Languages in Africa: Everything You Wanted to Know About African Languages

Languages in Africa: Everything You Wanted to Know About African Languages

Did you know that Africa is the second-largest continent, and much bigger than the USA, China, or India?

Africa is an amazing continent, full of diversity, different cultures that live together, and wonderful nature. This continent is also home to many different languages, where almost every person speakers at least two languages. How cool is that, right?

If you want to get to know this fabulous continent much better, learn about different languages in Africa and see how English and French can help you communicate with the Africans, keep reading because of all that, and much more, you can find in the following lines.

Let's get started.

How Many Languages Are Spoken in Africa?

Africa isn’t only a continent full of diversity in nature, it is also full of linguistic diversity. According to linguistics, it is estimated that in Africa there are around 2.000 different languages spoken.

It means that almost one-third of the worldwide languages are spoken only in Africa. Moreover, at least 75 of those languages are spoken by millions of people. And that’s not all.

In Nigeria, for example, there are 500 different languages spoken, and in the South African Republic, there are 11 official languages.

The Most Spoken Languages in Africa

Swahili

Swahili is spoken by around 150 million people. This language is also known as Kiswahili in the native tongue and it is a Bantu language. Spoken in the African Great Lakes region in Central and Southern Africa, It is the official language in Uganda, Rwanda, Mozambique, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Since it comes from a language family like Arabic it isn't considered as a hard language to learn, especially if you already know some Arabic.

Did you know that Swahili was the language used in The Lion King. The famous phrases ‘Hakuna Matata’ means no worries in Swahili and ‘Simba’ means ‘lion.'

Arabic

Arabic is spoken by more than 150 million Africans, making it one of the biggest languages in the continent.  Arabic is an official language in Egypt, Comoros, Djibouti, Chad, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, and Libya and is mostly spoken in the North African part of the continent.

Besides being the most spoken language in Africa, Arabic is the sixth most spoken language worldwide.

French

In Africa, there are more than 120 million French speakers.

Among the 25 countries that are “Francophone Africa,' the most French-speaking countries include Gabon, Mauritius, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Sao Tome e Principe. French is also spoken in North African countries including Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco.

Hausa

Spoken by over 80 million people, Hausa is one of Nigeria’s official languages. It is also spoken in countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Germany, Ghana, Niger, Sudan, Togo, and a lot of North Africa.

Due to Boko and Latin alphabet usage, Hausa is one of the most advanced languages in Africa and the only one that has foreign station broadcasts, such as BBC and Voice of Russia.

Besides, it is one of the few African languages that is taught in International Universities thanks to the  amount of literature in that language. 

Amharic

The language of Ethiopia is the fifth most spoken language in Africa.

 Amharic is one of the very few languages to have its own alphabet and a very unique Ge'ez writing system, while most other languages use Arabic or Latin letters.

Right after Arabic, it is the second most-spoken Semitic language in the world after Arabic.

Interestingly, the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, means 'new flower' in Amharic. 

What is The Main Language Spoken in Africa?

There are more than 2.000 different languages spoken on the African continent.

As we’ve mentioned one of the main features Africa is so unique is its diversity, even in languages.

Among 2.000 languages spoken in 54 African countries, almost every African is bilingual, if not even trilingual.

As for languages, some have more speakers than others.

However, one language has a particularly larger number of native speakers. 

It is Arabic.

With more than 150 million speakers, they mainly live in North Africa. 

The language has many different dialects, and one of the leading is Modern Standard Arabic, used in the media. 

Arabic is a native language to mostly African Muslims, and it is the official language in Algeria, Comoros, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia, as well as widely spoken in Tanzania, Western Sahara and Somalia.

Why Are English and French Used as Official Languages in Africa?

We all know that English and French are among the most spoken languages in the world.

Therefore, they are widely spoken in Africa as well.

How did these languages become so popular and widely spoken on this sunny continent, let's find out?

French in Africa

The French brought the language to the African continent during colonialism in the 17th century. So, when the French came to Africa, besides other things, they gave their language, too.

During the 1950s and 1960s, they lost control over Africa but the language remained.

As a result of French colonization, the language also remained to be an official language in many African countries, such as Senegal, Cameroon, The Ivory Coast, the Republic of Congo, Guinea, Mali, and many more.

In Africa, there are 29 French-speaking countries.

Many linguists estimate that the number of French speakers will grow, and all that thanks to Africans.

English in Africa

English, like a language you can communicate with people all around the world, is also the language of economy, business, media, and many more.

Like French, English started being one of the languages in Africa during colonialism.

And even when the 'rule' of English is finished, the language remains.

In countries, such as Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, and many more, it remained as the official language.

Today, there are 24 English-speaking countries in Africa.

Moreover, many African countries give their best efforts so that more and more people, especially the young ones, learn English properly.

If you’re interested in becoming fluent in a new language, check out these top online learning resources: Kick off your learning with Babbel, where interactive, enjoyable lessons are designed to blend smoothly into your routine, fostering fast and effective language learning. For those aiming for an in-depth understanding, Udemy provides a broad spectrum of courses from basic to advanced levels. To enhance your speaking skills, Preply connects you with native speakers for personalized coaching, ensuring significant improvement. Take advantage of a 50% discount on your first lesson at Preply with this link.

Final Thoughts

After this post, we are sure that you will like Africa even more and that you will want to visit it as soon as possible.

As you can see, knowing languages like English, French or Arabic can help you communicate with the locals, but the real beauty and a complete feeling of a warm welcome and getting into the African life is learning African languages.

How Many Languages Are Spoken in Africa?

According to linguistics, it is estimated that in Africa there are around 2.000 different languages spoken. It means that almost one-third of the worldwide languages are spoken only in Africa. Moreover, at least 75 of those languages are spoken by millions of people. And that’s not all. In Nigeria, for example, there are 500 different languages spoken, and in the South African Republic, there are 11 official languages.

What are the most spoken languages in Africa?

Swahili, Arabic, French, Amharic, Hausa

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