Is linguala the most spoken language in DRC?

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.

En Francais:


* 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.

14 thoughts on “Is linguala the most spoken language in DRC?

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  1. Am sure you did a lot of research on that.
    But what you did miss as point is that wherever you are in DR Congo….at some point you always going to bump to a person that can speak linguala and lot of people that can at least understand linguala.
    So statistically linguala is spoken the all DRCongo.

    1. Thank you. You have raised some valuable point that we did discuss earlier on and have made some updates to the article for clarifications.

  2. I agree with you that swahili is widely spoken in drc than lingala.hopefully one day swahili will become a Africa’s most spoken language juma shabani

    1. No lingala is. On the east of congo they speak swahili and some speak both. On the west and other parts, it’s lingala. Thus, Lingala is more spoken than swahili, and it’s more beautiful in my opinion. Also more popular in african countries than swahili. Yes most people speak swahili in africa (the swahilis don’t even sound the same). But Lingala is more popular because of the music, I cannot name a countrie in africa that has never heard of a Lingala song.

  3. South Africa has many African diaspora but we are doing nothing to reach out to the continent. Worst there are Afrophobia tendencies from time to time. I have decided to partner with a Congolese brother to produce stories from RSA to reach out to central Africa through Swahili so we can share experiences & reconcile with our motherland through communication

  4. Why did Africans decide French was neutral? Did not the french speakers kill 5 million congolese? Why can’t they decide to speak a black indigenous language? There is nothing neutral about accepting european languages when they created theories on how you were inferior, raped, murdered, and destroyed people. I will never understand black african’s mentality.

  5. French is a widely used international language of business, education, government and the military. It is the language in which any educated Congolese has studied. It is the language of African media covering over half the continent. It is the language of international aid from Belguim and France. That is why it is used. Lingala is understood in many parts of the country, but not outside the country. However, Swahili, while concentrated iand widely spoken n the Southeast of the RDC, is also a widely used international language in Africa, unlike Lingala.

  6. This article is mostly faulty in its claim that Swahili is the most spoken Language in DRC. There are also some; commenting here claiming that Swahili is mostly understood in Africa, while Lingala is understood only in DRC, this is also not true.

    Lingala is the most known-about language in Africa, mostly because because of the popularity and influence the Rumba, Soukous and Ndombolo music genre has had on the African music scene. There is no African person that has never heard a Lingala word in his/her life, except the deaf. But there are plenty of people, especially in the French speaking West Africa that have never heard a single Swahili word in their lives. This is something the Swahili advocates never ever want to mention or think about.

    I lived and grew up in the Lingala region of Zaire/Congo, and the belief there is that a “real Congolese” person must speak Lingala or Bangala. Those in the east that speak only Swahili are considered almost like foreigners. For these Lingala-Congolese, if a foreigner speaks Lingala, and they have someone from the east that speaks only Swahili, they would rather have that foreigner in the place of their fellow Congolese who speaks only Swahili! That’s how serious they value Lingala.

    Meanwhile, even in the eastern Congo, nearly 75% of the population are able to speak or understand Lingala. But in the west, there is strong resistance; and even some disdain for anything Swahili. Again, the Swahili advocates always ignore, or choosing to just overlook this fact.

    For me, having grown up in the Lingala region, the first time a meet Congolese abroad who only speak Swahili, I thought they were joking, and I automatically dismissed them as being either Kenyans, Ugandans, or Rwandese. Up to this very day, at the back of my mind, I still consider myself as being the “real deal” in comparison to any Swahili speaking Congolese. Pls forgive!

    So Lingala is the most known-about and the most listen-to-language in Africa, overtaking even both the French and English languages. It is currently spoken in DRC, Congo Brazzaville, Some parts of: Central African Republic, Sudan, Northern Uganda, Gabon, and Angola. Plus the millions and millions of Africans who listen, or have listened to Rumba/Soukous/Ndombolo music.

    To any Swahili advocate, go checkout to see if these are all true!

  7. Lingala could be the most popular african language in africa. I’m pretty sure most people are familiar with lingala than swahili because of its’ popular music.

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