Shimaore (French also: Mahorais) is one of the two indigeneous languages spoken in the French-ruled Comorian islands of Mayotte; Shimaore being a dialect of the Bantu Comorian language, while Bushi is an unrelated Malayo-Polynesian language originally from Madagascar. Historically, Shimaore- and Kibushi-speaking villages on Mayotte have been clearly identified, but Shimaore tends to be the de facto indigeneous lingua franca in everyday life, because of the larger Shimaore-speaking population. Only Shimaore is represented on the local television news program by RFO. The 2002 census references 80,140 speakers of Shimaore in Mayotte itself, to which one would have to add people living outside the island, mostly in metropolitan France. There are also 20,000 speakers of Comorian in Madagascar, some of which are Shimaore speakers.
The same 2002 census indicates that 37,840 persons responded as knowing how to read or write Shimaore. However this number has to be taken with caution, since until a few years ago Shimaore did not have a standard writing system.
From a sociolinguistic perspective, French tends to be regarded by many Shimaore speakers as the language of higher education and prestige, and there is a temptation by native Mahorans to provide an all-French education to their children. This puts a lot of pressure on Shimaore and the language may become endangered in the next future if nothing is done.
Although French remains the official language in Mayotte, Shimaore will probably be taught in Mahoran schools starting in the next few years, and a pilot project began in fall 2004. As in many parts of France where local languages are introduced in the school system, this has led to tensions between partisans of a French-centered education system and administrations, versus those promoting a more diversified approach. Shimaore's position in this regard is however different from other French regions (such as Brittany), since the language is locally spoken by a majority of the population. The project in Mayotte has been inspired by similar projects involving Swahili in eastern Africa countries.
Mayotte is a geographically small territory, but frequent exchanges between villages have not started until the last quarter of the twentieth century. As of 2004, linguistic differences between the east and west part of the island, and between the main city of Mamoudzou and the remote villages, are still noticeable, especially when it comes to phonological differences. One typical example is the word u-la (to eat), notably pronounced this way in the city due to the influence of a brand of yogurt bearing the same name, but pronounced u-dja in other parts of the island.