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The Swahili language is a Bantu language spoken by various ethnic groups that inhabit several large stretches of the Mozambique Channel coastline from northern Kenya to northern Mozambique. Closely related languages, sometimes considered dialects, are spoken in the Comoros Islands and Somalia. Although only five million or so people speak Swahili as their mother tongue, it is used as a lingua franca in much of East Africa, and the total number of speakers exceeds 140 million. Swahili serves as a national, or official language, of four nations: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Some Swahili vocabulary is derived from Arabic through more than twelve centuries of contact with Arabic-speaking inhabitants of the coast of southeastern Africa. It has also incorporated Persian, German, Portuguese, English, and French words into its vocabulary through contact with empire builders, traders, and slavers during the past five centuries.

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