Malawian English

Malawian English

Malawian English is the English language as spoken in Malawi. English and Chichewa are the country's two official languages.

English was introduced into Malawi towards the end of the 19th century, due to the influence of British explorers, missionaries, the arrival of the African Lakes Corporation, and colonial administrators present since the establishment in the 1890s of the British Central Africa Protectorate. The seventy years of British colonial rule that followed the Scramble for Africa, set the groundwork for English to grow into the area's dominant and most socially prestigious language.

Since Malawian independence, the dominance of English has continued:

  • official government records are written in English,
  • parliament conducts its deliberations in English,
  • the laws of Malawi are written in English,
  • progression into secondary and higher education requires certification of competence in English,
  • nearly all Malawian newspapers are published in English (though some include small Chichewa supplements),
  • English remains the language of commerce in the country.

This remains true despite a large majority of Malawians speaking Chichewa and the small number of English speakers outside urban centres. Also, in Malawian government schools, students are taught in Chichewa, and learn English as a second language from about age 10. But in international schools in Malawi (like Saint Andrew's International High School in Blantyre) which follow the British curriculum, English is the language students are taught in, and do not learn Chichewa at all, as it is regarded as a mere local language.

English words are even replacing their equivalents in other Malawi languages. One study of a corpus of Chichewa discourse captured over a ten-year period found that references to numbers greater than 3 were exclusively in English, at least in urban areas. [1]

Malawian English has a slight tinge of non-linguistic expressions that are still used, such as "eesh!", an exclamation meaning "oh my!"


  1. ^ Simango, Silvester Ron (2000). "‘My Madam is Fine’: The Adaptation of English Loans in Chichewa" (pdf). Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 21 (6): 487–507. doi:10.1080/01434630008666419. Retrieved 2008-07-18.  See page 503. Abstract is in HTML format.

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