African languages offer you the opportunity to connect with millions of people, travel to beautiful locations, engage with African literature, movies, and music, and also overcome some fun challenges that will not be the case with European languages. Here are some of the most spoken languages on the African continent.
African languages offer you the opportunity to connect with millions of people, travel to beautiful locations, engage with African literature, film, and music, and also overcome some fun challenges that will not be the case with European languages. Choosing only ten to recommend was not easy but you might be keen on learning some of the most spoken languages on the African continent.
Akan can be described as a continuum of dialects or as a group of closely related languages. These include languages such as Asante, Twi, and Fante. In Ghana, there are roughly 9 million speakers of Akan, with speakers of Akan also dwelling in Côte d’Ivoire. Like other Niger-Congo languages, such as Igbo, Akan has a system called vowel harmony which determines how vowels can be positioned in words. However, do not let any difficulties stop you if you are passionate about learning the Akan languages.
Amharic is the national language of Ethiopia. Native to the Amhara people of the north, it has around 25 million speakers. Amharic is a Semitic language, related to Arabic and Hebrew, which may be an advantage if you have any sort of background with those languages. It is written in a variation of the Ge’ez script which is an abugida, not an alphabet (each symbol represents a consonant-vowel unit). You may be interested in learning Amharic if you are interested in Rastafarianism or simply want to visit this fascinating area of the world.
Fulani, also known as Fulfude or Fula, boasts 13 million speakers across a large number of countries in West, Central, and North Africa. Fulani can be written in both Arabic and Latin scripts. It makes for an interesting challenge but one that is worthwhile nonetheless.
The Hausa language is one the largest lingua francas in Africa, spoken from West Africa to East Africa. Hausa was traditionally written in the Ajami script, adapted from Arabic, but is now mostly written in the Latin script. Learning Hausa provides you with a gateway to becoming more knowledgeable about Hausa’s history and culture.
Perhaps, I am biased but Igbo is a very rich and beautiful language to speak. Our language is part of the Volta-Niger language family, related to languages such as Yoruba and the Akan languages of Ghana. It is native to parts of south-eastern Nigeria and has around 30 million speakers. Igbo is a tonal language, meaning that the tone or pitch affects the meaning of words. In some respects, Igbo will be easy for a native English speaker: words are written as they are pronounced and you will not have to deal with grammatical gender or complicated inflection of nouns and adjectives. However, some of the sounds may be difficult for a monolingual English speaker and the tonal system often is a challenge for many people.
Kinyarwanda can be said to be the language of Rwanda where it has around 12 million speakers. It could also help you in nearby Burundi as Kirundi and Kinyarwanda are mutually intelligible and can be considered to be two dialects of one language. Kinyarwanda seems like a very intriguing language, especially if you want to visit Rwanda or reconnect with your roots.
Shona is also a Bantu language spoken by around 9 million people in Zimbabwe and is spoken by the majority of Zimbabweans. If you are of Shona heritage or are keen to learn an interesting African language, Shona may appeal to you. Its alphabet is straightforward but if you are not accustomed to tonal language, this element may be a challenge for you.
Swahili is probably the most famous African language. Native to the Swahili people of Zanzibar, it spread to become a major lingua franca in the eastern and southern parts of Africa. It is a Bantu language, like Zulu, but has had many influences from Arabic. Unlike many other Niger-Congo languages, Swahili is not tonal but is famous for its extensive noun-class system. If you want to visit East Africa, learning Swahili is a wise idea.
Yoruba is native to southwestern Nigeria and parts of Benin and Togo. It has around 43 million speakers and is similar to Igbo in several respects in that it is tonal, phonetically written, and lacks gender. The Yoruba people have a fascinating heritage and you cannot truly understand this without knowing their language.
Zulu is a Bantu language, like Swahili, Shona, and Kinyarwanda, and is spoken mostly in South Africa. It has around 12 million native speakers and an additional almost 16 million second-language speakers. The Zulu language is an integral part of the Zulu culture and heritage and the national language of South Africa. Learning Zulu will be a fun challenge for monolingual English speakers who are unfamiliar with tonal languages.
Originally posted on the45girl.com