English is the official language of Malawi while Chichewa is its national language spoken by about 57% of the population, followed by Chinyanja at 12.8%, Chiyao, 10.1%, and Chitumbuka. 9.5%. The other native languages, which are among the 16 individual, living languages in the country, are the Malawian Lomwe, which is spoken by 250,000 in the southeast and the south of Lake Kilwa and Yap; Kokola, 200,000 in the southeast border and south o Manje and Cholo, and north of Chiromo; Lambya by 45,000 in the northwest; Ndali, 70,000; Nyakyusa-Ngonde, 300,000 in the north; Malawian Sena, 270,000 in the south; and Tonga, 17,000 in the north.
Chichewa belongs to the Bantu language family also spoken in the East, Central and South Africa and Mozambique. In Zambia, it is one of the country’s seven official African languages, while in Zimbabwe, it follows Shona and Northern Ndebele as the most widely used language locally. In Malawi, 65% of the population has either a functional literacy or active command of the language, which is further promoted by the government through various educational programs, research activities and media usage under the government-supported Chichewa Board, which is now known as the Center for Language Studies.
The government has prepared a list of common and simple Chichewa words with English meanings which can be available to tourists upon arrangement with concerned government officials.