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ShonaBackground and status

Shona (chiShona) is a southern Bantu language belonging to the Niger-Congo language family. Shona proper is an official language of Zimbabwe (along with Ndebele and English) with more than 80% of Zimbabwe’s population speaking Shona.  Other countries that host Shona language speakers are Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana.  Shona (including all its dialects) is the most widely spoken Bantu native language, with Zulu following in second place.  The total figure of Shona speakers totals about 14.2 million people.

Usage and growth

Although Shona is taught in schools, it is not the general medium of instruction beyond the primary level.  Instead, the medium of instruction beyond the primary level is English and is taught as a subject up to tertiary level in several universities in Zimbabwe.  Shona has also been widely used in public discussion, on the radio and television, newspapers and has a body of literature. 

The past decade has seen Shona take on an artistic form which has seen the language transform.  The evolution of Shona as a street language in Zimbabwe has become synonymous with Urban Grooves, a Zimbabwean music genre which became popular when this country introduced a policy that compelled all broadcast stations to air 75 percent of locally-produced material.

Speakers of this new Shona lingo now use it in their informal discussions on any subject matter, especially on topical issues in Zimbabwe, such as politics, socio-economic issues and HIV.  The vehicles or channels used to transmit street lingo include emails, cell phone text messages, Shona lingo chat forums and urban groove music.  Even businesses that advertise using both print and broadcast media have also added to the hype as it is seen as a glue that unites people and has created a new identity – especially among the younger generation.

The Language Inc. Team

Allegaartjie op Marula Media

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