What Is Lingala language

The Lingala (in Lingala, Lingala or ngala ) is one of the great Bantu languages , spoken as a first language in the northwest of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo Kinshasa ) and a large part of the Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville ). In addition, it serves as a lingua franca throughout the territory of the first country, and is also of some importance in parts of Angola and the Central African Republic . It is spoken by more than ten million people. Its rating is “C.36D” in the Guthrie system categorization of Bantu languages, and “C.40” in the SIL system.


  • 1History
  • 2Alphabet
  • 3Vocabulary from Portuguese
  • 4Sample text
  • 5Notes and references
  • 6External links


Geographical distribution of lingala with the regions where it is the mother tongue (dark green) and the other regions where it is used.

The origins of lingala go back to bobangui , a language spoken along the Congo River between Lisala and Kinshasa . Bobangui was the common language of traders in the region prior to the creation of the Free State of Congo . In the last two decades of the 19th century , after King Leopoldo II of Belgium encouraged the occupation and exploration of the area, bobangi became more widespread. The intermediaries and interpreters employed by Europeans, from other parts of the continent, such as Zanzibar , Comoros and the interior of Tanganyika, learned and influenced it by mixing it with their own languages. The colonial administration, needing to establish a common language in the territory, started to use this new dialect for purposes of catechism and administration, calling it a bangala to distinguish it from the old bobangi. Around the turn of the century, missionaries from the Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae (CICM or Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Portuguese) embarked on a project to “purify” the language and make it fully Bantu again.

Meeuwis (1998: 7) writes the following:

Missionaries like the Protestant W. Stapleton and later, and with more influence, E. De Boeck himself thought that the grammar and lexicon of this language were too poor for purposes of education, catechism, and other types of vertical communication with Africans in the northwest and central west of the colony. (…) They undertook to ‘correct’ and ‘expand’ the language, using the grammatical and lexical elements of the languages ​​that surrounded them.

In this process of “purification”, the name bangala was replaced by lingala , by borrowing a prefix from one of the regional languages. The new term first appears in written form in 1903 in a publication by CICM missionary Egide De Boeck .

Lingala’s vocabulary contains numerous borrowings from French and a much smaller number from English , such as milk (“milk”), which became miliki , and book (“book”), which became búku . There is also a considerable influence of Portuguese , surprising because the two languages ​​have never been in direct contact.


The alphabet used is Latin with the following particularities:

  • seven vowels – a, e, ɛ (é), i, o, ɔ (ó) , u

Note – Y is considered a consonant – “I” sound.

  • Consonants of the Latin alphabetwithout Q and X, plus the consonant groups GB, MB, MP, ND, NG, NK, NS, NT, NY, NZ, SH;

The Lingala language has 4 tones marked as follows:

  • low – unmarked
  • high – acute accent
  • descending – caret
  • crescent – caron

Vocabulary from Portuguese

The following words in lingala are believed to have their origin in Portuguese. However, it is possible that some come from French. [ 1 ]

  • A – ananasi (pineapple)
  • B – batisimu (baptism), bendele (flag)
  • F – felo (iron), fulele (flower)
  • K – kamela (camel), kaminyo (lorry), kazaka (coat), kopo (cup), koyekola (studying [note 1 ] ), Kristo (Christ), kuruse (cross)
  • L – lomingo (sunday), loso (rice)
  • M – mango (mango / fruit), makuta (macuta [note 2 ] / money), keepka (butter), matabisi (matabicho), table (table), mosantu / basantu (santo / santos), mosikitele (mosquito net)
  • N – ndoki (wizard), nzambe (god)
  • P – palate (silver), pilipili (piri-piri)
  • S – sabala (Saturday), saboni (soap), saki (bag), shoe (shoe), satana (Satan), sefu (boss), sinema (cinema), sukali (sugar)
  • T – tomati (tomato), tribunali (court), tumbako (tobacco)
  • V – vinu (wine)
  • W – wolo (gold)

Sample text

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights :

In Lingala:

I beat nyonso in mbotama bazali nzomi mpe bakokani in limemya mpe makoki. Bazali na mayele mpe basengeli kofanda na bondeko okati na bango.

In Portuguese:

All men are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are provided with reason and conscience and must act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Leave a Comment