What is the most spoken language in Africa? This is a huge continent with different parts of which are distinguished by unique customs and culture, including those that relate to languages. We will help you understand their diversity and highlight the most popular ones.
According to linguists, there are 1500-2000 languages in Africa. The following four main groups can be distinguished from them:
- Afro-Asian (approximately 200 languages) covers almost the whole of North Africa.
- Nilo-Saharan includes about 140 languages spoken by about eleven million people in Central and East Africa.
- Niger-Saharan covers two-thirds of the African population. The main branch is the Niger-Congo group, which includes more than 1000 languages with about 200 million speakers. The Bantu languages in Central, South and East Africa form a subgroup of the Niger-Congo group.
- The Khoisan contains about thirty languages of the western part of South Africa.
All African languages are considered the official languages of the African Union.
What is the most spoken language in Africa? We invite you to consider top 10.
Most widely spoken language in Africa is English. According to several resources, there are around 700 million English speakers in Africa. The black continent does not differ from other regions of the world in this sense.
The importance of English in Africa is also due to the fact that some countries were European colonies until the middle of the 20th century. After the British colonization, the local population had no choice but to learn this language. English speech can be heard on the streets of such countries as Botswana, Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, etc. A total of about 23 states use it. At the moment, English is the most spoken official language in Africa.
Arabic is the Semitic language used by more than 280 million people around the world. It is official in Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Libya, Eritrea, and some other states. Also, residents of many countries use it as non-official language.
Dialect can depend on the region. Striving to understand the cultural characteristics of a particular country, it’s worth taking into account this nuance. In any case, you first need to learn the general standard.
120 million people in 24 countries of the black continent speak French, but with their own language peculiarities.
African French is only the language of 0ral communication but the number and magnitude of deviations from the classic French language are so great that it is impossible not to single out this dialect in a separate post
Swahili is one of the most widely spoken African languages. It belongs to the Bantu language group being its largest representative. Experts estimate that about 100 million people speak this language, mainly in central and eastern Africa. Such a large number of Swahili speakers is due to the fact that it has become the language of international communication in the region and today it is used from Mozambique to Somalia and from the western shores of the Indian Ocean to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The uniqueness of Swahili is that it is the only native African language that has been able to achieve such position.
At the same time, Swahili is native only for 5 million people. The most popular languages of international communication (English, French, and Arabic) were imposed by the colonialists on the black continent. Since 2004, Swahili has become the first African language to be recognized as the official language of the African Union.
The origin of Swahili is the result of the merger of the languages of Arab and Indian immigrants and the local Bantu population. Today Swahili uses Latin (this is the merit of European missionaries). Till the nineteenth century, this language used Arabic script.
In the modern world, even a very rare language is on everyone’s lips. A paradox, isn’t it? The names of Disney heroes of the popular cartoon “The Lion King” are taken from Swahili: Simba in Swahili means “lion”, Pumbaa is “lazy”, and Rafiki is a “friend”. And the name of the soundtrack for the cartoon “Akuna Matata” is translated from Swahili as “no problem”.
Among the languages of the Semito-Hamitic family, there is the Hausa language which is used by more than 50 million people. This is one of the main languages of Niger, Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Cameroon. Despite the fact that some features of Hausa are characteristic for many Sudanese languages, it has an undeniable connection with the Semitic, CuSh!tic, and Berber languages.
The question of the place of the Hausa language among other African languages has long been very controversial and in all classifications, it was placed in isolation from all the languages of Africa. However, in reality in the southern part of Northern Nigeria and in the lower reaches of Logone-et-Chari, south of the Lake Chad, and also to the east of it, there are several dozen tribes whose languages are very close to the Hausa. They are sometimes called Sudan-Hamitic or Chado-Hamitic languages.
Oromo is the name of the language and one of the African peoples. The language of Oromo is native to about 35 million people on the planet. Most users speak Oromo in these African countries: Somalia Peninsula, Ethiopia, Kenya (northern part of the country).
There is a written language with a slightly modified Latin alphabet called Qubee. But the Arabic alphabet is also used. In the past, the Ethiopian alphabet was the basis of Oromo writing.
The Yoruba language is based on the Latin alphabet. It is used by around 30 million people, mainly in the west and southwest of Nigeria, as well as in the central and western areas of Benin, in the eastern districts of Central Togo.
The Yoruba language is divided into eight main dialects, differing mostly phonetically. The division into dialects roughly corresponds to tribal division.
It is the language of the Igbo people, widespread in the southeast of Nigeria. The number of Igbo speakers is estimated at 24 million people. The language is divided into a number of dialects, some of which are regarded as independent languages. Igbo is written on the Latin graphical basis, dialects have their own written traditions. There is no single literary norm.
Since the end of the 20th century, the so-called central Igbo used according to the norms of the central zone of language distribution became increasingly popular, especially in the sphere of written use.
Amharic is from the Semitic family of languages and is the state language of Ethiopia. Around 18-21 million people speak it, most of them live in Ethiopia. Also, Amharic speakers can be found in a number of other countries, in particular in Eritrea, Canada, the United States, and Sweden.
The name “Amharic” comes from the name of the Amhara region in the north of Ethiopia, which is considered the historical center of the Amharic language.
Shona is the language of the Bantu group. It is prevalent in South Africa, mainly in Zimbabwe. Today it is used by more than 10 million people.