Kushɛ!This site provides language learning resources for students of Krio of Sierra Leone.

What is Krio and where is it spoken?

Nestled between Guinea and Liberia, Sierra Leone sits on the West Coast Africa on the Atlantic Ocean. Though a small country, the country is infamously known for the recent outbreak of Ebola and as the inspiration for the movie Blood Diamonds, a movie recounting the sale of blood diamonds and the subsequent conflict in the country. Despite these recent notorious histories, Sierra Leone has an interesting past. British abolitionists founded Sierra Leone in as home for former enslaved Africans from Novia Scotia, London, and Jamaica (Flynn, 2007). This new population was known as the Krios and began to rule over indigenous tribes of the Mende and Tenme tribes who lived in the interior of the country. Later, freed slaves from Nigeria and Portuguese colonies migrated to the British colony. This diverse mix of people, Krio, Mende, Tenme, and Nigerians created the Krio language which remains as the lingua franca of the country (Flynn, 2007).  Though it borrows heavily from English, Krio is distinct from English. “When spoken correctly,” writes Flynn, “the language is virtually unintelligible to an English speaker.” According to Ethnologue, over 4 million people speak Krio as an L1 or L2. Krio is mostly spoken in Freetown and other provincial towns, and is used as the language for interethnic communication between the Tenmes and Mende (Lewis, Simons, & Fenning, 2016).


Why study Krio?

If you want to live, work, or do research in Sierra Leone, it is imperative that you learn some Krio. I plan to do my dissertation on girls’ education and Ebola in Sierra Leone, hence my interest in learning the language. Before deciding to study Krio, I spoke with multiple American scholars who have resided in the country. I asked them if I should study Tenme or Mende, the language spoken by the indigenous groups of the country. Most people I spoke with responded that learning Tenme or Mende will limit me to studying in the areas where those languages are exclusively spoken (the north or south of the country). Whereas learning Krio opens possibilities for intracountry communication. Thank you for joining this journey as I learn Krio.


Flynn, D. (2007, September 9). Krio heritage rich but crumbling in Sierra Leone. Reuters.  Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-leone-krios-idUSL0684532820070910

Lewis, M., Simons, G., and Fennig, C. (Eds.). 2016. Krio. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Nineteenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: https://www.ethnologue.com/language/kri

Teachers at Makeni Primary School pose after a training. Picture Credit: Global Education