3 surprising differences between Lingala and English

Lingala is a language primarily used in Central Africa as a lingua franca by millions of people for trade and communication. English is an Indo-European language widely used throughout the world. Despite having different ancestries, the two languages share a lot in common and also differ greatly. This article compares and contrasts the writing system, pronunciation, and grammar of both Lingala and English.

Lingala pronunciation and intonation vs English

English is a Germanic language which has a relatively simple sound system in terms of pronunciation, with relatively few diphthongs (double vowels) and consonant sounds. On the other hand, the sound system of Lingala, a Bantu language, can seem a bit more complicated, with more diphthongs and consonant sounds. Due to the fact that it is a tonal language, the meaning of words can change depending on the tone used, making pronunciation crucial for accurately conveying meaning. Below is an example of tonal pronunciation.

andáAcute accentHigh tone
NAwithaNo accentLow tone

Find more about the different accents used in Lingala

There are definite pronunciation differences between Lingala and English. Each letter in Lingala is pronounced consistently, making it sound very regular. With many silent letters and words that are pronounced differently from their spelling, English pronunciation could be significantly more difficult for beginners.

Lingala alphabet vs English

Those who are accustomed to using the Latin alphabet will find Bantu languages to be simple to read and write. As Lingala being a Bantu language, you will find it easy! Unless it is a word borrowed from another language, Lingala uses only 20 letters out of 26. Indeed, the letters J, C, H, R, Q, X are missing in the original language. Also, in contrast to English, Lingala uses accentuated letters, which is something not found in English. There are also a few extra letters to represent distinct sounds, like the two vowels e and o as shown below.

LetterExampleMeaningEnglish sound

Even if both use the Latin alphabet to be written, the pronunciation of Lingala and English differ. Below is an English sound of Lingala vowels.

Find more about the specificities of the Lingala alphabet

LetterExampleMeaningEnglish sound
uKozuzaTo deformCool
a black board written “Grammar”

Lingala grammar compared to English

Both Lingala and English have simple grammatical syntax structures. Both are an SVO language that constructs sentences with the Subject, Verb, and Object appearing in that particular order. But Lingala grammar, as many Bantu languages, has the pronoun part of the verb, the adjective placed after the object and there is no article.

Let’s compared Lingala grammar syntax with the English one.

Subject (pronoun)VerbArticleAdjectiveObject
Subject (pronoun)VerbArticleObjectAdjective

The inflection systems and complex system of particles found in Bantu languages used to express the perspective, attitude, and tone of the speaker have been more or less abandoned, even if it still can be found in some old written material, sayings or idioms. Nowadays, Lingala has a relatively straightforward syntax. Still, the conjugation is till rich and complex, even if not all the tenses are not that much used by people.

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To conclude, English and Lingala are two different languages, each with its own special characteristics. The grammar, pronunciation and writing of Lingala and English are very different from one another. Although they share some similarities, such as their use of the Latin alphabet for writing, each language is distinct in many other ways.

Lingala is a complex and rich language in terms of sounds and writing that can seems hard for people at the beginning. But its simple and straightforward syntax is easier than English. If you want to learn Lingala I will encourage you to do so. If you already have some knowledge and want to improve it, LingalaVision is the good starting point to help you to reach the upper level with a solid foundation for your vocabulary.

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Are you an English speaker, learning Lingala? If so, how do you find it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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