Background and status
Kongo, or more correctly Kikongo, is the Bantu language spoken by the Bakongo and Bandundu people living in the tropical forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (a.k.a. Congo-Kinshasa, ex-Zaire), the Republic of the Congo (a.k.a. Congo-Brazzaville) and Angola.
It is a tonal language and formed the base for Kituba, a Bantu creole and lingua franca throughout much of west central Africa. Kongo is related to Swahili, Shona, and Bembe, among others. Kikongo is the name used by its speakers. There are many dialects of Kongo such as San Salvador Kongo, spoken in Congo (Kinshasa) and Angola, has more than 1.5 million speakers and is often listed as a separate language because it is not mutually intelligible with other Kongo dialects. There are more than seven million native speakers of Kongo, many of whom live in western Congo (Kinshasa), where Kongo is a national language. The remaining native speakers live in Congo (Brazzaville) and northern Angola.
Growth and usage
Kikongo was spoken by many Africans who were taken from the region and sold as slaves in the Americas. For this reason, while Kongo still is spoken in the above-mentioned countries, creolised forms of the language are found in ritual speech of Afro-American traditional religions, especially in Brazil, Cuba, and Haiti. It is also one of the sources of the Gullah people's language and the Palenquero in Colombia.
Kikongo is also a popular language used for radio and television programmes.