10 Most Commonly Spoken Languages in Africa

African Lnaguages

The African continent is one of the most culturally diverse places on the planet. The different ethnic groups on the continent speak over 1000 languages.

In an African society, you will find that that the language taught in school and the language of trade are two different languages. South Africa alone has 11 official languages and in Nigeria, the people speak over 250 languages!

Most Common African Languages

10. ZULU - More than 10 million speakers in Africa

If you happen to find yourself walking on a street in a South African city, the language that you are most likely to hear is the Zulu language.

It is one of South Africa’s eleven official languages and more than half of the population understands it. This language can be identified by the clicking sounds that consonants make when words are vocalized.

What the Zulu langauge sounds like:

9. AMHARIC - 18.7 million speakers in Africa

The Amharic language is one of the dominant languages in Ethiopia. It is the language of commerce and government. The meaning of a word is interpreted using the tone in which it is spoken. Rastafarians, followers of Haile Selassie, believe that Amharic is a sacred language.

What the Amharic language sounds like:

8. IGBO - More than 24 million speakers in Africa

Igbo is the language of the Igbo ethnic group found in Nigeria. The tone and expression of the speaker gives the meaning of a word or a group of words.

If you want to identify the Igbo language or people of Igbo descent just listen if the word "na", spoken in different tones, is said at different intervals in their conversation.

What the Igbo language sounds like:

7. YORUBA - More than 30 million speakers in Africa

The Yoruba language is spoken mainly throughout West Africa. However, no two regions speak the Yoruba language in the same manner. The language is tonal with nasal pronunciations. The development of this language is said to have had some Arabic influences. Its vocabulary consists of words borrowed from Arabic.

What the Yoruba language sounds like:

6. OROMO - More than 30 million speakers

The Oromo language is spoken by people belonging to the Oromo ethnic group. People belonging to this group are found in Ethiopia, Kenya, and a few other neighboring countries. Oromo is a gendered language and has quite a few phonetic rules.

What the Oromo language sounds like:

5. HAUSA - More than 50 million speakers

The Hausa language is the language of the Hausa people predominantly found in Nigeria and Niger. Small Hausa groups are scattered throughout West Africa. The language facilitates business transactions in the region. People can go to universities in Africa to learn Hausa.

What the Hausa language sounds like:

4. FRENCH - More than 90 million speakers

Did you know that Africa has the most French speakers in the world? French was introduced in Africa when the French became the colonial masters of several African countries.

It is the official language of many African countries including Benin and Morocco. The everyday language, however, consists of a mixture of French words and words from the pre-existing indigenous languages.

What the French language sounds like:

3. SWAHILI / KISWAHILI - More than 100 million speakers

The Swahili language is spoken by the Swahili ethnic group. This is, however, a very large ethnic group. The group is dispersed across East Africa and is oftentimes used for business transactions. The Swahili language is the official language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, and Kenya.

What the Swahili language sounds like:

2. ARABIC - More than 100 million speakers

The Arabic language is made up of a standard form and a group of dialects. Spoken by over 100 million people, it one of the five most popular languages in the world.

The language came to North Africa when Arab tribes migrated to North Africa many centuries ago. Today it is the official language of many of these countries including Algeria and Chad. Arabic is of course written using the Arabic alphabet.

What the Arabic language sounds like:

1. ENGLISH - Around 700 million speakers

English came to Africa through the colonial masters that took control of various African countries in the 17th century. Today over 700 million people in Africa speak English. The English language is the official language of Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and many other African countries.

What the English language sounds like: