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South Africa


Kenya Video Audio Reviews

English functions as a second language in Kenya. It first came to the country in the 19th century, when the British colonized the territory. In 1895, the British declared Kenya a protectorate and in 1920 it became a British colony. At the time of colonization, Swahili had already been established as a trade language in most parts of the East African coast and it was also used in education. The British administration decided to reduce the influence of Swahili and make English the medium of instruction in Kenyan schools. On 12 December 1963 Kenya received full independence after a decade of unrest due to the Mau Mau rebellion against colonial rule.

Today, English is the official language in Kenya, while Swahili enjoys the status of the national language. Both languages function as lingua francas, yet English enjoys a greater prestige and it serves more functions than Swahili. English is used for administrational and educational purposes and also in the media. It is the sole medium of instruction in schools from grade four onwards in rural areas, and in urban areas even from grade one onwards. Since Kenyans mainly acquire English through school, knowledge of English is associated with literacy in Kenya.


Kenyan English has a number of characteristic particularities at the levels of phonology, grammar, lexicon and discourse. The major phonological features are the avoidance of fricatives, the loss of length contrast in vowels, the lack of the British English central vowels, the monophthongisation of diphthongs, and the dissolving of consonant clusters. Some apparently stable grammatical features of Kenyan English are, for example, the omission of articles, the pluralisation of uncountable nouns, the avoidance of the relative pronoun whose, and the use of adjectives as nouns. Loan words from African languages are commonly used in the domains of environment, food, people, clothing, customs, and politics.

Reviews of available literature on books dealing with this English variety can be found here

Official government site of Kenya


The Kenya Times (Newspaper)

List of radio stations



© Christiane Meierkord
and individual reviewers