Name the language

Here’s part of a song in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language and where it’s spoken?

This entry was posted in Language, Quiz questions.

15 Responses to Name the language

  1. prase says:

    Swahili. (A wild guess.)

  2. Jurčík says:

    I think it’s any Romance language. Occitan?

  3. jonathan says:

    I think it’s an African/Bantu language, being sung by Europeans.

  4. Alex Daniels says:

    It’s definitively Swahili. The song is Malaika.

  5. Yenlit says:

    Thought I heard what sounded like ‘Malaika’ so I’d also go with prase’s guess and plump for Swahili maybe Kenya but definitely sung by Europeans as jonathon said above?

  6. Christopher Miller says:

    Probably the best known song in Swahili — Malaika.

  7. Christopher Miller says:

    I notice the “one language is never enough” has changed again — being a Bantu language, it looks similar to Swahili, but it’s in Xhosa. I wonder what the Swahili would be? Ulimi umoja hauwezi kutosha?

  8. Christopher Miller says:

    Actually, I’m curious about the Xhosa, coming to think of it: why the plural zi- class agreement on zangelonela (which would agree with the plural izilimi) rather than lwangelonela to agree with the singular noun ulwimi? Perhaps some intricacy of Xhosa grammar I don’t know about?

  9. bronz says:

    @ Christopher
    zange is the future negative prefix, and because ulwimi belongs to the irregular class 11 (its plural form is irregular, belonging to class 10 — iilwimi, not izil(w)imi), its subject prefix is actually the l- in lonela with (uk)onela meaning “(to) be satisfied/be enough”.
    The future negative prefix also expresses “never” and tends to be prefixed after the subject prefix does to the verb stem, whereas the future prefix prefixes prior to the subject, so “one language will be enough” would probably look something like “ulwimi olunye luzakonela”. (lu- referring to ulwimi; zaku- future prefix where u- is deleted in favor of the o in onela)

  10. bronz says:

    I checked my materials, zange is not the future negative, but I do see it used in the distant past and in that situation it may be interpreted as simply negative distant past or “never” past. In the negative distant past, however, subject and negative prefixes are still added to “zange”, which is always a separate word, so “one language was never enough” would be “ulwimi olunye a-lu-zange l-onel-e” (a- negative; -e past). It seems for the present tense here then, zange is perhaps “borrowed” for the “never” meaning, so if you take it out, “ulwimi olunye lonela” would be “one language is enough”.

  11. Rauli says:

    I know the song Malaika as well. Recognized some of the words as Swahili, but of course it could be some other related language.

  12. Christopher Miller says:

    Thanks for all the grammatical information, bronz. All I have to go on is my relative familiarity with Zulu grammar. I had assumed that the -nge was a negative form of the -nga- potential affix, so “zange” would mean “cannot/could not” or something along those lines.

    BTW I let myself get led astray by Xhosa ulwimi (= Zulu u(lu)limi) into forgetting that ulimi in Swahili only means tongue in the sense of the physical organ. “Language” in Swahili is lugha, borrowed from Arabic. So I imagine that a fairly close translation would be “Lugha moja tu haitoshi” – language one only NEG-AGREEMENT-be-enough-NEG.


    I thought I’d google up a link to the lyrics, and what would the first link I found have but the very YouTube video this came from!

  13. bronz says:

    Ah, I was not aware of the potential affix. I’m not aware of a final -e being an indication of the negative, but it looks like it might be possible to dissect zange at least historically if not in terms of modern grammar. Too bad Xhosa grammars are hard to come by.

  14. Simon says:

    The answer is indeed Swahili (kiSwahili), which is spoken in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and quite a few other countries.

    The song is called Malaika (Angel) and is sung by Amani Kitali, Jill Haberkern, and Kemunto Mokaya. You can see the words and hear a number of different recordings on

  15. Jurčík says:

    I love this song! I spend on listening to it one hour a day!

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