Comoros is the only Arab League country located entirely in the southern hemisphere, and its name means “moon” in Arabic. Yet, curiously, the most widely spoken language in the archipelago is not Arabic.
Also referred to as Shikomori, Comorian is the dominant language in the country, spoken by 96.9% of the population. The Comorian language is part of the Bantu language and is further divided into numerous dialects across the islands. The biggest dialect of the Comorian language, spoken by 312,000 people, is the Shingazija, used primarily on the Grande Comore, or Ngazija. Despite their differences, the dialects of Shikomori are all mutually intelligible.
Culture and Tourism in the Comoros pic.twitter.com/9MHugr4YFl
— South African Embassy in the Comoros (@SAEmbComoros) September 21, 2021
In the Comoros, French is the second most commonly spoken language, spoken by more than 216,000 individuals, or nearly 26% of the population. The presence of the French language in Comoros is a vestige of the French colonial era, which lasted from 1841 till the country’s independence in 1975. French represents the administrative and commercial language of the archipelago, and the country is part of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.
Even though Arabic is an official language in the Comoros Islands, like French and Comorian, it is -like French- a minority language. Arabic is primarily the liturgical language of the country, as 95% of the population of Comoros Island is Muslim. Therefore, Arabic is not spoken as a first language by the population, even though the teaching of Arabic for secular purposes has been increasing in recent decades. Incidentally, the name Comoros is derived from the Arabic Qamar, meaning moon.
Beyond official languages, other tongues are spoken in the Comoros, albeit in smaller numbers. Malagasy, primarily its dialect Shibushi, resonates among an estimated 39,000 individuals across the islands of Mayotte and Moheli. The Malgasy-speaking communities trace their origins back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries as migrants from Madagascar settled in country.
— Mwezi Academy (@mweziacademy) December 24, 2015
Lastly, Swahili, historically serving as the lingua franca of the country, played a pivotal role in facilitating trade with the Arabian Peninsula and the East African Coast and is today a spoken language. Swahili is also a Bantu language, which means it exhibits linguistic affinities to the predominant Comorian language, but Swahili is spoken by approximately 1% of the population.