Language of the Day: Maasai

Maasai_people-image-5Let’s take a journey…

To the west rests Lake Victoria the second largest fresh water lake in the world, named after Queen Victoria who was the presiding Queen of England when it was discovered. To the east, where the sun rises signalling a new day is the great Indian Ocean whose waters touch the shores of Australia, Africa and Asia. The land between the fresh water lake to the west and the ocean to the east is filled with dense forests and mountains. Along this line rises the monstrous Mount Kilimanjaro who peaks at around six thousand metres above sea level.

It is in the forested and mountainous region along the border of Kenya and Tanzania that we find the Maasai people whose language shares their namesake. The Maasai language is a Maa language which comes from the Nilo-Saharan language family and is similar to Samburu, Chamus and Parakuyu.

The number of speakers has more than doubled since 1989, with the estimate at that time being around 400,000, while currently the number is around 850,000. Although the Kenyan government has tried to amalgamate the traditional semi-nomadic Maasai people into the modern Kenyan society they have been unsuccessful. The Massai people have been steadfast in their dedication to their culture, history and customs.

Even though the land is arid where it is flat and forested where it is not these people have remained true to their customs and have preserved their way of life and their language. Since 1989 the number of speakers has doubled and there are no signs that we will see any kind of decline in its growth. Maasai will be around for many years to come.

Thanks for joining us on this journey in language.

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