Swahili is known as the language of the Swahili people. It is also called Kiswahili (coast language). It is spoken in a large portion of Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Estimates of the number of speakers vary widely, and this may be due to the fact that it is hard to identify native speakers as opposed to second-language users; the language is used as a lingua franca in the African Great Lakes region, as well as other parts of Africa. It has official status in a number of these countries as well.
Swahili is considered a Bantu language in terms of language family, which stems from the Niger-Congo branch of the language tree. There are a number of other African languages in this categorization, including Zulu and Shona. Interestingly, vocabulary influences also include Arabic and Sanskrit. Arabic influence came from Muslim inhabitants in the region, as the Swahili people have historically been Muslim as well, while Sanskrit influence stemmed from interactions with Indian merchants. Words from Arabic and Sanskrit are prevalent in Swahili vocabulary, in addition, Arabic script has been historically used to write Swahili as well.