Published July 23, 2019
This video was recorded by Peace Corps Volunteer Ashly in Mwali, an autonomous island in Comoros, an archipelago nation situated between Madagascar and Africa's southeastern coast. Shimwali is spoken by as many as 38,000 people. Along with Ngazidja, Ndzwani, and Maore, it is one of four main varieties of the Comorian language, which has been described as both a macrolanguage—a single language with very distinct varieties or "dialects"—and a language family—a group of closely related languages. More broadly, Shimwali has been classified as a Bantu language, meaning it shares genealogy with hundreds of mother tongues across southern and central Africa. Due to the influence of Islam, Comorian languages were historically written with a version of the Arabic script until French colonial rule between 1841 and 1978 introduced the Latin alphabet. Since 2009, a modified set of Latin characters are recognized as the "official" writing system of the Comorian languages, which together are nationally co-official in Comoros, alongside Arabic and French.