Top Fifteen Most Spoken Languages In Africa And Interesting Facts

Last Updated on September 28, 2022

Do you want to know what languages are most spoken in Africa? If this is the case, here’s a list of the most spoken languages in Africa in 2022.

Most Spoken Languages In Africa

One of the most fascinating aspects of the African continent is the high level of linguistic diversity. After independence, African countries adopted one language from the colonists to be used as the official language by the citizens, besides the local languages. This explains why most of the people living on the continent learn to speak at least one official language and another local language.

Most Spoken Languages In Africa

How many languages are spoken in Africa? Well, the 1 billion-plus people living in the continent express themselves in more than 3000 languages. Here are the top fifteen most spoken languages, each with a population estimate.

1. Arabic

The most spoken language in the African continent is Arabic. African Arabic speakers account for approximately 62 percent of the world population of Arabic speakers. You can find the Arabic language speakers in North Africa and a few sections of sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that there are 140 million-plus people in Africa who communicate in this dialect.

Arabic is the official language of several countries in the continent including Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Comoros, Djibouti, Algeria, Somalia, Chad, Algeria, Mauritania, Sudan, Libya, Eritrea, and so on. It is important to note that most of these countries have Islam as the majority religion.

2. English

English is known to be the most spoken language in the world. The people who regard English to be their local dialect in Africa are estimated at 6.5 million. This number shoots to more than 130 million people when you include people that consider English to be their second language.

The origin of the English language on the continent can be traced to England. British colonists introduced the language in the continent during the era of colonization. English is the official language in 23 countries in Africa namely: Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Liberia, Malawi, South Africa, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Gambia, Cameroon, Mauritius, Sierra Leone, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

3. Swahili

Swahili is one of the most spoken languages in East Africa. There are more than 100 million people who speak using this dialect, but only 15 million people consider it to be the first language. It is the national language in Kenya, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A large chunk of the Kiswahili vocabulary originated from the Arabic language.

The language developed as a result of the interaction between the coastal people and the Arab traders during the 15th and 16th centuries. Some of the countries in which Swahili is recognized include Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi, Somalia, and the Comoro Islands.

4. French

The French language originated from France, and it is widely spoken in former colonies of France in West and Central Africa. More than 115 million people in Africa speak this language. French is the first language in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Libreville, and Gabon.

French is the language of communication in several African countries including Togo, Senegal, Seychelles, Rwanda, Re-Union, Niger, Mali, Madagascar, Guinea, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Congo, DRC, Algeria, Chad, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Burundi.

5. Hausa

Hausa is considered as an associate of the Chadic branch of the Afro-Asiatic relatives of words. It is the most commonly uttered language in Nigeria and many other West African countries. Most of the people who communicate this language stay in Northern Nigeria and the Southern Republic of Niger. The people who speak this language number 70 million. The language is popular in Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Togo, and Chad.

6. Yoruba

Yoruba is a major spoken language in Nigeria, and other West African countries such as Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The number of people in the continent who speak Yoruba as their first or second language is approximately 39 million.

7. Igbo

Igbo is a local language of the citizens of Nigeria, and it is the biggest ethnic group in Africa. The only place where this language is known to be a regional language is in Equatorial Guinea. It is also expressed in Cameroon. Approximately 27 million people speak this language in Africa. Igbo has more than twenty dialects, and the Central Igbo is the most common one.

8. Amharic

Amharic is the second-largest Semitic dialect after Arabic in Africa. It is the official language in Ethiopia and is spoken by over 25 million local speakers. Outside the country, there are more than 3 million immigrants who speak this language. Amharic is one of the most unique African languages because it uses its own alphabet.

9. Oromo

Oromo is a Cushitic language, which is expressed in the Horn of Africa and other countries such as Ethiopia, Somali, Kenya, and Egypt. Oromo is the most comprehensive ethnic group in Ethiopia, and it accounts for up to 40% of the total population. It has more than 24 million speakers in Africa.

10. Berber

Berber is a collection of twenty-six strongly connected dialects, which comprise a division of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Around 14 to 25 million citizens speak this dialect. The language is mostly spoken in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean coast, the Sahara Desert and Sahel. These areas used to be dominated by the Berbers before the arrival of the Arabs.

11. Portuguese

Portuguese is the primary dialect in six African nations, which include Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Sao Tome e Principe, and Equatorial Guinea. In Africa, citizens who regard Portuguese to be their local language number 14 million, but there are over 30 million secondary speakers. The Portuguese language is ranked among the most communicated languages in the world.

12. Fulani

Fulani is spoken by 24 million people in twenty countries across West and Central Africa. It is the official language in Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Benin, Nigeria, among other countries in Africa.

13. Bambara

Bambara is part and parcel of the Niger-Congo language family. Four million people consider it to be their first language, and an additional 10 million people learn it as their second language.

14. Shona

Shone has its origins in the Bantu family and is mostly spoken in Zimbabwe. More than 10 million people in Africa communicate using this dialect.

15. Zulu

When you hear the word South Africa, the first language that comes to your mind is Zulu. It boasts of 10 million-plus speakers. Zulu is the most spoken Bantu language after Shona. Talking about its origin, it was influenced by the oldest African language, the Khoisan. This explains why there are unique ‘clicking’ sounds within the dialect.

African Language Facts

What are some of the most interesting facts that you know about the languages in Africa? Here are some facts you should know:

  • Africa has the highest linguistic diversity in the world
  • Africa accounts for one-third of the total languages in the world
  • The key languages spoken in Africa are Arabic, English, and Swahili
  • Nigeria is the most linguistically diverse nation in the world.
  • Uganda is the best country in terms of English proficiency, followed by Kenya
  • English is the most spoken language in South Africa. The country boasts of 11 official languages

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