Publication Date



Like many African countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo is characterised by linguistic diversity, with approximately 220 languages spoken within the country. Congolese Swahili is one of the five national languages, together with Kongo, Lingala, Tshilaba and French. The majority of Congolese diaspora in Australia have entered as refugees through the International Humanitarian Settlement Scheme or family reunion and their linguistic repertoire has been further affected by their refugee journey. The multilingualism of Congolese individuals and communities has created challenges for language services in Australia. The demand for translation and interpreting services for Swahili has rapidly increased due to it being one of the fastest growing languages in Australia, spoken mainly by migrants and refugees from East and Central Africa. Yet Swahili has a number of variants, with Standard Swahili (of the United Republic of Tanzania) often the variant used by Australian interpreters, but not necessarily understood by speakers of Congolese Swahili.This presentation provides a socio-linguistic profile of Congolese in Australia by reviewing relevant literature and by statistical analysis of data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011 census and the Settlement Reporting Facility of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. It is expected that this community linguistic profile will increase understanding of the tensions faced by the Congolese diaspora and the language services seeking to meet their needs. The case of the Congolese diaspora in Australia shows how the ethnic, educational background and linguistic diversity of migrating communities have implications for language services.


School of Allied Health

Document Type

Open Access Conference Paper

Access Rights

Open Access