Post link 25 May 2015, 21:58
Posted on May 6, 2015 by Mark Rausch your finger on the map of any African country, and you can be sure that a multitude of languages are likely to be spoken there. The Niger-Congo region alone is home to speakers of more than 1000 languages, so you can imagine how many languages are spoken around the entire continent — literally hundreds of thousands.

Though many languages have just a handful of speakers, there are a few which definitely have prominence, whether it’s through colonial influence, ethnic dominance, or practicality. And some of the most widely-spoken languages are not even necessarily the primary language of the majority of speakers.

Here are the 17 most commonly spoken languages in Africa, in ascending order of popularity.


Dholuo is a Nilo-Saharan language spoken by around 6 million people in Africa, especially the Luo group in Kenya and Tanzania. The language is closely related to the Sudanese languages Nuer, Bari, Jur chol and Lep Achol.


Afrikaans is a hybrid of several Dutch dialects brought to Africa by Dutch settlers in the 18th century. Today it is spoken in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. It’s a dynamic language that borrows from French, German, Portuguese, Malay and a few other languages. There are nearly 7 million Afrikaans speakers in South Africa and it has one of the largest distributions of any language in the country. There are 15-to-23 million Afrikaans speakers worldwide.


Xhosa is one of the official languages of South Africa and is spoken by about 7.69 million people. Xhosa is a tonal language, so a consonant or vowel can have a different meaning depending on how it’s pronounced. Some of the most distinguishing features in Xhosa are the click consonants made by clicking the tongue.

IsiZulu (Zulu)

More than 10 million people in South Africa know this beautiful language, spoken mostly in the eastern part of the country. Its tongue clicks are a unique facet found only in other indigenous South African tribal languages such as Xhosa which fall into the Bantu language group. Zulu is written with Latin characters (the ! denotes a tongue click), but was not recorded in writing until European missionaries descended upon South Africa. Today, Zulu has experienced a resurgence and is used widely in the South African media.


Portuguese is an official language in Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe and Equatorial Guinea. African Countries of Portuguese Official Language (PALOP) exists as an organization in Africa dedicated to spreading the Portuguese culture. There are roughly 14 million Portuguese speakers in Africa.


Somali is an Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Somalia, the Somali diaspora, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Yemen and Kenya. It is the second most commonly spoken Cushitic language after Oromo. As of 2014, an estimated 15 million people in Africa spoke Somali.


Fulani is spoken across 20 African countries in West and Central Africa. Part of the Niger-Congo language family, it is used as the first language by some groups in Guinea, Cameroon and Sudan. Fulani is an official language of Senegal, Nigeria, and Guinea. It’s difficult to pin down exactly how many people speak Fulani regularly. A 2011 estimate puts African Fulani speakers at 18 million on the continent.

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Topic edited 1 times, last edit by RouTe, 25 May 2015, 22:29  

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