Mongo