In Summary

  • The Evolution Of Sheng Language
  • Sheng attracting international attention
  • Use Of Sheng by the Young generation

Sheng, popularly defined as an acronym for “Swahili-English slang which started with the multicultural environment of Nairobi.

What is sheng?

Sheng is an urban language which combines mainly Swahili and English but also other Kenyan languages such as Kikuyu, Luyha, Dholuo and Kikamba.

Sheng empowers a certain group of speakers by providing a closed in-groups means of communication.

In this way it also acts as a means of establishing group identity, expressing solidarity and creating prestige among insiders.

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Impacts of Sheng language

African children from Maasai tribe during Swahili language class in remote village, Kenya, East Africa. Maasai tribe inhabiting southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, and they are related to the Samburu./Photo Courtesy


Sheng influences word formation processes and patterns used in speaking and writing.

Students  use a lot of cutting-off of the final syllables of words and fixed coined syllables to complete the words by so doing, they altered the meaning of words.

According to Sheila, a student in Technical University of Kenya, ‘’sheng imewin saana like ata shuleni sai teachers wanakua na hard time kufundisha wanafunzi Swahili juu mtoto anagrow up akijua sheng ndio lugha, kuna mabiashara zingine pia sai like mama mbonga anashindwa kuelewana na customer juu custo,er anadai anabonga sheng uyo mama aelewi na hyo inaleta confusion kwa biashara kabisaa.

Benefits of Sheng To the youths

Sheng signifies the negotiations and struggles of youth’s identity project.

The institutions of family, church, school, and popular media present Kenyan youth with different possible identities.

The voice of the family comes to them in ethnic languages that embody tradition and heritage.

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Meeting Nucho, from pipeline, Nairobi, ‘’sheng iko,na ziko mingi, mimi naeza sema sheng ni ile lugha yenye umepata kwa mta yako ukigrow, lakini bado utapata kuna watu wako pale kwa ile mtaa like hii sheng imekuja ikawapata so like yeye ata kuadapt itakua ngumu, lakini mtoi amezaliwa hii generation ataelewa hyo kitu vibaya sana, juu adi kuna vitu zenye sisi watu wa izo maenzi tukisema vitu zingine , kwetu ilikua sheng lakini ukisema sai inakua ni kama tbt kwao.

Sheng language  gives young people the wherewithal to question and challenge the ideologies and identities that attempt to define them.

Sheng signifies the construction of a linguistic third space between the global, represented by a transnational African diasporic culture, and the local, represented by tradition.

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