If you are part of the diaspora or from Kinshasa it’s easy to assume that Lingala, which is spoken in the capital is the most popular language in the DR Congo. However, this here is what we found out…
French is the official language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is meant to be an ethnically neutral language, to ease communication among the many different ethnic groups of the Congo.
There are an estimated total of 242 languages spoken in the country. Out of these, only four have the status of national languages: Kikongo (Kituba), Lingala, Tshiluba and Swahili (most spoken in the DRC*).
Lingala was made the official language of the colonial army, the “Force Publique” under Belgian colonial rule. But since the recent rebellions, a good part of the army in the East also uses Swahili where it is prevalent.
When the country was a Belgian colony, it had already instituted teaching and use of the four national languages in primary schools, making it one of the few African nations to have had literacy in local languages during the European colonial period. During the colonial period, both Dutch and French were the official languages but French was by far the most important.
About 24,320,000 people of DRC speak French either as a first or second language.
So there you have it after French Swahili is the most spoken language in the DRC and it is currently the most populous French-speaking country in the world.
To find out more here are some links.
* Whilst Swahili may statically be the most spoken language, Lingala is generally regarded as the most popular one in DRC. The reason being, Lingala is the most widely used local language in Congolese media, musician, actors, and politician from the capital tend to use it more than other languages. Therefore even in the heart of the Swahili speaking community, many will be able to understand Lingala even if they don’t speak it. However, most people in the west side of the country would not be able to understand Swahili if they don’t come from the eastern part of the country.