Languages In Africa

Languages In Africa

There are over 3000 languages spoken natively in Africa. In several major language families:

  • Afro-asiatic spread throughout the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and parts of the Sahel
  • Nilo-Saharan is centered on Sudan and Chad (disputed validity)
  • Niger–Congo (Bantu) covers West, Central, and Southeast Africa
  • Khoe is concentrated in the deserts of Namibia and Botswana
  • Austronesian on Madagascar.
  • Indo-European on the southern tip of the continent.

Several African languages are whistled or drummed to communicate over long distances.



Official and national Languages

Other spoken Languages
Berber languages, four dialects (by constitutional amendment)
AngolaPortugueseNarrow Bantu like Umbundu and other African languages.
BeninFrenchFon and Yoruba (most common vernaculars in south), tribal languages (at least six major ones in north).
BotswanaSetswana (national language with minor differences in dialects), English is the official business language and it is widely spoken in urban areas.
Burkina FasoFrenchNative African languages belonging to Sudanic family spoken by 90% of the population.
BurundiKirundi, FrenchSwahili (along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura area).
CameroonEnglish, French24 major African language groups.
Cape VerdePortugueseKabuverdianu (Crioulo) (a blend of Portuguese and West African words).
Central African RepublicFrench, Sangho (lingua franca and national language)Banda, Gbaya and other tribal languages.
ChadFrench, ArabicSara (in south), more than 120 different languages and dialects.
ComorosArabic, FrenchShikomoro (a blend of Swahili and Arabic).
Democratic Republic of the CongoFrenchLingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili), Kikongo, Tshiluba.
Congo, Republic of theFrenchLingala and Monokutuba (lingua franca trade languages), many local languages and dialects (of which Kikongo is the most widespread).
Côte d’IvoireFrench60 native dialects with Dioula the most widely spoken.
DjiboutiFrench, ArabicSomali, Afar
EgyptArabicEnglish and French widely understood by educated classes.
Equatorial GuineaSpanish, Frenchpidgin English, Fang, Bubi, Ibo.
EritreaTigrinya (Tigrigna), Arabic, EnglishTigré (second major language), Afar, Bedawi, Kunama, other Cushitic languages.
EthiopiaAmharicTigrinya, Oromo, Gurage, Somali, Arabic language, 80 other local languages, English (major foreign language taught in schools)
GabonFrenchBantu languages like Fang, Myene, Nzebi, Bapounou/Eschira, Bandjabi.
Gambia, TheEnglishMandinka, Wolof, Fula, other indigenous vernaculars.
GhanaEnglishAfrican languages (including Akan, Adangme, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe, and Ga)
GuineaFrench (spoken by 15-20%)Eight national languages, Soussou (Susu, in coastal Guinea), Peulh (Fulani, in Northrn Guinea), Maninka (Upper Guinea), Kissi (Kissidougou Region), Toma and Guerze (Kpelle) in rain forest Guinea; plus various ethnic groups with their own language.
Guinea-BissauPortugueseCrioulo (a mixture of Portuguese and African), other African languages.
KenyaEnglish, Kiswahilinumerous indigenous languages.
LesothoSesotho (southern Sotho), EnglishZulu, Xhosa.
LiberiaEnglish 20%some 20 ethnic group languages, of which a few can be written and are used in correspondence.
LibyaArabicItalian, English, all are widely understood in the major cities.
MadagascarFrench, Malagasy
MalawiEnglish, Nyanja (Chichewa, Chewa)Lomwe, Tumbuka, Yao, other languages important regionally.
MaliFrenchBambara (Bamanakan), Arabic and numerous dialects of Dogoso, Fulfulde, Koyracini, Senoufou, and Mandinka/Malinké (Maninkakan), Tamasheq are also widely spoken.
MauritaniaArabicHassaniya Arabic, Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof, French
MauritiusEnglish, FrenchCreole, Hindi, Urdu, Hakka, Bhojpuri
MoroccoArabicBerber dialects, French often the language of business, government, and diplomacy.
MozambiquePortuguese (spoken by 27% of population as a second language)Makhuwa, Tsonga, Lomwe, Sena, numerous other indigenous languages.
NamibiaEnglish 7%Afrikaans common language of most of the population and about 60% of the white population, German 32%, indigenous languages: Oshivambo, Herero, Nama.
NigerFrenchHausa, Djerma
NigeriaEnglishHausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani, Ijaw, Ibibio and about 250 other indigenous languages spoken by the different ethnic groups.
RéunionFrenchCreole widely used
RwandaRwanda (Kinyarwanda, Bantu vernacular) French, EnglishKiswahili (Swahili) used in commercial centers.
Saint HelenaEnglish
São Tomé and PríncipePortuguese
SenegalFrenchWolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka
SeychellesEnglish, FrenchCreole
Sierra LeoneEnglish (regular use limited to literate minority)Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)
SomaliaSomaliArabic, Italian, English
South Africa11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, Pedi, Sesotho (Sotho), siSwati (Swazi), Xitsonga (Tsonga), Tswana, Tshivenda (Venda), isiXhosa, isiZulu
Sudan/South SudanArabicNubian, Ta Bedawie, diverse dialects of Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, Sudanic languages, English. note: program of “Arabization” in process
SwazilandEnglish (government business conducted in English), siSwati
Tanzania, United Republic ofKiswahili (Swahili), Kiunguju (name for Swahili in Zanzibar), English (primary language of commerce, administration, and higher education)Arabic (widely spoken in Zanzibar), Gogo, Haya, Makonde, Nyakyusa, Nyamwezi, Sukuma, Tumbuka, many other local languages.
TogoFrench (the language of commerce)Ewe and Mina (the two major African languages in the south), Kabye (Kabiye) and Dagomba (the two major African languages in the north)
TunisiaArabic (and the languages of commerce)French (commerce)
UgandaEnglish (used in courts of law and by most newspapers and some radio broadcasts)Ganda (Luganda; most widely used of the Niger-Congo languages, preferred for native language publications), other Niger-Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages, Acoli, Swahili, Arabic
Western SaharaHassaniya Arabic, Moroccan Arabic
ZambiaEnglishmajor vernaculars: Bemba, Kaonda, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja, Tonga, and about 70 other indigenous languages.
ZimbabweEnglishChishona (Shona), Sindebele (Ndebele), numerous but minor tribal dialects like: Sotho and Nambya, Shangani, Venda, Chewa, Nyanja, and Tonga.