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Africa 3,000+ Languages



There are 1,250 to 2,100 and by some counts over 3,000 languages spoken natively in Africa, in several major language families:
Afroasiatic languages are spread throughout the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and parts of the Sahel
Nilo-Saharan languages are centered on Sudan and Chad (disputed validity)
Niger–Congo (Bantu and non-Bantu) covers West, Central, Southeast and Southern Africa
Khoe languages are concentrated in the deserts of Namibia and Botswana
Austronesian languages are spoken in Madagascar.
Indo-European languages are spoken on the southern tip of the continent (Afrikaans), as well as in the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla (Spanish) in the north.




There are several other small families and language isolates, as well as languages that have yet to be classified. In addition, Africa has a wide variety of sign languages, many of which are language isolates.
About a hundred of the languages of Africa are widely used for inter-ethnic communication. Arabic, Somali, Berber, Amharic, Oromo, Swahili, Hausa, Manding, Fulani and Yoruba are spoken by tens of millions of people. If clusters of up to a hundred similar languages are counted together, twelve are spoken by 75 percent, and fifteen by 85 percent, of Africans as a first or additional language.


Trade languages are another age-old phenomenon in the African linguistic landscape. Cultural and linguistic innovations spread along trade routes and languages of peoples dominant in trade developed into languages of wider communication (lingua franca). Of particular importance in this respect are Berber (North and West Africa), Jula (western West Africa), Fulfulde (West Africa), Hausa (West Africa), Lingala (Congo), Swahili (Southeast Africa), Somali (Horn of Africa) and Arabic (North Africa and Horn of Africa).


After gaining independence, many African countries, in the search for national unity, selected one language, generally the former colonial language, to be used in government and education. However, in recent years, African countries have become increasingly supportive of maintaining linguistic diversity. Language policies that are being developed nowadays are mostly aimed at multilingualism.Of the 1 billion Africans (in 2009), about 17 percent speak an Arabic dialect. About 10 percent speak Swahili, the lingua franca of Southeast Africa; about 5 percent speak a Berber dialect; and about 5 percent speak Hausa, which serves as a lingua franca in much of the Sahel. Other important West African languages are Yoruba, Igbo and Fula. Major Horn of Africa languages are Amharic, Oromo and Somali. Important South African languages are Zulu, Xhosa and Afrikaans.

English, French, and Portuguese are important languages in Africa: 130, 115, 30 million Africans speak them as either native or secondary languages. Portuguese has become the national language of Angola.

Source: Gods and Men
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