Discover Lingala

Lingala is a Bantu language and a member of the Niger-Congo family of languages. It is spoken by over 60 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo (ROC). Lingala is also spoken in parts of Angola, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. 

Main Communities

Kinshasa,  Brazzaville

Common names in the Lingala language:

  • Mbuyi - meaning "firstborn"
  • Tshimanga - meaning "sunrise"
  • Nsenga - meaning "chief" or "leader"

Staple Food

Liboké – the Lingala word for "banana leaf”, is a traditional method of cooking where food, typically fish or meat, is wrapped in banana leaves along with various spices, vegetables, and sometimes sauce, and then steamed or grilled. This dish is rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals from the fish or meat as well as the variety of vegetables.

Interesting Facts

Origin and Spread - Lingala originated along the Congo River as a convenient contact language between various Bantu-language speakers. Belgian's colonial rule accelerated and spread the language especially through recruitment for the colonial military known as the Force Publique.

Music - Lingala music is a fusion of various Bantu
musical traditions and incorporates international influences like the Cuban
son. It is particularly known for its use of call-and-response vocals, where a lead singer is
often accompanied by a chorus of singers who respond to their phrases. Popular genres
include Soukous, Rumba and Ndombolo.

Notable figures:

Dikembe Mutombo – Athelete. He is a former professional basketball player and played in the NBA for 18 years. Mutombo won 4 Defensive Player of the Year awards, and made 8
All-Star teams. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.

Koffi Olomide – Musician. Known as the King of Soukous, he is a pioneer of Lingala music and dance including soukous and ndombolo.  With over 30 albums, Olomide has
achieved major international success and played a major role in bringing Lingala music to global audiences. In 2022, he was inducted into the Afropop Hall of Fame for Lifetime Achievement.

Patrice Lumumba – Politician. He led the DRC to independence on June 30 1960 and was the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the DRC. Lumumba was known for his strong support of Pan-Africanism and advocated for complete independence and anti-colonial rule across Africa. He remains an iconic figure and hero in Congolese nationalism and African liberation.