Swahili’s worldwide popularity has grown in the past year, with Russia and Colombia being the latest to announce they will be offering lessons in the language as a subject in schools.
The recognition of the significance of the language gained a UN profile with the creation of World Swahili Day last year. Friday marks the second-ever one and the BBC’s Focus on Africa podcast has been looking at Swahili’s global spread.
The Russian announcement about the teaching of the language was made last month at a roundtable organised by the Sputnik International News Agency on economic co-operation between Russia and Africa.
“At the moment we have what we can call ‘the Africa rage in Russia’ because Russia pays much more attention to Africa co-operation than it was doing before,” said Alexey Maslov, the Director of the Institute of Asian and African Studies at Moscow State University.
“That’s why a lot of people, especially young people, want to connect their careers to African markets – and that’s why the African languages and first of all Swahili became very popular,” he added.
In Colombia, the country’s first black Vice-President, Francia Marquez, said that Swahili will be offered in schools as it “is important for reconnecting with roots and rebuilding historical memory”.
Javier Kamau, a Swahili speaker from Colombia told the BBC that the move was “surprising” but “empowering”
According to Unesco, Swahili has more than 200 million speakers and is one of the top 10 most widely spoken languages in the world.