Spanning over 30.3 million square kilometers of land, Africa is one of the largest continents on the planet, second only to Asia. With that much space, it comes as no surprise that it is home to the second largest population, 1.3 billion people in total, and houses over 2000 active languages. Yes, over 2000 active languages – impossible for any person to learn them all. But if you are interested in learning at least one African language, we’ve put together a list of the top 5 most spoken languages in Africa for you to choose from.
An official language in five African countries, Swahili (sometimes called Kiswahili) is the tongue of choice for 150 million Africans. It is the native primary language in Tanzania but is also one of the official languages in the East African Community (EAC), which consists of countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Mozambique, Burundi, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. It is also systematically used to make communication possible between groups who do not share a native language in several parts of the African Great Lakes, and East and Southern Africa.
If there will ever be an official African language, Swahili is the front runner.
Hausa is spoken (either as a first or second language) by 80 million Africans, and is mostly found in West Africa. It is a member of the Afro-asiatic Family. The Hausa language is native to the Hausa people who are mainly found in Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon. Like Swahili, Hausa is often also used as a bridging language to non-native speakers in Southern Niger, Northern Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Sudan, Togo and Sudan.
Yoruba is mainly native to Nigeria but can also be found in several other countries such as Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast. It is spoken by about 40 million Africans, most of which are native speakers.
Oromo is also part of the Afro-asiatic group of languages. It is native to the people of Ethiopia, where it is also one of the official working languages and is spoken by more than 40% of the population. The language was banned during Haile Selassie’s regime but later, after his death, the ban was lifted. It is spoken by 38 million Africans and can be found in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.
The second most popular native language in Nigeria, Igbo is the principal native language in Nigeria and also one of the official languages. It is spoken by 30 million Africans and can be found in other countries like Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. Other popular native languages that did not make the top 5 are Zulu and Shona.
We should mention that we left out languages such as Arabic, which is widely spoken in Africa, as we do not recognize it as a native African language.
Well, there you have it. Whether you live in Africa or are planning to move to Africa and want to learn a new language, the above-mentioned languages would be the best place to start. So go out there and start swinging your tongue.