English is the official language in Zambia, but there are five main languages and more than 70 different dialects. The main languages are Tonga, Bemba, Nyanja, Lozi and Luvale.

 About a million Zambians, mostly in the south, speak Tonga. Bemba is the first language of many people in the Copperbelt area. People speak Nyanja in the east and in urban areas. Half a million Zambians in the west and south speak Lozi. Luvale is spoken in northwestern Zambia. Other important languages are Lunda and Kaonde.

Zambians are known for their friendliness and courtesy. Traditional greetings and handshakes vary across the country. In western regions, people will greet each other by alternately clasping and clapping hands three times. In the northern region, people commonly bend one knee while shaking hands. To show respect during a greeting or introduction, Zambians will sometimes support their right hand with their left.

 Gift giving is an important ritual. Because gifts represent a sign of honour, friendship or gratitude, people always accept them. The refusal of a gift may surprise and offend the giver. When a gift is presented, both giver and receiver use two hands. The use of only one hand, especially the left, may be considered rude. At the birth of a baby, well-wishers usually bring a gift. Traditionally, a visitor who arrives empty-handed will not be allowed to hold the newborn.

  Did you know?
The Lozi language has at least 40 words that mean "woman". Each describes a woman at a particular stage in life. For example, a namukuka is an unmarried woman. A mubala is a newlywed, just arrived in her husband's village.
  English Tonga Bemba Nyanja   Lozi
  Yes   Inzya    Eya mukwai   Inde   Enisha
  No   Pepe   Awe   Iyayi   Baatili
  Good morning   Mwabuka buti   Mwashibukeni    Mwauka bwanji   Muzuhile cwani
  Good afternoon   Mwalibizya   Cungulopo mukwai   Mwachoma bwanji   Mutozi cwani
  How are you?   Muli buti?   Muli shani?   Muli bwanji?   Muzuhile?
  I am fine   Kabotu   Ndifye bwino   Nili bwino   Lu zuhile hande
  Thank you   Twalumba   Natotela   Zikomo   Litumezi
  Did you know?
Chrysalis Magazine, a Zambian on-line publication, has coined the word "Zanglish" to mean Zambian English. The first instalment of the Chrysalis Dictionary of Zanglish includes "Coca-Cola money" (a bribe), "tea" (any hot beverage) and "robot" (traffic lights).