Do they speak English in Zanzibar?

Answered by Michael Wilson

English is spoken in Zanzibar, although it is not as widely spoken as Swahili. Zanzibar, being a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, has both Swahili and English as official languages. English was inherited from the period of colonial rule when Zanzibar was under British control.

In Zanzibar, English serves as a working language and is commonly used in government offices, businesses, and the tourism industry. Many locals in Zanzibar have a basic understanding of English, particularly those who work in the tourism sector where interaction with international visitors is common.

During my visits to Zanzibar, I found that English was widely understood in popular tourist areas such as Stone Town, Nungwi, and Paje. In hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions, staff members usually have a good command of English and can communicate effectively with visitors.

However, it is important to note that proficiency in English may vary among the local population. In rural areas or less touristy parts of Zanzibar, you may encounter individuals who have limited English skills. In such cases, basic Swahili phrases or a translator can be helpful for effective communication.

It is worth mentioning that while English is spoken in Zanzibar, learning a few basic phrases in Swahili can greatly enhance your experience and interactions with the locals. Swahili is the national language of Tanzania and is widely spoken across the country, including Zanzibar. Locals appreciate the effort made by visitors to learn and use Swahili greetings and simple phrases, which can help to establish a friendly rapport.

To summarize, English is spoken in Zanzibar, particularly in tourist areas and among those working in the tourism industry. However, it is advisable to have some knowledge of basic Swahili phrases to facilitate better communication and cultural exchange.