The word Bantu is a term used to reference over 400 different ethnic groups in Africa ranging from modern day Cameroon, to South Africa. A lot of scholarly work has been undertaken since the late 19th century to classify and describe the languages under the Bantu umbrella.

The total number of Bantu speakers is in the hundreds of millions, estimated at around 350 million in the mid-2010s, which at the time equated to roughly 30% of the total population in Africa. About one-sixth of Bantu speakers today are found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone.

The languages have their origins in what is now Cameroon and Central Africa, and descended from a common proto-Bantu language about 1000 BC to 500 BC. At that same time, these speakers started migrating eastwards and southwards, carrying their language and way of life with them.

The Bantu language with the largest total number of speakers, coincidentally is more of a lingua franca and used as a second language for several African countries, such as Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and the DRC, and is also used officially by the East African community, and the Southern African Development Community. The language was a result of the interaction between Arab traders and Bantu speaking natives on the East African coast, which later became Africanized and became a language with its own native speakers later on.

Other major bantu languages include: Xhosa, Zulu, Shona, Kalanga, Matembele, Tswana, Kirundi(Burundi), Beti(Cameroon), Ngala, Luba-Kasai, Kongo, Kituba, Songe (DRC), Swazi, Gikuyu, Luhya, Kamba, Meru, Sesotho, Makhuwa, Tsonga, Kinyarwanda, Sotho, Sukuma, Gogo, Haya, Chaga, Nyamwezi, Luganda, Runyankore, Lusoga, Bemba, Tonga, Ndebele and many other more.


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