Spoken Languages in African Countries
Africa as a country is not only vast in size and population density, it is also very rich in cultures, ethnic groups, religions, languages, beliefs and traditions. It's current 1.3 billion population (second largest continent in the world) has diversified but yet closely related languages spread across different geographic region, countries and states. With 57 countries recording above 2,050 African languages from different descent, the languages were classified into 6 major groups. These groups are referred to as families; they represent the roots of these languages. These families are:
The Niger-Congo Languages: The language has its origin from the earliest speakers in the West African regions and part of Central Africa. In the world, it ranges in the top 3 most diverse language family while in Africa, it is the most diverse language family. This group currently has 1,513 mother tongues and about 643 million speakers in Africa. The languages in this group are Igbo, Bantu, Ewe, Mande, Lingala, Kordofan, Dogon, Yoruba, Shona, Swahili, Ubangi, Kikongo, Fula, etc. The Igbo language accounts for over 50 million of its speakers while Swahili accounts for 100 million.
The Indo-European Languages: The root of this can be traced to the after-effect of colonization. While colonized countries were forced to learn the colonial master's languages for easy communication and higher jobs, other uncolonized countries encouraged their citizens and residents to learn the language for communication and better opportunities. The languages include German, English, Portuguese, Afrikaans, Spanish, French and Italian. Afrikaans is the only exception to this group.
The Afroasiatic Languages: With a population of 353 million speakers, this family derived it's origin from early immigrants who migrated from Western Asia to settle in Africa (mostly in the Northern region and parts of Eastern Africa). It's languages include Arabic, Hausa, Amharic, Somali, Berber, Oromo, etc. It's speakers are located in countries like Somalia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Niger, Djibouti, Sudan, Chad, etc. It is also termed the Afrasian language.
The Nilo-Saharan Languages: This has its origin in the combination of areas located within the Nile River, the Chile River and obscure language groups. The Nilo-Saharan language belongs to one of the top four language groups with over 120 diverse dialects. It's languages include Fur, Dinka, Maban, Nobiin, Kanuri, Luo, Kunama, Songhay, Komuz and Maasai. Nilo-Saharan speakers are situated in Uganda, Congo, Kenya, Nile Valley, Sudan, Nigeria and Tanzania. There are over 55 million speakers within this group.
The Khoisan Languages: Commonly recognized due to the presence of phonemes in the language, this group has its root in the mixture of dialects of the early Southern Africa migrants and that of a part of Eastern Africa. With less than a million language speakers, the Khoisan language is gradually becoming extinct except for the Khoekhoe language. It's speakers can be identified in Tanzania, Botswana and Namibia. It's languages are Khoekhoe, Sandawe, Kwadi, Tuu, Hadza and Kx'a.
The Austronesian Languages: Madagascar is the only country in Africa where the language is spoken. The Austronesian language in Africa is Malagasy. Although there are other variants of the language, they are not spoken in Africa.
As earlier mentioned, Africa is a continent very rich in languages. Of the numerous languages, there are those which are more spoken than others and which also cut across countries, tribes, ethnic groups and cultures. This common languages usually have a central language but with different dialects depending on the tribe of the speaker. These commonly spoken languages are:
Swahili: This is the most spoken language in Africa with more than 310 million speakers of which 223 million are natives. The language is spoken in Tanzania, Somalia, Burundi, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, etc.
French: With more than 125 million speakers, the language was introduced after the colonization of some countries by the French. Ivory Coast, Gabon, Niger, Libreville, Cameroon, Abidjan, etc are examples of countries where the language is spoken.
Arabic: This is more common among Muslims in Africa. With more than 160 million speakers, it's speakers are mostly in Tanzania, Comoros, Somalia, Chad, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, etc.
Hausa: With speakers more dominant in the Northern regions of Africa, most especially Nigeria, the language has over 40 million native speakers and a total of 64 million speakers.
Igbo: Considered the language with the highest number of speakers and indigenous dialects in Nigeria, Igbo records the highest number of ethnic groups in Africa. The language has its origin in Nigeria. Other speakers can be found in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.
Berber: There are over 26 million Africans who speak the language. They can be found in Libya, Morocco, Mali, Egypt, Mauritania, etc.
Yoruba: There are over 40 million Yoruba speakers in Africa, majority of whom are situated in Nigeria. Other countries that speak Yoruba are Togo, Liberia, Ghana, etc.
Zulu: Zulu has its origin in South Africa and currently has more than 20 million speakers of the language. Other countries that speak Zulu are Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, etc.
Amharic: Ethiopia is the major speaker of the language. It has a record of over 20 million speakers including natives.
Fulani: Also referred to as Fulbe, the major speakers of this language in Africa are Muslims. The language has more than 26 million speaker and the speaker are situated in countries like Cameroon, Mauritania, Chad, Nigeria, Benin, Senegal, etc.
English: Although it is recognized as an official language, it is a second language in African countries. The language was adopted during the British colonial era. Uncolonized countries however adopted the language as a means of communication and for access to better opportunities. Countries that speak English in Africa are Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malawi, Botswana, Mauritius, Rwanda among so many others.
Portuguese: Just like French and English, this language was adopted as an effect of colonization. There are more than 36 million Portuguese speakers of which 16 million are natives. Countries that speak Portuguese in Africa are Cape Verde, Mozambique, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and São Tomé e Principe.
Malagasy: The only African country which has speakers of this language is Madagascar and it records more than 20 million native speakers.
Some other languages in Africa are Chewa, Kirundi, Tsonga, Ibibio, Akuapem, Tonga, Xhosa, Ndebele, Sepedi, Jalaa, Italian, Kwadi, Mpre, Kituba, Bayot, Gomba, Shona, Kimbundu, Shabo, Nzema, Bete, Pidgin, Fante, Lufu, Aasax, Waha, Sesotho, Tiv, Irimba, Chokwe, Oromo, Buchama, Mawa, Oblo, Dompo, Kare-kare, Defaka, etc.