4 Main Languages Of Congo

Ciluba is a bantu language that originates in the very heart of Africa. It is spoken by over 6 million people in Democratic Republic of Congo and about 30,000 people in Angola. These numbers don’t include the diaspora spread out all around the world, mainly in Western Europe and North America. Some searchers say the number of Lubaphones, spreadout over several countries (Angola, Zambie, Malawi, Tanzanie, Rwanda, Mozambique, Burundi, Ouganda, Kenya), could rise up to 100 million speakers. Those people would speak languages derived from Ciluba (Cibemba, Cipemba, Cihemba, Kisonge, Bindji, Sanga, Kiholoholo, Ambak, etc.) Ciluba is one of the 400 languages (some specialists estimate the number of languages at 450 and others even at 500) spoken in Congo. Congo has over 70 million inhabitants (2010 estimate), 4 national languages (Ciluba, Kikongo, Lingala,  Swahili) and the official language is French. Ciluba is spoken by the Luba people, ‘Baluba’ in Ciluba.  In a lot of websites, they say the language is Luba-Kasai which I don’t find really exact since it defines the people and the region, not the language. When a language has a name, why not call it by its name? In Congo, they mainly reside in both Kasayi (Western and Eastern) and a small part in Angola. That’s when you see the ridiculous situation colonialism has put Africa into. A situation that stirs wars and other conflicts. A sister branch of the Baluba people also resides in Katanga. They are called Baluba-Kat or Baluba-Shaba and they speak Kiluba a variant of Ciluba. On the left-hand side, you can see how the 4 main languages of the country roughly spread around the congolese territory.

I have grown up in an environment not that immersed into the Congolese culture, always  surrounded with friends from everywhere. Despite the fact that I could hear Swahili and Ciluba at home on a daily basis, it has never been forced upon me so that it came to the point that I could only understand a little. It’s only these past years that the desire to learn the language has grown.

Ciluba is the language of my ancestors and I was sadly surprised to see that there were so few resources to learn the language, at least in the Western World. People start to produce different supports but they are so scarce, it’s difficult to get a solid support to learn on your own. So I wanna try to regroup everything I learn and everything I know under this blog and centralize the information as much as I can. I also put links in the side menu, go check them out…

Luba Headrest

Also,  I realized that a lot of people who live out of Congo can speak Ciluba but when it comes to write it only a few actually can. The study of the language has been lost over the years so it becomes very complicated to find someone with solid knowledge of the language. I hear a lot of people say that Ciluba is a phonetic language and you can write it the way you want, write it as you speak it.  This is TOTALLY untrue. There are a lot of grammar rules. Ciluba is a scientific language. Ciluba is a beautiful, complex and incredibly rich language with a lot of nuances and subtilities. Ciluba is a language much alive that keeps evolving everyday. I thank our linguists for all the work they provided until now and I hope this language will develop even further. One of the specificity of Ciluba, as other bantu languages, is that it works with word classes. This system is not that easy to grasp but when I’ll have time, I will try to post a clear explanation about it someday, in the grammar rules section. I will try to be as accurate and as clear as one can be. It won’t be easy though. (Update: Check it out now!)

I am myself a language lover: I speak French and English fluently; I used to be fluent in Spanish and Portuguese (10 years without speaking them and they are completely rusted, I need to travel a bit more :P); I study Ciluba at the moment; I know basic stuff in Lingala and Swahili; I have an advanced beginner level in Korean I’d say; and out of curiosity, I even had a sneak peek of Lakota (very interesting aboriginal language) and Mandarin (Chinese scared me away, I might return to it one day). Every time I assimilate a new language, it is not only a language but a whole new world of culture that opens up to me and I love this feeling… I always try to learn new stuff and I thought that some people would be like me and would want to give it a try into learning how to speak a bit of Ciluba. It’s our duty, as sons and daughters of Ilunga, to preserve the language, especially among the diaspora, and not let it be washed away like other languages. Only a couple of generations not speaking the language is enough for the language to disappear.

My Blog is about Congo in general and Luba culture and language in particular. Please take your time to visit the site and add it to your favorites. There are plenty of interesting links that I add along as soon as I discover interesting websites. Also, feel free to share your own knowledge of the language and I would greatly appreciate any constructive critiques, comments or even corrections as well. I deliberately chose to use the orthography defined by our linguists in 1974. For some reason, the majority of Baluba are attached to the orthography defined by the missionaries in the late 1880s. I think it’s also our duty to fully take possession of our language and bring it even further. I will try to post new articles on a regular basis. This blog is opened to debate as long as visitors remain courteous. All comments are reviewed and answered, if needed, as soon as possible. Any offensive or disrespectful comments will be deleted.

May peace be with you. Washala bimpa!

Twasakidila!  🙂

N.B.: Ce blog est sur le Congo en général et la culture et la langue Lubas en particulier. Prenez le temps de visiter le site et ajoutez le à vos favoris. Plein de liens sont ajoutés au rythme de mes découvertes. Les parties en Ciluba sont écrites suivant l'orthographe mise en place par les linguistes Congolais en 1974. Il tient à nous, Kasayens et Katangais du Congo et de la Diaspora, de nous réappropier cette langue. Notez par ailleurs que ce blog est ouvert au débat tant que les commentaires restent courtois. Nous avons le droit d'être en désaccord les uns avec les autres mais les commentaires désobligeants ne seront pas publiés.
Last update October 20th, 2014

7 thoughts on “Bwà cinyì? | Pourquoi? | Why?

  1. I like the passion you have put in learning your roots.
    I share the same passion for the Kalenjin/Nandi language spoken by people in the Kenyan Rift Valley, Eastern Uganda and parts of N.E. Tanzania. They are the best athletes and have brought many medals to Kenya and Uganda.


  2. thank you so much! Ciluba is really tough to learn though! little by little you get there…
    there are so many interesting languages in the world… 😀


  3. I am really moved as I read about your noble passion for learning ciluba. Almost everyone of your words seems to be an echo of my thoughts and concerns. Being mainly Swahili-speaking as I was growing up in Congo, I left the country in my early twenties having just a sketchy knowledge of my heritage language, ciluba. As the world beyond my country boarders began to open up to me, it began to hit me that I could no longer afford to be complacent and think that I would still somehow sometime be able to learn the language. This concern continued to grow the more I was learning new languages. Being actually a language enthusiast, I diligently learned languages from all 6 African countries I have lived in for as long as stayed. I’m also fluent in Portuguese and have a sound working knowledge of German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Afrikaans while I can read some Arab and am currently learning Japanese, not to mention other language-learning adventures. I all along wished to learn my own language, but I unfortunately did not the necessary resources until I came across the website page: a few months ago. I learned a lot and was proud to see how this language I love can actually be utilized as a means to treat and transfer scientific knowledge. Mr. Kadima Batumona-Adi has made a wonderful job of clearly explaining the structure and mechanism of ciluba. Having lived 23 years outside of Congo, I’m glad to be on the right track as I’m learning my ciluba, aiming at passing on the knowledge to my children.
    That’s why I value initiatives such as yours as they have a great positive impact in people’s lives.
    Twasakidila wa bungi. Mvidi Mukulu akuambulwisha mu mudimu ewu mwimpa be.


    1. Thank you so much. I’m wondering how I missed your comment all this time! It’s very much appreciated. This blog has been slower but I’ll come back more active in a few months. Thanks a lot for your support and good luck learning CIluba. It’s a great language indeed! 🙂


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