Is Africa a heaven for language aficionados?

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Africa is known for its rich cultural diversity and the reflections are visible in its varied languages. 2000 languages are spoken across the African continent of which eleven languages have been recognized constitutionally as the official language of the African countries. Uniqueness is the essence of each language spoken here. The government on its part is focusing on the development of all the African languages to maintain active communication with the global world.

African languages are divided into 4 major groups:

1. Afro-Asiatic languages are spoken in Northern Africa, the Horn of Africa and Central Sahara

2. Nilo-Saharian speakers are in Eastern and Central Africa

3. Niger-Congo languages are mostly used by Southern, Central and Eastern region of Africa

4. Khoisan is spoken by the population living in Southern Africa


English is the official language of South Africa and the credit goes to the British colonizers. Dutch settlers also treated it as a major language over the other local dialects. For educational purposes and international business also South Africans prefer English. Today, the language is spoken by a smaller section of the society and is ranked fourth in terms of usage. The influence of dominant languages can be easily seen in the South African English like isiZulu and Afrikaans. In the continent, it is spoken in Ghana, Liberia, Zambia, Botswana, Zambia, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Namibia.


Setswana is another widely used home language in the country. It is considered as a national language in Botswana and relatively few native speakers are in Namibia also. It has emerged from the Sotho subgroup and shows its origin to South-Eastern Bantu languages. It is said to be the first Sotho language which was translated from its verbal to written form by the colonial intellectuals. Earlier, Setswana was used to disseminate religious teachings in the geographically widespread country.


Sesotho also shares the same community as Setswana and is also called as Southern Sotho by its native speakers. Similar to Setswana, it was also translated to written form by European missionaries. Only 7.9% of the total population speaks this African language. In the Kingdom of Lesotho, Sesotho is the main language for education and trade.


Vatsonga tribes are said to be behind bringing this language to South Africa. Also known as Shangaan, Thonga, and xiTsonga , people settled in the northern provinces of the country speaks this language. Tsonga speakers are found in southern Zimbabwe and Mozambique as well. Only a small section communicates in this language.


Arabic is widely spoken in this densely populated continent and more than 100 million people speak in this language. Arabic is the official language of Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya.


Over 100 million people communicate in this language in the continent. It is also an official language of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. This Bantu language is used for education and has Arabic influence. ‘Jambo’ is a term used to greet elderly people in Swahili. There are large numbers of Swahili speakers in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Great Lakes region, Burundi, and the Comoros Islands. Swahili actually means coastal language and widely used in trade and business. It is easy to learn this language and use it for communications. ‘No worries’ is expressed as Hakuna Matata in Swahili and Swahili for ‘Lion’ is Simba.


Amharic will help you to visit Ethiopia where it is an official language. It is second common Semitic language and has 22 million speakers in the continent. Its rich Ethiopic script is unique in its own way.


Yoruba will help you to move around gorgeous countries like Benin, Nigeria, and Togo. This tonal language is natively spoken by 30 million people in Western Africa and belongs to Niger-Congo family.


It is a mother tongue of Oromo speakers in Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, and Somalia. It is a member of the Cushitic branch which falls under Afroasiatic language family.


Hausa is a major Chadic language of the continent. Being Nigeria’s official language, it is widely used for trade. It is estimated that 40 million people speak Hausa in Northern Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Southern Niger, Congo and parts of North Africa.


20 million speakers in Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon have contributed in making IGBO a popular language. Igbo is one of Nigeria’s official languages.


It is an official language of South Africa and is second common Bantu language. It belongs to Nguni family and also shows an influence of Khoisan language.


It is widely spoken in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Botswana.

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