Top 10 Most Popular African Languages|
Want to enter the African market? Does your product/service tailor to one of the largest continents in the world? It’s time to consider translating and localizing your content. There are over 1000 African languages in existence so it can be quite mind-boggling trying to nail down which one you should choose to offer your product or service in. Luckily enough, we’ve listed the 10 most popular languages spoken in Africa…
This list of languages is not in any particular order.
The most spoken language in Africa is Swahili which is said to have between 100 and 150 million speakers. Known as a ‘Bantu’ language, Swahili apparently originated from other languages like Arabic. This is the official language of Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya, but it is also used in countries like Ethiopia, Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, southern Somalia, northern Mozambique and the Comoros Islands. Swahili is the main medium of instruction in schools and it’s not considered a difficult language to learn, especially if you already know some Arabic.
Fun Fact? Swahili was the language used in The Lion King. Remember ‘Hakuna Matata’? That means no worries in Swahili and ‘Simba’ means ‘lion’!
Amharic is one of the main languages spoken in Ethiopia by over 20 million speakers. It is considered the second most spoken Semitic language in the world after Arabic – these are languages that originate from the Middle East alongside Hebrew, Tigrinya and more. Amharic is written using the very unique Ge’ez writing system known as ‘fidel’.
Fun Fact? The capital of Ethiopia is Addis Ababa – this means “new flower” in Amharic.
There are over 30 million Yoruba speakers in Nigeria, Benin and Togo combined, making it one of West Africa’s most spoken languages. This African language has more than 15 dialects including Ekiti, Ijebu, Oworo, Ijesha and Akoko.
Fun Fact? The name Yoruba is also associated with the Yoruba Ethnic Group, which is one of the largest African ethnic groups in the region.
A significant language spoken in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Egypt is Oromo. Approximately 30 million people use this language and its people account for over 40% of the Ethiopian population. Believe it or not, the Oromos people were forbidden from writing this language between 1974 and 1991. In fact, it was considered a crime. Later however, Oromo scholars adopted a Latin script and it was then used to teach reading and writing.
Fun Fact? The Oromo language is actually called Afaan Oromoo.
As one of Nigeria’s official languages, Hausa has over 40 million speakers around the continent. It is also spoken in countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Germany, Ghana, Niger, Sudan, Togo and a lot of North Africa. Hausa uses the Boko and Latin alphabet and it is said to be one of the most advanced languages in Africa as a whole.
Fun Fact? Hausa is the only Nigerian language that has foreign station broadcasts. These include the BBC, Voice of Russia and Radio France Internationale.
Alongside Nigeria, IGBO is also spoken in countries like Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. This popular African language is spoken by 20 million people and it has over 20 individual dialects including Owerri, Eche and of course, Central Igbo. Most Igbo speakers are said to be bilingual in English as it is the principal literary language taught in Nigerian schools.
Fun Fact? The IGBO language gained prominence from Chinua Achebe, author of “Things Fall Apart” and whose majority of books were written in IGBO.
One of the most widely spoken languages of South Africa, Zulu is said to be used by over 10 million people. Part of the Bantu language group, Zulu is very much related to other languages including Xhosa and Ndebele. As a matter of fact, Zulu and Xhosa have such similar dialects, that many wrongly mistake them for being one language.
Fun Fact? “Zulu” is not only a language, it is also the largest Ethnic group in South Africa.
Most prominently spoken in Zimbabwe along with English, Shona is an African language used by over 10 million people. There are 3 distinct Shona dialects including the Karanga, the Zezuru and the Korekore. Stemming from the Bantu/Nguni language family, Shona uses the Latin script in its writing system.
Fun Fact? There are two different versions of Shona used for different purposes. A “low” variety of the language is used on a more casual basis like at home, while the “high” variety is used when praying.
Spoken by 280 million people worldwide, Arabic is also used by people in countries like Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Libya, Tunisia and Eritrea. There is Modern Standard Arabic which is mainly used in communication with most Arabic speakers. This is the dialect used to write the language and is present in media and books. Classical Arabic, on the other hand, is mainly used to learn the language in an academic way.
Fun Fact? Arabic is one of the six most spoken languages in the world!
Did you know that Portuguese is the official language of six African states? Known as “Lusophone Africa”, these states include Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome e Principe and Equatorial Guinea. Portuguese is used as a mother tongue by approximately 14 million people on this continent and it is said that there are around 30 million people who use it as a second language.
Fun Fact? Portuguese is actually the working languages of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community.
There are 26 African states that make up “Francophone Africa”. The top French-speaking countries in this continent include Gabon, Mauritius, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Sao Tome e Principe. Apart from these, French is also spoken by in North African countries including Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Overall, French is spoken by over 120 million people in Africa.
Fun Fact? It is expected that there will be over 700 million French speakres in the world by 2050 – 80% will be located in Africa.
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Amharic is not even the most spoken language in Ethiopia. There are over 50 million Oromo people that speak Afan Oromo in Ethiopia as their first language. You need to update your information.
Thank you for letting us know! We have updated the information
Amharic is the national language of ethiopia(more than 110 million people), spoken by most of its citizens and you think Afaan Oromo is more prevalently spoken? try to pause and question your own biases before correcting others, kindly!
Who is lying to you? Amharic is spoken only in Addis Ababa, Amhara, and some other cities. Oromo is the biggest ethnic group in Ethiopia and therefore has the most people that speak afaan Oromo. You put aside your own biases.
We are Africans so there is no need to argue of which language is great over the other and sad enough you’re both Ethiopians instead of doing such unroyal stuffs you better ask the writers to remove Portuguese and French since they are not African languages regardless of being spoken by many African becoz the article is about African languages
Afaan Somali is spoken in Somalia, djabuti parts of Ethiopia and parts of Kenya and its used by over 45 million somalis in these different countries and yet you didn’t include in your post
Hi, please do some research on Tsonga/Xitsonga language 😉.
Spoken in SA, Moçambique, Zimbabwe & Swaziland. (Over 12 Million speakers)
Thanks! We hope to add more languages to this list soon!
Plz what a nonsensical is 4th this? U write that Hausa has over 40 millions speakes rated as no 5 while no 2, 3 and 4 has less than that are you insane?
Thank you for your comment. Please know that this list is not in any particular order.
Thank you for your response to to such a manner less person. this is how he’s representing his tribe
Arabic is also spoken in Tunisia, update that please 🙂
Mr poster,thank for your endeavour but for HAUSA please make more researh,because in Nigeria only,there are more than 70 millions Hausa native plus some milions of Hausa speakers usually from the middle belt.Farthermore Hausa is spoken in Niger Rep. by about 10 milion people.Also in about other 15 countries,so HAUSA is the second African native language after Swahili. Thanks
Thank you for your comment. Please know that this list is not in any particular order
Yes we know is not from any patecular oder but you need to make more research about Hausa language in Nigeria because we have 36 state in Nigeria but over 19 state are speaking Hausa language thank you Mr admin.
Because Hausas has more States in Nigeria doesn’t mean it has more speakers, stop using this strategy, I’ve been to the North and it’s very Scanty compared to the East, I can confidently say Igbo are more than Hausas in Nigeria… Excluding other Hausa speakers in Niger, Ghana and the rest. Thank you
Don’t Argue with me, I’m a Nigerian, I Lived in Kaduna and Abuja and I school in Usmanu Danfodio University Sokoto
You failed to include the Fulani language Fulfulde which have over 40 million speakers throughout western and central Africa..!
About (Morocco,Algeria,Libya,Tunisia,Egypt, Tchad ,Mali and Burkina Fasso) a big community of those countries mostly Morocco & Algeria ,speaks Amazighe Language (Berber) as their first language, about 30 million people in all over North-africa speaks Amazighe Language as their native language, Thank you for updating ))
Thank you for this summary. Very informative. Africa, the next generation need to learn any of these languages. In fact, this should be a requirement for any African leader in the future.
So What about fulanis fulbe (Fulah or Fulfuldé) over 40.000.000 peoples.
Thank you for your comment. Please know that this list is not in any particular order
lol at some of the comments.
to the author of this post. Thanks a lot!!! You gathered a lovely list. many of us were probably just looking to see our languages named as top 10 with a sense of pride, and sometimes people in the comments might easily get offended when they feel their actual language isnt getting the recognition they feel it should. I appreciate your calmness and politeness in all the responses you have given.
Thanks for the list. Will be amazing if more free apps come out and showcase all these languages!
Lol! Indeed my sister. I am still cracking at some of the comments. The bias is just so obvious, and annoying too. The blogger said it from the onset that it is in no apparent order, yet we want order. Interesting Irony…the only time Africans want order is when we are competing amongst ourselves. Anyway, while we are still on biases, I also felt left out seeing that he left out our beloved pidgin (spoken in Nigeria (all of Nigeria I suspect), Cameroon (some parts), Ghana (some parts), Siera Leone, and Liberia too). Though copied largely from English, it remains… Read more »
The most spoken language in Africa is the Arabic language more than 200 millions speak Arabic All Egyptian, Lypian, and most of Tunisian, Algerian, Moroccan, Sudanese, Mauritanian, Eritrean, and few populations in different African countries
i was using this site for school but sadly did not find the laungues
but this site is till cool
Hello! I just wanted to point out that all three majority languages in Nigeria, (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba) have foreign station broadcasts like from BBC. So not only Hausa. The other two language are also spoken in more countries especially Yoruba which spread out during the, european conquests and all, to Brazil, UK, Cuba, the carribean and so many more. A famous Yoruba writer would be Wole Soyinka who is a nobel laureate. Could the foreign station fact be changed please. I appreciate the article and the work put into it likewise.
The Admin lack proper Information about Nigeria, and Yes I agree with you that Yoruba is widespread in Brazil.. but not Jamaica
Goan read History, the Igbos of Nigeria and Alan people of Ghana are the Most Influential Language in The Carribean, mainly the Igbos, most Jamaican patios are Influenced by Igbo words
And Igbo is also a main Language in Equatorial Guinea, and also has wide speakers in Cameroon
The Jamaican dialect is influenced by languages from Ghana as well. The Caribbean is a potpourri of West African languages.
Somali language, with over 20 million native speakers in Somalia proper and additional 10 million as their second language, without a doubt the Somalia language is the most developed language in all the African languages. From primary to university education, media and cultural stand point, Somali language is a thriving African language. Poetry caused Somali language to enjoy status equal or better and more advanced than the most European and Asian languages. Somali language is refined to the core. The oral tradition helped it to become a vast language with its grammar, syntax and all other linguistic aspect areas improved… Read more »
It was interesting! 🙂
Thank you for your good and wonderfull work,
for my opinion I suggest we Africans must support one language instaed of grab others language.
and if you ask me which one Defenetly it will be swahili.
Awesome info. Thank you so much.
Please make corrections at #10:
Portuguese is actually the working languages of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community. (Do you mean to say “one of the working languages “? Or “the working language of..”)
Also at #11:
Apart from these, French is also spoken by _ in North African countries including Algeria… (seems like you left something out there.)
But it is so amazing this info. I will add a link to my blog called “Intelligence” when I finish it.
Just a note from a linguist, the phrase in the Swahili entry may be somewhat misleading: ”Swahili apparently originated from other languages like Arabic.” While it is true that Swahili borrowed substantially from Arabic, it did not ”originate” from it, familially.
Yes, the article should not say a Bantu language “originated” from a non-Bantu language, it makes no sense. And the large majority of Swahili words are of Bantu origin, not Arabic or another language.