Research Blog 1

I have decided to focus my research on the role Sheng, sometimes referred to as Engsh, plays in identity formation, shared culture, and global connection in Kenya. Sheng is a mix between English and Kiswahili, the two primary languages taught to students in Nairobi. It is commonly viewed as the language of the youth. While parents and teachers often criticize its use, claiming teenagers are less likely to learn proper English and Kiswahili when they use Sheng, this emerging language reflects the merging between western influence in Nairobi with traditional cultural values. Within Sheng, words associated with global artists, musicians, fashion, and other elements of popular culture are prevalent. In this sense, Sheng is used as a tool to connect Nairobi youth with teenagers around the world who have shared interests. In addition, with the large amount of ethnic languages present in Nairobi, Sheng allows the youth to connect with each other and create a larger group identity, moving beyond the restrictions of tribal associations so often creating conflict within their parents’ generation. Two articles I found discussing identity formation and Sheng are found below. Both articles discuss the importance of Sheng as “an indication of societal growth in Kenya,” but Momanyi also addresses the concerns of parents and teachers regarding its impact on education (127). Overall, I hope to explore two topics in regards to Sheng: the influence of Western pop culture, particularly stemming from America, in Sheng, and the potential for Sheng as a unifying agent in a society that has deep ethnic divides.


Abdulaziz, Mohamed H., and Ken Osinde. “Sheng and Engsh: Development of mixed codes among the urban youth in Kenya.” International Journal of the Sociology of Language 125.1 (1997): 43-64.

Momanyi, Clara. “The Effects of’Sheng’in the Teaching of Kiswahili in Kenyan Schools.” Journal of Pan African Studies 2.9 (2009).


Hannah Markey


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