Languages of Africa

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By country - for some countries[edit]

Official languages[edit]

Official languages - in many African countries there are several official languages.

Besides the former colonial languages of English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish, only a few languages are official at the national level. These are:


By number of speakers[edit]

Demographics[edit]

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Of the 890 million Africans (as of 2005), about 17% speak an Arabic dialect. About 10% speak Swahili, the lingua franca of Southeastern Africa, about 5% speak a Berber dialect, and about 5% speak Hausa, a West African lingua franca. Other important West African languages are Yoruba, Igbo and Fula. Major Northeast African languages are Oromo and Somali. Important South African languages are Zulu and Afrikaans (related to Dutch). English, French and Portuguese are important languages: 130, 115 and 20 million speak them as secondary in general.

List of major African languages (by total number of speakers in million):

Arabic (North Africa, Horn of Africa) 100 native + 30 secondary
Berber (North Africa) 40 native + 4 secondary
Swahili (East Africa) 5 native + 80 secondary
Hausa (West Africa) 24 native + 15 secondary
Oromo (Northeast Africa) 25
Zulu (South Africa) 9 native + 16 secondary
Somali (Horn of Africa) 18-21
Yoruba (West Africa) 19 native + 2 secondary
Igbo (West Africa) 18 native + 1 secondary
Amharic (Northeast Africa) 14 native + 3 secondary
Shona 15 native + 2 secondary
Bambara (West Africa) 3 native + 10 secondary
Twi 8 native + 2 secondary
Ibibio Language (Ibibio/Annang/Efik, Nigeria) 8-12
Fula (West Africa) 10-16
Malagasy (Madacascar) 17
Afrikaans (South Africa) 6-7 native + 6-7 secondary
Lingala (Democratic Republic of the Congo) 2 native + 10 secondary
Chichewa (Southeast Africa) 10
Xhosa (South Africa) 7
Kinyarwanda (Rwanda) 7
Kongo 7
Tigrinya 7
Gbe 7
Tshiluba (Democratic Republic of the Congo) 6
Wolof 3 native + 3 secondary
Gikuyu (Kenya) 5
More (West Africa) 5
Kirundi (Central Africa) 5
Sotho (South Africa) 5
Luhya 4
Tswana (Southern Africa) 4
Kanuri (West Africa) 4
Umbundu (Angola) 4
Northern Sotho (South Africa) 4