1.  Classification / Classification

Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, R, Ndonga (R.20) (Ethnologue)

Kwanyama is also called: Cuanhama, Humba, Kuanyama, Kwancama, Kwanjama, Ochikwanyama, Otjiwambo, Ovambo, Owambo, Oxikuanyama

According to Ethnologue? (accessed 2007), Kwanyama is intelligible with Ndonga and Kwambi, so information on all these tongues is also included here. In 2015, the page on Kwanyama was Oshiwambo (while the code for the language still had the name "Kuanyama")

According to an article in Wikipedia (accessed 2007): "Kwanyama or Oshikwanyama ... is a standardized dialect of the Oshiwambo language, and is mutually intelligible with Ndonga..."[Oshindonga].

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

South central Angola and Northern Okavangoland in Namibia.

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to information compiled from Ethnologue:

  • Kwanyama
    • 421,000 in Angola (1993 Johnstone)
    • 713,919 in Namibia together with Ndonga and Kwambi; 1991 census
  • Ndonga
    • 262,689 in Angola (2000 WCD)
    • 429,541 in Namibia (2000 WCD)
    • 713,919 in Namibia, including Kwanyama and Kwambi; 1991 census [NB- this recounts the same figure given for Kwanyama above]
    • Population total all countries: 692,230
  • Kwambi
    • 30,000 (1972 Nida) [in Namibia, possibly also Angola]

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

Kwanyama, Ndonga, and Kwambi are interintelligible. Two other tongues are related and have the same classification (see #1 above): Ngandyera and Mbalanhu

Wikipedia articles mention Kwanyama and Ndonga as dialects of Oshiwambo.

"Seven different dialects of Oshiwambo are spoken in Namibia: Oshikwanyama, Oshindonga, Oshikolonkadhi, Oshimbalantu, Oshikwaluudhi, Oshingandjera, and Oshikwambi." (SchoolNet.na)

5.  Usage / Utilisation

According to Ethnologue, Kwanyama is a national language in both Angola and Namibia.

Literacy among Kwanyama speakers in Namibia (Ethnologue, accessed 2007):

  • L1: ?
  • L2: 50%

Literacy among Ndonga speakers in Angola and Namibia (Ethnologue, accessed 2007):

  • L1: ?
  • L2: 75%

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

Uses Latin alphabet. Ntondo has comments on the orthographies in Angola and Namibia.

Kwanyama and Ndonga have standard written forms. Apparently these are the only Oshiwambo tongues with written forms (Wikipedia; SchoolNet.na)

From learners' materials mentioned in 7c, it appears that Kwanyama, at least, uses a basic Latin alphabet (i.e., no extended characters). [verify? and Ndonga?]

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

Sample texts are shown on the "Language Museum" site as follows (these may or may not reflect current standards and use):

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

Apparently a standard basic Latin (ASCII) font will suffice.

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

7.3  Content on computers & internet / Contenu en informatique et sur l'Internet

Learners' materials:

Wikipedia editions:

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

None known of.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue

Kuanyama; Kwanyama

  • ISO 639-1: kj
  • ISO 639-2: kua
  • ISO 639-3: kua


  • ISO 639-1: ng
  • ISO 639-2: ndo
  • ISO 639-3: ndo


  • ISO 639-3: kwm

7.6  Other / Autre

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

8.2  Institutions / Institutions

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile

9.  Comments / Remarques

This article was renamed from "Kwanyama" to "Oshiwambo" to provide a better term for covering that language, Ndonga, etc. the questions below are still relevant.

Should locale & localisation focus on Kwanyama and Ndonga separately or, for some purposes, together? It is not clear if there are significant dialect differences within the language or relating to different influences from English and Portuguese. Questions:

  • Does "Oshiwambo" have relevance to Kwanyama, Ndonga, etc. the way Runyakitara does to several tongues in western Uganda? (this would imply language planning issues & possibly a need for an appropriate ISO-639 code)
  • How similar are the orthographies of Kwanyama and Ndonga?
  • What about differences between Namibia and Angola?

10.  References / Références

Ntondo, Zavoni. 1998. "The Sociolinguistic Situation of Oshikwanyama in Angola." In K. Legère, ed. Cross-border languages : reports and studies, Regional Workshop on Cross-Border Languages, National Institute for Educational Development (NIED), Okahandja, 23-27 September 1996. Windhoek : Gamsberg Macmillan.

SchoolNet.na, "Te ti! A beginner's guide to Oshindonga," (Chapter 12, mOshiwambo!), http://www.schoolnet.na/languages/teti/moshiwambo.html

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Kwambi," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/kwm

______, "Ndonga," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/ndo

______, "Oshiwambo," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/kua

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables," http://www-01.sil.org/iso639-3/codes.asp

U.S. Library of Congress, "ISO 639.2: Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages: Alpha-3 codes arranged alphabetically by the English name of language," http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/php/English_list.php

Wikipedia, "Kwambi dialect," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwambi_dialect

______, "Kwanyama dialect," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwanyama_dialect

______, "Ndonga dialect," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ndonga_dialect

______, "Ovambo language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ovambo_language

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