Africa is vast in every sense of the word. This is why I find it quite intriguing when people from other continents look at an African and ask, “Do you speak African?”. I begin to wonder, what is this African they speak of? Is it Ga? Swahili? Or Zulu? Which of these many distinct languages is “African?”.
You may find it both surprising and interesting to know that Africa houses a third of the world’s languages. Although uncertain since new languages are discovered by the day, some people like to argue that the total number of languages spoken in this continent is 2000. Some claim it is more, while others claim it is less.
Some languages have over one million speakers. While some African countries have a few languages and a general language, others have a variety of languages. Continue reading with me as I take you on the wonderful journey of the beauty of African Languages and the country that has the most languages in the country.
As the giant of Africa, Nigeria balances confidently on the top of this list. It has a wide margin with Cameroon, the African country with the second highest number of languages.
With over five hundred and twenty spoken languages and a lot of these in writing, Nigeria has the highest number of languages in the entire continent.
It is quite worthy of note that Nigeria is a multiethnic country with major and sub-languages, each with its own variations of how one language could be spoken. Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Efik, Tiv, Pidgin English, Kanuri, just to mention a few.
Cameroon is quite close to Nigeria when it comes to the number of languages spoken. This country is bordered by both the northern and southern regions of Nigeria.
Being the second on this list, Cameroon holds bragging rights to speaking about two hundred and seventy-seven known languages.
This does not take away the fact that they have two major languages based on region, French and English. But mostly French. Some Cameroonian languages include Shuwa Arabic, Fula, Hausa, and Kamtok, a major local language. With so many languages,
Cameroon is a country recognized for being the country with the most languages in Africa. The beautiful thing about Cameroon’s languages is that other countries speak some of them, and even if there may be slight variations, this is still valid. Hausa, for instance, is also spoken in both Nigeria and Ghana.
When you find yourself in Cameroon one of these days, be sure to learn one of such languages.
3. Democratic Republic of The Congo
It has been documented that the DRC has approximately one hundred and twenty-nine languages. Despite the linguistic divergence, there are four major/national languages.
These are Kikongo, Lingala, Tsukuba and Swahili. The language you would mostly hear people from Congo speak in French because they were colonized by the French. This official language is known to be spoken by more than half of the country’s population and the government of the country.
Ranking fourth on the list of the top ten countries with the most languages in Africa, Chad Republic has a very large number of one hundred and twenty-nine languages!
Like many West African countries, Chad’s official language is French. But there is a catch. Chad speaks Arabic, too! Even better, there is a broken version of the Arabic language, which serves as a recognized language in the region and is mostly used for trading.
This is quite helpful because only a handful of the population, which is the literate part of the country, speaks proper Arabic.
But believe me when I say it, their broken Arabic is quite sufficient. Some other languages spoken by Chadians are Ngambay, which over one million people speak, Hausa, Mao, and Abéché. These stats prove that they are an African nation with one of the most languages in Africa.
Known for its vast wilderness country, this East African country is home to one hundred and twenty-six languages! Making it one of the African countries with the most languages.
Just a few languages shy of Chad. Since the colonial era, the national lingua has been French. It is taught in schools, too. But their major indigenous languages include Swahili, a language spoken by many other countries, Lingala, and Kituba.
Only recently, the government of Ethiopia announced to the general public that Tigrinya, Somali, Afar, Oromo, and Amharic had been adopted as federal working languages.
Having five instead of one could be due to the fact that they are the oldest independent African nation that resisted colonialism. Ethiopia not only has ninety-two languages but there are numerous sign languages!
7. Côte d’Ivoire
Also known as Ivory Coast in English, with a bubbly capital called Abidjan, this beautiful and peaceful country has a whooping number of seventy-eight languages and French as an official language due to the French colonial era. Some indigenous languages spoken there include Baoulé, Dan, and Anyin, amongst many others.
The eighth country on this list is Ghana, which was formerly known as Gold Coast. The most spoken indigenous language is Twi. Being an official language retained from the colonial era, Ghanaians are known to be quite fluent in their use of the English language. As a visitor to this beautiful country, you will not be lost. Other major local languages are Ga, Ewe, and Fante.
Ranking ninth on this list, Sudan speaks seventy-five languages, making it worthy to be called a country with one of the most languages in Africa.
This is not to be mistaken for South Sudan, which would still appear on this list. This multilingual country has Sudanese Arabic spoken the most. Some local languages include the Dink language, Kadaru language, and Keiga language, amongst many others.
10. South Sudan
Often mistaken for Sudan, South Sudan has English as its official language. The total number of languages this country has is estimated to be seventy-three. Some local South Sudan languages are Bari, Nuer, Dinka, Juba Arabic, and many others.
The Languages in Africa are numerous and worth studying.