This Sunday will be a first for me. I'm speaking in a Swahili-speaking congregation in Fort Worth. The DFW region has an estimated population of 7.5 million people. One third of them speak a language other than English. 2 million speak Spanish as a native language. The second most widely spoken language is Vietnamese. This is especially true in the city of Garland. There are 53,000 Chinese speakers as well. Both Plano and Richardson have vibrant Chinese communities. As for African languages, DFW has the largest population of Nigerians in the U.S. Ethiopians are also very populous. Want great Ethiopian food? Dallas is where it's at. (Our go-to spot is the Desta Ethiopian Restaurant in Richardson.)
There are roughly 90,000 Swahili speakers in North America. One of the largest concentrations is found in Texas. Fort Worth boasts many Swahili-speaking congregations. Over 100 universities in the U.S. offer courses in Swahili. Today Swahili is the lingua franca of East Africa spoken by more than 140 million people. It is one of the official languages of the African Union. It is the only language that cuts across different African cultures. I'm told that, like Hawaiian, most words have vowels between every consonant. It also lacks both definite and indefinite articles.
I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't know a single word of Swahili. (Okay. I just lied. There's "jambo," right?) Maybe they will teach me a few this weekend.
Fun fact: The language of Ethiopia (Amharic) is the most widely spoken African language in the following states:
- New Mexico
- West Virginia
Oh, did I mention South Dakota? South Dakota? Whaaaat?