The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

With over 200 languages spoken in the country, Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most linguistically diverse nations in the world. French is the official and the most widely used language in education and government. Aside from French, there are also four national languages, and they include: Kikongo (Kituba), Lingala, Swahili, and Tshiluba (Tsiluba).

French has been the official language of the DRC since Belgian colonial rule in the country, with DRC’s French exhibiting many similarities to Belgian French. Most of the country’s educated and elite classes speak French. Nearly 33 million people in the DRC can speak, read and write in French. This translates to about 47% of the population. In the capital city of Kinshasa, an estimated 68.5% of the population can speak and understood French, with 67% of the population being able to read and write in French. French is the lingua franca in the DRC, serving as a means of easing the communication between the indigenous ethnic communities inhabiting the country.

As aforementioned, the national languages spoken in the DRC include Kikongo (Kituba), Lingala, Swahili, and Tsiluba. Kikongo is a national language of the DRC according to the country’s constitution. However, the provincial administration of Kwilu, Kwango, and Bas-Congo uses Kituba, a Kikongo-based creole. Kituba is also represented in many of the country’s urban centers as a vernacular language. The Lingala language is the major Bantu language spoken in the country’s capital city, as well as the middle Congo area. Lingala attained its modern form during the country’s colonial times, when missionaries encouraged the spread of the language as a local vehicular language. Swahili is another Bantu language spoken in the DRC. Several variants of Swahili are spoken by the people of the DRC, with the predominant one being Kingwana. Swahili is the lingua franca in Eastern Equatorial Africa. Tshiluba is a language spoken in two major variations across the DRC: the Luba-Kasai and the Luba-Lulua, which are spoken in the East Kasai Region and the West Kasai region, respectively. Luba-Katanga is a closely related language which is spoken in the country’s Katanga province.

Francophone African Sign Language and American Sign Language are both used by the country’s deaf community. There are 12 institutions for the deaf across the country.

There are also a number of minority languages that are spoken in the DRC. The most notable minority languages spoken in the country include: Lunda, Lendu, Zande, Budza, Komo, Chokwe, and Nande. There are also plans to introduce Portuguese as an optional subject in schools.


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