The Comoros is an island located in the Indian Ocean, near Mozambique. The constitution of Comoros identifies three official languages: French, Comorian, and Arabic. Other minor languages are also present, with a small group of people speaking them. The languages used on the island reflect the long history of human interactions, featuring various groups of individuals of different linguistic backgrounds. Before French colonialism in the Comoros, Swahili and Arabic were the primary languages used in the country, with neither having an official status. Interactions between the Swahili people and Arabs finally led to the emergence of a new language called Comorian.
Official Languages of the Comoros
French is one of the official languages of the Comoros. The language was introduced to the island by French colonialists, and has been adopted as the official administrative and educational language used in most formal and official situations. After the independence of the Comoros, French retained its official status. While Arabic is also taught in schools, French remains the primary method of instruction on the island. The use of French in the country has influenced the culture and development of other languages, especially Comorian, though the impact is not as large as that of Arabic and Swahili.
As a member of the Arab league, the Comoros adopted Arabic as one of its official languages. Arabic is a national, as well as a religious language, on the island of Comoros. Being a religious language, Arabic is the primary method of instruction in the Comorian Quranic schools. A majority of the population who practice Islam, the religion of the state, speaks the language. The use of Arabic in the country developed from interactions with the Islamic world, especially through trade. Arabic is currently used during communication, in religious centers (mosques) and as a subject in schools. Apart from the primary role of Arabic in religion, the language is also widely used in commercial transactions.
Also referred to as Shikomori, the Comorian language is one of the official languages, as well as one of the most spoken languages of the country. About 97% of the population of the Comoros uses Comorian as their first language. The Bantu language of the Sabaki family developed through interactions between the Swahili people off the coast of east Africa and the Arabs. Comorian is mainly a spoken language, but the written form also exists. The language uses the Latin and Arabic writing systems. The Latin system was introduced by the French to replace the Arabic system. However, more speakers understand the Arabic script better. Comorian has more than 700,000 native speakers from the Comoros and the French territory of Mayotte. The language has four distinct dialects, which are Ngazidja, Maore, Ndwzwani, and Mwali, but only two are common in the Comoros.
Other Languages Spoken in the Comoros
Apart from the three official languages, there are also minor languages spoken by a small portion of the Comorian population. English and Malagasy are the other languages used on the island. English is taught mainly in schools, especially in the higher grades. A group of immigrants from Madagascar speaks Malagasy. A small population from the Réunion speaks a creole-based language.