Useful Tips for Learning Lingala

Writing and Speaking

Because Lingala is also a Bantu language, I had a much easier time with writing it. The biggest issue was with tonality and being able to put the correct accents in written format. This is something that I know I will keep working on in the future. This same issue is also reflected in how I speak Lingala. I think tonality is very tricky in Lingala as it has the potential of completely changing the meaning of a word. See the lessons I incorporated on tonality here and here. Two tips I could provide when it comes to tonality is whistling and humming words to help you work on their tonality. This has made a big difference for me over the course of the summer. The two dictionaries that I was using were useful in helping me especially when it came to writing. I am better at dictation, but the more challenging task is writing from the top of my head. When it comes to speaking, I would encourage any student to just put their feet in the water and use any practicing opportunity they can. One tip I found useful while immersed here was waking up and starting off my day with speaking Lingala to those around me. This helped them and me remember that I was learning Lingala. It usually set the tone for the day.

Now, I can confidently say that I can write about a page in Lingala on topics that are familiar to me. If I am being brave, I can also write on an unfamiliar topic. Additionally, I can present information using a series of simple sentences both in terms of writing or speaking. I can easily present basic information on familiar topics using language I have practiced using phrases and simple sentences. I can also say, confidently, that I am able to communicate and exchange information about familiar topics using phrases and simple sentences, sometimes supported by memorized language. I can also handle participating in conversations that involve short social interactions in everyday situations by asking and answering simple questions. Overall, I was able to achieve my goals which I am very proud of.


Most of the consistent listening I did was from either Radio Okapi news in Lingala or either Parlons-en or Le Débat from Top Congo. Prior to starting the course, I didn’t even realize the former was mainly in Classic Lingala while the two other shows were in Lingala Facile. Many Kinois speak Le Lingala Facile which is Lingala that uses a lot of French cognates unlike Classic Lingala that is more formal and barely has any French cognates. It’s after starting to work with my mentor that I realized that the news was in Classic Lingala and that’s why I had trouble understanding it compared to the two radio shows I listen to. It was nice to have both versions to work with through my listening activities. It enabled me to have versatility in the kind of Lingala I was able to work with through my listening activities over the course of these 8 weeks.

At home, I would also listen to the news and tv shows in Lingala when everyone else was following the news. I listen to a lot of music in Lingala. This exposed me to a variety of ways of how Lingala is spoken, and it was a great experience. The only thing I would say is that all this material really challenged me as they would not be considered to be material for a beginner/novice learner. But this challenged me to perform above my level, so it was a good challenge. Another important aspect of this is being able to lean on my mentors’ knowledge when I was confused by something I heard from the shows or news segment.

Overall, I would reuse the material I used this summer if I were a Novice/Intermediate learner. I provided some of my successful tips for listening activities here. This material I used enabled me to confidently say that I can easily understand words, phrases, and simple sentences related to everyday life. I can confidently say that my grasp at recognizing the information that is being communicated and understanding main topics of what is being said is even better. Lastly, I can understand the main ideas in long messages even when the information is unfamiliar to me. I can also understand the main idea of conversations that I overhear. I am proud of my progress on this front!


When it comes to reading, most of my readings I did were based on the textbook, J’apprends le Lingala tout seule en trois mois. Beyond the various exercises found in the textbook where I was able to read in Lingala, at the end, the textbook also had a segment dedicated to reading and comprehension. It was neat that the readings were chunks of one long story. However, I was never able to understand how the practice exercise linked back to the reading itself. What followed the readings was a completely different train of thought and exercise. I wish there were comprehension questions, but I was able to lean on my mentor to help me with this. Discussing my readings with my mentor and engaging in Q&A afterwards helped me reinforce what I had learnt when I worked on the comprehension by myself. This also enriched my learning experience throughout this journey. I also provided some of my successful tips for reading activities here for beginners.

Given the length of this class (8 weeks), I think the textbook provided just the right amount of reading material. I could imagine this not being enough for a semester long class and the need to complement it with more resources and material that offers variety.  I think the readings were not very hard but challenging enough for someone at my proficiency level. One thing that I discovered after starting the class was that my textbook taught classic Lingala which is very different from Lingala spoken in Kinshasa. In the beginning, this made it a bit tricky to navigate and I realized that classic Lingala is lot harder than Lingala spoken by Kinois. If anything, the way Kinois speak make it so much easier to learn and speak. This was something I did not know going into the class. At least, I didn’t think the differences was as stark as they are. When it comes to reading, I have mostly been reading classic Lingala which, overall, I am good at given my proficiency level. I can confidently say that I am able to understand words, phrases and sentences in texts even when they might not be familiar. For the most part, I am able to understand the main idea of what I have read. This is the case even when the topic might not be familiar to me. Overall, I was able to achieve my goals which I am very proud of.



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.