Millions of people speak Lingala throughout northern and western Democratic Republic of the Congo, the neighbouring Republic of Congo, and some parts of Angola and the Central African Republic. It is also the principle language of Kinshasa, the sprawling capital of the DRC and home to anywhere between 10 million and 15 million people, depending on who you ask.
Lingala is part of the Bantu family of languages spoken throughout central and southern Africa. It is related to other Bantu languages, such as Zulu and Swahili, and shares some of the same word and grammatical constructions.
Although there are different explanations for how the language evolved, it is usually agreed that Lingala evolved from Bobangi, the trade language of the Bangala, a cultural group living along the Congo River upstream from what is now Kinshasa in the mid-19th century.
Lingala is the fast-growing language in the DRC, the lingua franca of the Congolese police and army and the mother tongue of Congo’s famously good rumba music. It is the first language of many of the residents of Kinshasa.
Lingala is spoken at work, in shops and in restaurants. It’s used in the songs played on the radio and in the clubs. It’s on the signs and the graffiti. Taxi and esprit de mort drivers used it to curse at you. Children use it ask you for things. Lingala is the real language of the people. And it is the window to the real Kinshasa.
Despite its prevalence, there are only a limited amount of resources for people wanting to learn Lingala, especially in English. Many of the materials that have been available are dated, reflecting the growing, developing and changing nature of the language.
Loba Lingala!, the first English-Lingala grammar guide published in more than 50 years, aims to change all that by presenting Lingala in a fun, approachable way designed to get people speaking as soon as they start learning.
Building upon a core of just 50 Lingala words, the book explains the grammar, vocabulary and other structures necessary to communicate in a variety of situations, allowing readers to learn at their own pace and according to their own interests. This approach is complemented by Alban’s brilliant, original illustrations of daily life in Kinshasa.
Loba Lingala! is a free resource designed to help people communicate better. By making it free, we hope that the book and this website will be accessible to anyone who wants to learn, regardless of who they are, where they are, or how much money they have. Although it is free, the standard copyright protections and restrictions apply, and all rights are reserved by both the author and publisher.
To help promote the project, we’re happy to work with interested partners to produce printed copies of the book for distribution to specific and general audiences. To find out more, and how to sponsor a print run, contact us at email@example.com.
So far, we’ve partnered with the very nice people at Vodacom Congo, who are helping to promote Loba Lingala! by kindly agreeing to sponsor a print run of 10,000 copies. Ask your favourite Vodacom connection for more details.
Loba Lingala! is organised into seven sections:
The first section presents the things you’ll need to get going – some common verbs and words and the essential other bits to construct basic sentences to get you on your way.
The second section looks at how to put these basic building blocks into use. It reviews the basic verb tenses and introduces a few more verbs and words, along with examples of how they are used.
By combining the information in these first two sections, you’ll soon be able to start speaking Lingala in a variety of day-to-day situations.
The third section introduces a few of the more advanced verb tenses, along with Lingala numbers and colours. It also looks at the relationship between some Lingala nouns and verbs that might help you to anticipate what correct forms might be.
The fourth section introduces a range of everyday topics and activities – restaurants, markets, food, shopping and the natural environment, along with some of the more serious aspects of life in the DRC, such as war, witchcraft and street life – and the associated verbs, vocabulary and common phrases and expressions that you might come across.
The fifth section presents a collection of ‘binomials’ – related words that can be helpful when memorizing.
The six section has lists of verbs in both English and Lingala.
Finally, at the end there is a dictionary – in both Lingala-English and English-Lingala – to help you answer the inevitable questions that will arise as you progress and become more fluent.
About the author
Thomas Yocum is a writer, editor and communications specialist with 20 years’ experience covering history, science, nature, travel, human rights and public health. He has worked with government bodies, international NGOs and volunteer groups and written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, websites and news services. This is his third book.
Thomas and his wife, Lizz, a British government adviser, have lived in Kinshasa since August 2012. He began learning Lingala shortly after he arrived, studying under Professor Matthew Kabeya, the very talented language instructor and interpreter for the British Embassy. He continues to study Lingala and hints that plans could be underway for Loba Lingala!, The Sequel.
Find out more about Thomas on his LinkedIn page.
About the illustrator
Alban Low is an internationally exhibited artist who is best known for his lively sketches of London’s Jazz scene. He has degrees from both Leicester Polytechnic and Kingston University and has worked as a drawing lecturer at both Kingston College and Brunel University.
Alban’s reputation has grown over the years through commissions, solo and group exhibitions and illustration work. Since 2010, his interests have revolved around exhibiting in public spaces using magnets, documenting recording sessions and gigs for musicians, making animations, and creating album cover images for some of London’s leading Jazz groups.
He lives in South-West London with his wife and family. Find out more about Alban at http://www.albanlow.co.uk
About the publisher
Sampson Low Ltd’s connection with the Congo dates to the 1880s, when the antecedents of the current imprint bought the UK rights to Henry Morton Stanley’s diaries, publishing impressive editions at a time when Stanley was struggling to find support after falling out with many key figures in British exploration society. Stanley was grateful and never forgot the firm’s backing.
Sampson Low Ltd. began publishing in London in 1793. Over the years, the descendants of founder Sampson Low enjoyed close relationships with scores of British literary leaders, including Dickens, Scott, Trollope and Tennyson, and American notables including Oliver Wendell Holmes, Wilkie Collins, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
The Sampson Low name has appeared on a diverse array of well-known works, including Lorna Doone, the UK edition of Solomon Northup‘s 12 Years a Slave, and the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and Jane’s Fighting Ships series.
Find out more about Sampson Low Ltd at http://www.sampsonlow.com