How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

We rely on it daily, even the kids. Really crazy that some folks come out here without their spouses getting any language, as they are the ones who end up isolated. Yes, there are local classes, but I'm not sure of the cost. - Aug 2019


You really need French. Very few Congolese speak English, and French is the dominant language of the expat community (though there are plenty of Anglophones too). Congolese are patient and will do their best to work with you if your French is limited, but you will experience a language barrier. Learning some Lingala (the first language of most Kinois, and one of DRC's four "national languages") will make your experience in Kinshasa more culturally enriching and interesting. Lingala is not particularly difficult to learn if you have the time, the grammar is simple and the vocabulary is only 1000 or so words (with French filling in the gaps in common practice). - Apr 2019


French really is a must, no one outside of the expat community speaks English. There affordable tutors available. Do Duolingo before you come. - Dec 2017


You really need French to communicate for everyday life. - Dec 2017


Must. Have. French! Lingala is even better. Roughly 20% of the population will have some English. This is not generally enough to have a conversation or get directions. - Mar 2017


You must have French or you will be unable to communicate in daily life. Push for language classes before arriving at post if possible, as local options for learning are not very good. Those without French tend to be much more isolated and frustrated with local life. - Jan 2017


French is necessary. Lingala is the lingua franca of western DRC and reigned in Kinshasa. There are people in the city who don't speak anything but. It's not necessary, but is a very easy and beautiful language, and useful. - Sep 2016


You do not need to know the local language (Lingala) but you do need to know some French (the national business language) - almost no one speaks English here. You can manage without French, but it is much, much more difficult. - Apr 2016


French is required with very few locals speaking English. Congolese speak Lingala, not French to each other, and while it is not a requirement at all, you'll get better prices and reception if you have at least a basic knowledge. - Jan 2014


French is absolutely necessary. Lingala would be helpful for anyone who actually wants to interact with the majority of the people in Kinshasa. Swahili is also spoken some. - Nov 2012


Must know French. - May 2012


French is a must. All stores/markets/locals speak French and there is not much English spoken. - Feb 2012


French is mandatory. - Nov 2011


French comes in very handy. No need to learn Lingala - Aug 2011


French is the main language, and the more you know the better you are. Knowing some of the local language will make a positive impact on the Congolese. - Jan 2011


French is fine. You get the most out of your experience by learning even a little lingala. I personally think it is more useful than French. But, as I say, French is fine. - Oct 2010


Most people here don't speak English, so you'll need to know some French. Knowing some Lingala helps too. - Jan 2009


Five stars on Amazon! Don't miss Talesmag's first book of essays, on cross-cultural food experiences from Mexico to Mongolia (plus recipes!)

Read More