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The Most Spoken Languages In Africa – Africa Facts Zone

Story Highlights

  • Most Spoken Languages In Africa: KiSwahili (140 million)
  •  Hausa (120 million)
  • Yoruba (50 million)
  • Igbo (45 million)
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The Most spoken  languages in Africa can be diveded  into one of three large language families namely AfroasiaticNilo-Saharan and Niger–Congo.

Afroasiatic languages are spoken throughout North Africa, the Horn of AfricaWestern Asia.There are approximately 375 Afroasiatic languages spoken by over 400 million people. The main subfamilies of Afroasiatic are Berber, Chadic, Cushitic, Omotic, Egyptian and Semitic.

Nilo-Saharan languages consist of a hundred diverse languages. The family has a speech area that stretches from the Nile Valley to northern Tanzania and into Nigeria and DR Congo.

The Niger–Congo languages constitute the largest language family spoken in West Africa and perhaps the world in terms of the number of languages.

Throughout the long multilingual history of the African continent, African languages have been subject to phenomena like language contact, language expansion, language shift and language death.

The total number of languages natively spoken in Africa is variously estimated at over 3000. Nigeria alone has over 500 languages, one of the greatest concentrations of linguistic diversity in the world.

Here’s a list of the Top 5 Most Spoken Languages In Africa

 

Most Spoken Languages In Africa: KiSwahili (140 million)

Swahili is the most spoken language in Africa. It is also the most spoken language in East Africa.  Swahili is an official language of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. It is also spoken in African Countries like  Rwanda, Burundi, some parts  of  Malawi, Somalia, Zambia, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The exact number of Swahili speakers, be it native or second-language speakers has been estimated ranging from 100 million to 150 million which makes it one of the most spoken languages in Africa. There were about 47 million Swahili speakers in Tanzania, including 15 million native speakers.

In uganda 34 million people in Uganda speak Swahili, including 313,000 native speakers. In Kenya about 16 million people in Kenya speak Swahili, including 111,000 native speakers. There are smaller numbers of Swahili speakers in other countries, including 183,000 in Somalia, 49,200 in Oman, 10,000 in Mozambique, 9,600 in Burundi, and 2,000 in South Africa [source].

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Influence

Swahili has been greatly influenced by Arabic; Swahili includes quite a bit of vocabulary of Arabic origin as a result of contact with Arabic-speaking traders and and inhabitants of the Swahili Coast – the coastal area of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, and islands such as Zanzibar and Comoros. There are also words of German, Portuguese, English, Hindi and French origin in Swahili due to contact with traders, slavers and colonial officials.

Swahili dialects

There are about 15 main Swahili dialects, as well as several pidgin forms in use. The three most important dialects are kiUnguja (or Kiunguja), spoken on Zanzibar and in the mainland areas of Tanzania. KiMvita, spoken in Mombasa and other areas of Kenya. KiAmu (or Kiamu), spoken on the island of Lamu and adjoining parts of the coast. Standard Swahili is based on the kiUnguja dialect.

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 Hausa (120 million)

With an estimated 67 million first-language speakers, which makes hausa language  have more first-language speakers than any other African language, and  and close to 50 million second-language speakers, the hausa language is no doubt one of the most spoken langauages in Africa.

Hausa is a Afroasiatic language spoken by the Hausa people, the largest ethnic group in Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly within the territories of southern Niger and northern Nigeria.

Native speakers of Hausa, the Hausa people, are mostly found in Niger, in Northern Nigeria, and in Chad. The language is also used as a lingua franca by non-native speakers like Fulani, Tuareg, Kanuri, Gur, Shuwa Arab, and other Afro-Asiatic speaking groups in most of Northern Nigeria and Southern Niger which makes it one of the most spoken languages in Africa.

It is also used as a trade language across a much larger parts of West Africa like Benin, Ghana, Cameroon, Togo, Ivory Coast and parts of Sudan.

Hausa Dialect

There are two major dialect areas: the northwestern area, comprising most of the dialects spoken in Niger (Kurfeyanci around Filinguey, Aderanci around Tahoua, Arewanci around Dogondouchi, Tibiranci around Maradi, and Damagaranci around Zinder.

Those of Sokoto (Sakkwatanci) and Katsina (Katsinanci) in Nigeria; and the eastern area, with Kano (Kananci), Zaria (Zazzanci), and Bauchi (Guddiranci) .

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Yoruba (50 million)

The yoruba language is estimated to be spoken by  30 and 40 million which makes it one of the most spoken languages in Africa.

Yoruba is a member of the Volta-Niger branch of the Niger-Congo family of languages. It is a language spoken in West Africa and most prominently South western Nigeria.

It is also widely spoken in African Communities in  Benin,  Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Americas (Brazil and the USA)and Europe. Yoruba language is also used in many other Afro-Brazilian religion, Afro-American religions in the Americas and the Caribbean like Candomblé, Santería & Lucumi, which makes it one of the most spoken languages in Africa.

it is estimated that there are over 40 million Yoruba primary and secondary language speakers as well as several other millions of speakers outside Nigeria, making it the most widely spoken African language outside of the continent and one of the most spoken langauges in Africa.

Yoruba dialects

There are Sixteen(16) yoruba dialests. Here’s the list below.

Egba- (OGUN STATE)

Oyo- (OYO STATE AND BENIN REPUBLIC)

Igbomina- (OSUN, KWARA, ONDO, KOGI STATES AND BENIN REPUBLIC)

Okun- (KOGI, ONDO, EKITI STATES)

Itshekiri- (DELTA AND RIVERS STATES)

Ijebu- (OGUN AND LAGOS), Iseyin- (OYO STATE)

Owu- (OGUN AND OSUN STATE)

Anago- (BENIN REPUBLIC)

Ibolo- (OSUN AND KWARA STATES)

Awori- (LAGOS AND OGUN STATE)

Yewa- (OGUN STATE)

Ijesa- (OSUN STATE)

Akoko- (EDO AND ONDO STATES)

Ilaje- (ONDO STATE), Ife- (OSUN STATE).

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 Igbo (45 million)

The igbo language  has about 45 million speakers around Africa which makes it one of the most spoken languages in Africa. The igbo language belongs to the Benue-Congo group of the Niger-Congo language family and its is spoken mainly in Nigeria.

Igbo is recognized as a major language of Nigeria. It is spoken in the Southern Delta states Nigeria like AbiaAnambraEbonyiEnugu, and Imo, as well as in the northeast of the Delta state and in the southeast of the Rivers state.  Other Igbo speaking communities can be found in Brazil, Jamaica, USA, Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Sierra Leone, and Ghana, which makes it one of the most spoken languages in Africa.

Igbo Dialects

Igbo language is made up of over 20 dialects.  The large number of dialects has hindered the development of a standardized spoken and written Igbo. Standard literary Igbo, based on the Owerri and Umuahia dialects, in use since 1962, is not universally accepted by speakers of other dialects. Standard Igbo aims to include words from other Igbo dialects as well as loanwords from other languages.

During the history of the language there were such dialects:

Arochukwu (Abia state)

Ngwa (Abia State)

Enuani (Delta State, and Anambra State)

Ukwuani (Delta State, Rivers State)

Ozara (Enugu State)

Ogba (Rivers State)

Umuezeohaka (Benue State)

Ekpeye (Rivers State) Mgbo

(Ebonyi State)

Ikwerre (Rivers State)

Ezaa (Ebonyi State)

Ikwo (Ebonyi State)

Ohuhu (Abia State)

Owerre (Imo State)

Agbor (Delta State)

Ibeku (Abia  State)

Isuama (the dialect of emancipated slaves from Igbo Origin in Sierra Leone)

Afikpo ( Ebonyi State) Ohafia (Abia State)

Enugu-Ezike ( Enugu State)

Izugbe (a dialect is generally spoken by all Igbo groups)

Idemili (Anambra State) Mbaise (Imo State)

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 Fulani (40 million)

The Fulani language is a language of West Africa, spoken by the Fule (Fulani or Fulani people) from Senegambia and Guinea to Cameroon and Sudan which makes is one of the most spoken languages in Africa.

It is also spoken as the first language by the Fula people  from the Senegambia region and Guinea to Cameroon, Nigeria, Sudan  and by Tukulor in the Senegal River Valley. It is also spoken as a second language by peoples in other areas that stretches across some 20 countries in West and Central Africa, which makes it one of the most spoken languages in Africa.

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Fulani Dialect

There are at least five major dialects: Futa Toro, Futa Jallon, and Masina in the west and Central Nigeria; and Sokoto and Adamawa in the east.

Although they have similarities in grammar and vocabulary, communication among Fulani from different regions is difficult. As Muslims, many Fulani can read and write Arabic.

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