The lingua franca is English, which is widely spoken to various degrees of competence. The most educated utilize British English, although Ugandan English frequently takes on a life of its own. Ugandans speak a variety of African languages, the most popular of which is Luganda, which is nearly widely understood in Kampala. Swahili may be useful in certain areas, particularly in the north and east. Despite the fact that many Ugandans do not know Swahili, it is a widely used African commerce language.
A few words or stock phrases in the different languages are quite simple to acquire, and most locals will be happy to assist you in learning the highly ritualised welcome, which, in turn, will thrill everyone you greet in this manner.
- oli otya (olio-tia) = how are you
- bulungi/gyendi (bulunji/jiendi) = I am fine
- kale (kal-eh) = ok
- nyabo = madam; ssebo = sir
- muzungu = European, but used more commonly to refer to all foreign and, especially, all white people
- hujambo = hello, used everywhere
As you drive by, you’ll see a lot of happy kids waving, leaping, hopping, and chanting “jambo mzungu.”