Sheng owes its vocabulary more to English than to Kiswahili

What you need to know:

  • Sheng has been described as a variation of English infused with Swahili phonology spoken by middle-to-lower class students in universities to differentiate themselves from students from upcountry.
  • The fast innovation of new words makes the language not ideal as a language for a grammar school.
  • The language is mainly grown in Nairobi, with different parts of the city producing different words or versions of the same word. 
  • Despite its closeness to Kiswahili, English has had more influence on the language's vocabulary.

Kenya’s former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga once joked on Twitter about opening a Sheng school and it became front-page news as language pundits rebutted the notion. He went ahead and addressed lawyers in Sheng, provoking a discussion on admissibility of the language in official communication.

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