African Languages – How Many, Types, And Examples

Did you know that Africa houses 30% of the world’s languages by population? Coming second after Asia, Africa has more than 2000 languages. Such a diverse continent! From Capetown to Cairo, Africa boasts of a multi-lingual population that is widely diverse and closely related at the same time. 

Popularly known as the black/dark continent, Africa’s colossal spoken languages are directly drawn from diverse cultural lines. In Africa, specific cultures are attached to particular languages, and having more than 2000 cultures helps explain the massive languages the continent has. Covering more than 2000 languages in a single blog can not only be tiring but a daunting task as well, and that’s why we have only highlighted the most spoken languages in Africa. Shall we?

Africa has more than 2000 languages. In this article, we will give you an overview of the most important languages and their distribution.

#1: Swahili

With almost 150 million speakers, Swahili is the most spoken language in Africa. Comparatively, Swahili is spoken by more people than Italian! Spoken initially on the Island of Zanzibar, Swahili has grown to be the most spoken language in Africa. This Bantu language was birthed during the pre-colonial period due to interaction between Bantus and the Arabs at East Africa’s coast.

Today, Swahili is the official language of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has also spread to other countries like Comoros Island, Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Somalia, Ethiopia, Southern Sudan, and Nothern Mozambique. Swahili is also an international language that has gained popularity and acceptance worldwide. It is now taught in schools and colleges abroad as a foreign language as well.

Check here for learn Swahili

#2: Hausa

Hausa is one of the African languages that extends its roots and history to Germany. This Nigerian national language is also spoken in Benin, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and some Other parts of Africa. With over 40 million speakers, Hausa is recognized as one of the most advanced languages in Africa.

Can we say that its progressive nature is attributed to incorporating the Latin alphabets or its wide usage in international radio broadcasting channels, including the BBC, Voice of Rusia, and Radio France Internationale? Or should we simply say Latino-Hausa!

Check here to learn Hausa

#3: Yoruba

Yoruba is actually an ethnic group of West Africa that speaks the Yoruba language. This ethnic group inhabits Benin, Togo, and Nigeria, with others scattered around the world. The Yoruba people are more than 40 million, which helps explain many of its language speakers in Africa. Yoruba is the most spoken native language in West Africa due to its large ethnic group that occupies the region.

Check here to learn Yoruba.

#4: Amharic

Spoken with about 20 million people in the 21st century, Amharic is Ethiopia’s primary language. It can be traced back to the 14th century, making it one of the oldest languages that have stood the test of time. Amharic is a Semitic language that has been majorly influenced by the Cushite like the Oromo and the Agaw. The two groups have influenced the language and produced several dialects that are slightly differentiated.

Amharic uses 33 characters that are slightly modified in the Ge’ez language.

Check here to learn Amharic.

#5: Other native languages

Other African native languages that have more than 10 million speaking population include the following;

  • Oromo
  • Igbo
  • Shona
  • Arabic
  • Zulu

Apart from the native languages, French and English are also widespread in African and widely spoken as well. It will be a great injustice not to talk about the two languages since they also play a critical role in the continent.

#6: French

Almost 26 countries in Africa make up about 120 million people that speak French in Africa. Senegal, Mauritius, Gabon, Sao Tome e Principe, and Cote d’Ivoire are some of Africa’s top Francophone countries.

#7: English

English is among the most spoken foreign language that was brought into the continent by the colonizers. Most countries colonized by great Britain adopted English as their official language into their curriculum. It is only Liberia and Sierra Leone that speak English as their primary language in Africa.

There is about about 24 countries that speak English, who include South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia and Sudan.

Colonial divides and language orientations

The map of the African continent clearly reveals the former French vs. Anglophone colonial territories. These divides are still the major territories for the split between english and french speaking citizens of Africa.

Do more people speak english than french in Africa?

According to this study, English speaking people in Africa (just over 220 Million – 18%) is nearly twice the number of people who speak French (123 Million – 10% ).

There is approximately twice as many English speaking vs. French speaking people in Africa. Source: Quora
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