Africa is the most linguistically diverse continent. In the 54 countries in Africa, there are approx. 2100 official languages! It’s no wonder she is gushing with cultural richness.
Here are some African languages’ facts:
South Africa holds the Guiness World record for having the most official languages. It recognises 11 official languages and ten of those are indigenous.
Swahili is spoken by 100 million people.
Swahili is the most spoken language in Africa, with over 100 million speakers. It is a Bantu language official in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, southern Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, northern Mozambique and the Comoros Islands.
To greet in Swahili, one says, “Jambo”, or “Habari” when greeting an elder.
Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia and is the second most spoken language in the country after Oromo, with over 21 million speakers.
To say hello in Amharic, one says, “Salam”.
Yoruba is one of West Africa’s most spoken languages, accounting for over 30 million speakers in Nigeria, Benin and Togo, and it is one of Nigeria’s official languages. It is also widely spoken by West African expats in the US and UK.
To say hello in Yoruba, one says “Bawo”.
Oromo is spoken by over 30 million people in the Horn of Africa, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Egypt. The writing of the language was forbidden between 1974 and 1991 under the Mengistu. After 1991, the language adopted the Latin alphabet.
To say hello in Oromo, one says “Akkam”.
Hausa is one of Nigeria’s official languages with over 40 million native and second language speakers. It is spoken mainly in northern Nigeria, Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Germany, Ghana, Sudan, Togo and much of North Africa. It uses the Boko and Latin alphabet as its writing system.
To say hello in Hausa, one says “Sannu”.
Igbo is spoken by over 20 million people in Nigeria, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea with more than 20 dialects. The language was made prominent by author Chinua Achebe, who wrote the famous book “Things Fall Apart” and wrote most of his books in Igbo, mirroring and popularising Igbo culture.
To say hello in Igbo, one says “Nnoo”.
IsiZulu, or Zulu, is one of South Africa’s official languages and has over 10 million speakers. It is the second most widely spoken Bantu language, after Shona, and is characterised by unique clicking sounds within the dialect as a result of influence from the Khoisan language.
To say hello in Zulu, one says “Sawubona”.
Shona is the most spoken language in Zimbabwe, with over 10 million speakers in a population of over 14 million. It has speakers in Botswana and Mozambique and is the most widely spoken Bantu language.
To say hello in Shona, one says “Mhoro”.