More than 100 languages are spoken in Tanzania, making it the most linguistically diverse country in East Africa. Among the languages spoken are all four of Africa’s language families: Bantu, Cushitic, Nilotic, and Khoisan. There are no de jure official languages in Tanzania.
Swahili is used in parliamentary debate, in the lower courts, and as a medium of instruction in primary school. English is used in foreign trade, in diplomacy, in higher courts, and as a medium of instruction in secondary and higher education, The Tanzanian government, however, has plans to discontinue English as a language of instruction. In connection with his Ujamaa social policies, President Nyerere encouraged the use of Swahili to help unify the country’s many ethnic groups. Approximately 10 percent of Tanzanians speak Swahili as a first language, and up to 90 percent speak it as a second language.
Many educated Tanzanians are trilingual, also speaking English. The widespread use and promotion of Swahili is contributing to the decline of smaller languages in the country. Young children increasingly speak Swahili as a first language, particularly in urban areas. Ethnic community languages (ECL) other than Kiswahili are not allowed as a language of instruction. Nor are they taught as a subject, though they might be used unofficially (illegally) in some cases in initial education. Television and radio programmes in an ECL are prohibited, and it is nearly impossible to get permission to publish a newspaper in an ECL. There is no department of local or regional African Languages and Literatures at the University of Dar es Salaam.
The Sandawe people speak a language that may be related to the Khoe languages of Botswana and Namibia, while the language of the Hadzabe people, although it has similar click consonants, is arguably a language isolate. The language of the Iraqw people is Cushitic.