A language of Kenya

Alternate Names
Saraka, Sharoka, Tharaka

176,000 (2009 census), increasing. 61,600 monolinguals.


Embu, Meru, and Tharaka-Nithi counties.

Language Maps
Language Status

5 (Developing).


Gatue (North Tharaka), Igoki, Ntugi (Central Tharaka), Thagicu. Thagicu dialect has extensive Kamba [kam] borrowings. Gatue is influential. Difficult intelligibility of northern Kimîîru [mer] dialects. Some Meru words have offensive meanings in Kitharaka. Lexical similarity: with Chuka [cuh].

Language Use

Older people’s dialect more prestigious due to lack of borrowings. Many now use written materials. Home, social gatherings. All ages. Positive attitudes. Also use English [eng] in schools, offices. Kiswahili [swh] in churches, schools, jobs, sometimes in the home. Also use Gikuyu [kik], Kimîîru [mer].

Language Development
Literacy rate in L1: Below 15%. Literacy rate in L2: 45% Kiswahili or English. L1 books in schools since 2003. Thriving mother-tongue education in schools. Taught in primary schools. Poetry. Radio programs. Films. NT: 2000–2002.

Latin script [Latn].

Other Comments

Attitudes changing. People now view their language as important. Tharaka is place name. Ethnonym: Atharaka. Christian, traditional religion.