What language is spoken on the Comoros Islands?

There isn't one official language of the Comoros Islands. Instead, there are three that have been nationally recognized under the country's constitution - French, Arabic, and Comorian. However, this doesn't mean these three languages are spoken equally among the population or that they are the only languages spoken on the Comoros Islands. For instance, Malagasy and Swahili are also spoken by a small minority. 

The combination of languages found on the island can be attributed to its rich past under Malagasy and French colonial rule, as well as the period of time when the country was part of the Indian maritime trade routes. While the country has politically developed since then, it still retains its foreign influences and this representation can be seen in its architecture, cuisine and, of course, language. 

Which language do locals speak the most? 

The majority (around 96%) of the population speaks Comorian; however, each island in the Comoros has a slightly different dialect of the language. These dialects are Shingazija, spoken on Grande Comore, Shimwali, spoken on Moheli and Shinzwani, spoken on Anjouan. While these dialects are slightly different to each other, they retain some similarities so people from different islands are still able to communicate easily with each other. 

Comorian is also closely related to Swahili but they're recognized as two different languages, rather than Comorian being classified as a dialect of Swahili, as there's mutual unintelligibility between the two. 

While Comorian may be the language most locals use, French is actually the language spoken in government and for commerce and is the language spoken (alongside Arabic) as part of the school curriculum on the islands. This stems from the colonisation by the French from the period of 1841 to 1975. However, Comorian is spoken at home and in other industries and is considered the informal/casual language. 

What are some Comorian phrases I should know before my trip? 

Because there are distinct languages spoken in different settings on the Comoros Islands, it can be hard to know which language to brush up on before your trip. However, as many locals don't speak fluent English, learning a bit of either French or Comorian will go a long way in helping you communicate during your travels. As Comorian is the language that's most prevalent, we've put together some Shingazija Comorian words/phrases you should be familiar with before embarking on your adventure. 

  • Hello (general greeting) - Jeje 
  • Good morning - Bariza soubouni
  • Good afternoon - Bariza mtsana
  • Good evening - Bariza massihou
  • How are you? - Hufanyiha dje?

If you're having a hard time remembering these common words/phrases, we recommend traveling with a guidebook or language translator so you'll never be stuck in a situation where you can't communicate. Showing that you're making an effort to understand and learn the local language will also be appreciated and goes a long way in showing respect for Comorian culture. 

Want to learn more about the Comoros Islands? Return to Comoros Islands FAQs

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