The official language of Zambia is English, which is used to conduct official business and is the medium of instruction in schools. The main local language, especially in Lusaka, is Nyanja. However, Bemba and Nyanja are spoken in the urban areas in addition to other indigenous languages which are commonly spoken in Zambia. These are: Ambo, Aushi, Bisa, Chikunda, Cishinga, Cokwe, Gova, Ila, Inamwanga, Iwa, Kabende, Kaonde, Kosa, Kunda, Kwandi, Kwandu, Kwangwa, Lala, Lamba, Lenje, Leya, Lima, Liyuwa, Lozi, Luano, Lucazi, Lumbu, Lunda, Lundwe, Lungu, Luunda, Luvale, Makoma, Mambwe, Mashasha, Mashi, Mbowe, Mbukushu, Mbumi, Mbunda, Mbwela, Mukulu, Mulonga, Ndembu, Ng'umbo, Nkoya, Nsenga, Nyengo, Nyiha, Sala, Seba, Senga, Shanjo, Shila, Simaa, Soli, Subiya, Swaka, Tabwa, Tambo, Toka, Tonga, Totela, Tumbuka, Twa, Unga, Wandya and Yombe. Estimates of the total number of languages spoken in Zambia add up to 72, thirteen (13) dialects are counted as languages in their own right which brings this number to 85.
The choice of English as official language was done early in the Kaunda governmental period. Kaunda wanted to keep the country united, and with so many local languages choosing any of them as official languages would exclude other language groups. So even if English was the language of the former colonial power, it has served as a uniting language in Zambia. Some Zambians refer to the English language as: "The best thing the British left us".
The process of urbanisation has had a dramatic effect on some of the indigenous languages, including the assimilation of words from other indigenous languages and English. Urban dwellers sometimes differentiate between urban and rural dialects of the same language by prefixing the rural languages with 'deep'. Most will thus speak Bemba and Nyanja on the Copperbelt while Nyanja is dominantly spoken in Lusaka and Eastern Zambia. English is used in official communications and the chosen (husbands/wives) language at home if (as is now common) there is an intertribal family. As a member of the SADC, Portuguese was introduced in the nation as an instruction in its primary school system, especially that there is a strong Angolan population in the nation. Languages like Kaonde, Lunda, Luvale, and Tonga come from other country explorers.
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