Deconstructing Lingala

My online journey into lingala fluency

A Sociolinguistic Profile of Lingala September 18, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — kaos721 @ 1:09 am
A Sociolinguistic Profile of Lingala
Lingala is a Central Bantu language that belongs to the largest African languages phylum: the Niger-Congo. It is one of the major languages spoken in the African Great Lakes region, primarily in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), and in parts of five neighboring central African states: northwestern Angola (including the cities of Luanda and Cabinda), eastern Gabon, southern Central Africa Republic, and southwestern Sudan. There are no reliable statistics on the number of Lingala speakers in this region, but it is estimated that between twenty to twenty-five million speak it as a first and second language. In addition, it is the dominant medium of the ever-popular Congolese music known variously as "soukous," and "Congolese Rumba". With legendary musicians such Luambo Makiadi (a.k.a, Franco), Tabu Ley (Rochereau) and more recently Koffi Olomide, Papa Wemba, among others, Lingala has been introduced to the rest of Africa and the world via the Congolese music. There are currently Lingala-speaking enclaves of Congolese musicians and non-musicians throughout Africa, Western Europe, and North America.
From 1930 to 1997 Lingala acquired many other important functions in DRC, including the role of official language of the Congolese armed forces, of the national police and national guard ("gendarmerie"). It also serves as the official language of the clergy and of worship in the Catholic Church diocese of Kinshasa, and as the main lingua franca along the mighty Congo River and its hundred of tributaries. Currently Lingala is the dominant/default language of daily communication in the mega-polis capitol of DRC: Kinshasa, which is the home of an estimated 8.5 million people.

Why Should You Study Lingala?

Lingala is undoubtedly the most important indigenous investment language of Central Africa. Its fuller potential has yet to be realized due to the political instability that has characterized this region, especially DRC and Congo-Brazzaville. In due time, the development of the DRC's immense natural resources (from precious minerals, to acqua- and agri-cultural, and hydroelectric power) will establish Lingala firmly as the critical investment language. In the meantime, its current prestige and functions in the larger parts of the African Great Lakes region makes it a major gateway to a fuller understanding of the urban cultural life and regional socio-political developments. Also, to appreciate the great cultural value of the Congolese music one needs to learn the language both for entertainment and for educational enrichment. The richness of the Congolese music in Lingala, its role as a chronicler of Congolese socio-cultural history, and its immense influence on other African music genres are unmatched by any other African pop language. Lingala is certainly a gateway to a variety of opportunities.

Source for Post: Department of Linguistics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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1 comment:

  1. That's strange I was just reading the same article this morning.. Interesting reasoning as why learn Lingala... Apart from it being a fairly simple language to learn. It is one of the more melodic, almost you can say an " Intensley Romanticized" language. In music the artist could be saying you have a face like a hyena, but because the tone of the language is beautiful, a person with no Lingala background would be oblivious...