Learn to Speak Lingala: A Language of Congo

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A History and Description of Lingala

Lingala, sometimes called Ngala, is spoken in the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a bit in the Central African Republic; specifically, Lingala is used mostly in the Bandundu, Equateur, Orientale, and southeast Orientale provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Brazzaville and northward in the Republic of Congo.

Lingala developed as a language used mostly for trade. It is similar to the Lusengo, Bangala, and Bobangi languages. There are probably more than seven million people who speak Lingala as a second language and over two million who speak it as their first language.

Lingala is part of the Bantu language family.

Lingala Words and Phrases - Greeting and Leave-taking

Whether you wish to learn Lingala for interest’s sake or because you plan to visit an African country where it is used or because you have friends who speak it, there are certain words and phrases that you should learn for everyday, basic conversation. For starters, here are some important Lingala words and phrases you will use whenever you cross paths with someone else.

Greeting and Leave-Taking

  • Hello - Mbote.
  • Hello, Mama - Mbote na yo, Mama. (This is polite greeting for any adult woman a bit older than you, not just your own mother)
  • Hello, friend - Mbote na yo, moninga.
  • How is it going? - Ndenge nini?
  • (It’s going) well. - Malamu.
  • Are you doing well? - Ozali malamu?
  • Yes, I’m doing well - Ee, nazali malamu.
  • What’s new? - Nsango nini ? / Sango nini?
  • Nothing’s new - Nsango te. / Sango te.
  • See you later - Tikala malamu.

Lingala Grammar - Conjugation of the Verb “To Be”

A conjugation of the verb in Lingala that means “to be” will give you a taste for how Lingala grammar works. As you will notice on the following verbs, the subject pronoun is directly attached to the verb. Also, you will note that there is a different prefix for the third person depending on whether the subject being reference is human (one prefix) or else an animal or an object (a different prefix).

  • I am - Nazali
  • You (singular) are - Ozali
  • He/she is - Azali (only to refer to a human subject)
  • He/she/it is - Ezali (only to refer to a non-human subject)
  • We are - Tozali
  • You (plural) are - Bozali
  • They are - Bazali (only to refer to a human subject)
  • They are - Ezali (only to refer to a non-human subject)

To learn more Lingala, check out these links: