While English has been the official language of the country since independence, the numerous ethnic groups of Uganda speak about 40 different languages. Ugandan English is strongly influenced by the local languages. Luganda, the most widely spoken local language, is heard mostly in urban Kampala and its surrounding areas in the Buganda region. Lusoga is spoken primarily in the southeast while Runyankore is spoken in the southwest. Bantu is spoken in the south while Nilotic and the Central Sudanic languages are spoken in the north.

For all political purposes, Lake Kyoga serves as a natural boundary between the north and south although the linguistic boundary extends all along the Nile from the northwest to the southeast.

Swahili was declared as the second official language of Uganda in 2005. Spoken largely in the eastern and central eastern regions of Africa and used as a lingua franca in northern Uganda, Swahili has not found much favour among the Bantu speakers of the south and southwest. Its status as an official language is a politically sensitive issue.