African Languages by Countries

By IndepthAfrica
May 16th, 2012
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Small African Languages Map

Map showing the distribution of African language families and some major African languages,   map based on a map made by Mark Dingemanse.

Official and Spoken Languages of African Countries.

List of official, national and spoken languages of Africa. Africa is a continent with a very high linguistic diversity, there are an estimated 1500-2000 African languages.Of these languages four main groupings can be distinguished:
Afro-Asiatic    (appoximately 200 languages) covering nearly Northern Africa (including the horn of Africa, Central Sahara et the top Nile)
Nilo-Saharian gathering appoximately 140 languages with some eleven millions speakers scattered in Central and Eastern Africa.
Niger-Saharian (Niger-Congo)    covering the two third of Africa with as a principal branch the Niger-Congo which gathers more than 1000 languages with some 200 millions speakers. The Bantu languages of Central, Southern, and Eastern Africa form a sub-group of the Niger Congo branch.
Khoisan   gathering about thirty languages in Western part of Southern Africa.
All African languages are considered official languages of the African Union

 African Countries

Country Official and national Languages Other spoken Languages  
Algeria Arabic,   Berber  languages, four dialects (by constitutional amendment) French
Angola Portuguese Narrow Bantu like Umbundu and other African languages.
Benin French Fon and Yoruba (most common vernaculars in south), tribal  languages (at least six major ones in north).
Botswana Setswana (national language with minor differences in dialects), English is the official business language and it is widely spoken in urban areas.
Burkina Faso French Native African languages belonging to Sudanic family spoken  by 90% of the population.
Burundi Kirundi, French Swahili (along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura area).
Cameroon English, French 24 major African language groups.
Cape Verde Portuguese Kabuverdianu (Crioulo) (a blend of Portuguese and West African words).
Central African Republic French, Sangho (lingua franca and national language) Banda, Gbaya and other tribal languages.
Chad French, Arabic Sara (in south), more than 120 different languages and dialects.
Comoros Arabic, French Shikomoro (a blend of Swahili and Arabic).
Democratic Republic of the Congo French Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili  or Swahili), Kikongo, Tshiluba.
Congo, Republic of  the French Lingala and Monokutuba (lingua franca trade languages),  many local languages and dialects (of which Kikongo is the most widespread).
Côte d’Ivoire French 60 native dialects with Dioula the most widely spoken.
Djibouti French, Arabic Somali, Afar
Egypt Arabic English and French widely understood by educated classes.
Equatorial Guinea Spanish, French pidgin English, Fang, Bubi, Ibo.
Eritrea Tigrinya (Tigrigna), Arabic, English Tigré (second major language), Afar, Bedawi, Kunama, other Cushitic  languages.
Ethiopia Amharic Tigrinya, Oromo, Gurage, Somali, Arabic, 80 other local  languages, English (major foreign language taught in schools)
Gabon French Bantu languages like Fang, Myene, Nzebi, Bapounou/Eschira, Bandjabi.
Gambia, The English Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, other indigenous vernaculars.
Ghana English African languages (including Akan, Adangme, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe, and Ga)
Guinea French (spoken by 15-20%) Eight national languages, Soussou (Susu, in coastal Guinea),  Peulh (Fulani, in Northrn Guinea), Maninka (Upper Guinea), Kissi (Kissidougou  Region), Toma and Guerze (Kpelle) in rain forest Guinea; plus various ethnic groups  with their own language.
Guinea-Bissau Portuguese Crioulo (a mixture of Portuguese and African), other African languages.
Kenya English, Kiswahili numerous indigenous languages.
Lesotho Sesotho (southern Sotho), English Zulu, Xhosa.
Liberia English 20% some 20 ethnic group languages, of which a few can be written  and are used in correspondence.
Libya Arabic Italian, English, all are widely understood in the major cities.
Madagascar French, Malagasy
Malawi English, Nyanja (Chichewa, Chewa) Lomwe, Tumbuka, Yao, other languages important regionally.
Mali French Bambara (Bamanakan), Arabic and numerous dialects of Dogoso,  Fulfulde, Koyracini, Senoufou, and Mandinka/Malinké (Maninkakan), Tamasheq  are also widely spoken.
Mauritania Arabic Hassaniya Arabic, Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof, French
Mauritius English, French Creole, Hindi, Urdu, Hakka, Bhojpuri
Morocco Arabic Berber dialects, French often the language of business, government, and diplomacy.
Mozambique Portuguese (spoken by 27% of population as a second language) Makhuwa, Tsonga, Lomwe, Sena, numerous other  indigenous languages.
Namibia English 7% Afrikaans common language of most of the population and about 60% of the white  population, German 32%, indigenous languages: Oshivambo, Herero, Nama.
Niger French Hausa, Djerma
Nigeria English Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani, Ijaw, Ibibio and about 250 other indigenous  languages spoken by the different ethnic groups.
Réunion French Creole widely used
Rwanda Rwanda (Kinyarwanda, Bantu vernacular) French, English Kiswahili (Swahili) used in commercial centers.
Saint Helena English
São Tomé and  Príncipe Portuguese
Senegal French Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka
Seychelles English, French Creole
Sierra Leone English (regular use limited to literate minority) Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal  vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole a first language for 10%  of the population but understood by 95%)
Somalia Somali Arabic, Italian, English
South Africa 11 official languages, including Afrikaans,  English, isiNdebele, Pedi, Sesotho (Sotho), siSwati (Swazi), Xitsonga (Tsonga),  Tswana, Tshivenda (Venda), isiXhosa, isiZulu
Sudan/South Sudan Arabic Nubian, Ta Bedawie, diverse dialects of Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, Sudanic languages,  English. note: program of “Arabization” in process
Swaziland English (government business conducted in English), siSwati
Tanzania, United Republic of Kiswahili (Swahili), Kiunguju (name for Swahili in Zanzibar), English (primary  language of commerce, administration, and higher education) Arabic (widely spoken in Zanzibar), Gogo, Haya, Makonde, Nyakyusa,  Nyamwezi, Sukuma, Tumbuka, many other local languages.
Togo French (the language of commerce) Ewe and Mina (the two major African languages in the south),  Kabye (Kabiye) and Dagomba (the two major African languages in the north)
Tunisia Arabic (and the languages of commerce) French (commerce)
Uganda English (used in courts of law and by most  newspapers and some radio broadcasts) Ganda (Luganda; most widely used of the Niger-Congo languages,  preferred for native language publications), other Niger-Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan  languages, Acoli, Swahili, Arabic
Western Sahara Hassaniya Arabic, Moroccan Arabic
Zambia English major vernaculars: Bemba, Kaonda, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja,  Tonga, and about 70 other indigenous languages.
Zimbabwe English Chishona (Shona), Sindebele (Ndebele), numerous but minor tribal dialects like: Sotho and Nambya, Shangani, Venda, Chewa, Nyanja, and Tonga.
Sources: Ethnologue, ISO Country Names (ISO 3166-1), ISO Languages Names  (ISO 639-1), African Academy of Languages (ACALAN) and others.

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