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African Languages Spoken by Millions

map of african languages

African language families

Africa is the second largest continent on Earth. Its population of almost one billion people is relatively young. In many African states, over half of the population is under the age of 25. A quarter of all languages in the world are spoken only in Africa. 1

Today we are going to battle stereotypes that African residents speak “African language”.

This term includes many languages, we’ve never even heard of. They are used daily by millions of Africans to communicate, work, entertain, buy and sell.

There are over 2,100 languages in Africa. Simple focusing on this handful will turn a great percentage of its natives into your customers.

Such languages as Arabic, Afrikaans, Amharic, Lingala, Somali, Swahili, Yoruba, Zulu are spoken by tens of millions of African communities. 2

African languages chart

  • Arabic is the leader among all African tongues. 170 million people use it daily in North Africa. 2

  • Amharic is the second most widely spoken Semitic language in the world, after Arabic. It has 25 million speakers, mostly in Ethiopia. 2

  • Afrikaans is the third most spoken mother tongue in South Africa. There are around 23 million speakers of Afrikaans. 2

  • Lingala is spoken throughout Congo. It has over 10 million speakers. 2

  • Somali is used by approximately 17 million speakers in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Yemen and Kenya. 2

  • Swahili is an official language of people living in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and which is also widely spoken in the Eastern Africa region. In total 50 to 80 million Africans speak this beautiful language. 3

  • Yoruba is spoken by 20 million people in West Africa. It is the native tongue of people inhabiting Nigeria, Benin, and Togo and of communities in other parts of Africa, Europe and the Americas. 2

  • Zulu is the language of the Zulu people with about 10 million speakers, the vast majority (over 95%) live in South Africa. 2

Only a few of us have probably heard of the majority of these languages. And yet they are in widespread use across Africa. Its rapid population increase gives hope that they will become more familiar to the rest of the world. Especially in the context of the world’s tremendous interest in this fabulous continent and the richness of its languages!

1 http://facts.randomhistory.com/2009/07/23_africa.html

2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Africa

3 https://suite101.com/a/five-rare-languages-to-learn-a253403

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