There are at least 40 languages used in Uganda. English and Swahili are the official languages. Access to economic and political power is nearly impossible without having mastered English. Swahili is relatively widespread as a trade language.
Luganda is the most common with 4 million speakers and it is the official vernacular language, and was used in the schools of central and eastern Uganda, which includes Kampala, as the language of instruction up until the 1960’s.
Luganda is the native language of the people of Buganda. It only became a written language as a result of Arab and European influence. It is a difficult language to learn but you might enjoy seeing some phrases (below). To hear the sound and cadence of the language you will have to find a native speaker of Luganda!
Buganda is located in the south-central region of Uganda.The people of Buganda are referred to as Baganda (the singular form is Muganda); their language is referred to as Luganda* and they refer to their customs as Kiganda customs. Sometimes the generic term Ganda is used for all the above (especially by foreign scholars). Buganda is home to the capital Kampala as well as the country's main international airport, Entebbe.
Here’s a little conversation between two Ugandan friends:
Josephine: Leah, walabye Deception jjo ku TV? (Leah, did you watch yesterday’s episode of Deception on TV?)
Leah: Munange ssasobodde kulaba TV jjo. Nabadde nina eby’okukola binji nensubwa. Kati sooka onyumizze kiki ekyabaddewo? (Well, I couldn’t watch TV last night. I had a lot of things to finish up. That’s how I ended up missing it. Will you tell me what happened?
Click below to see more Luganda words and phrases
Photo by Peter Bregg