Exploring African Languages

A lot has been said and written about Africa‘s rich culture and the beauty of her arts and modern day innovations. 

Now we’ll like you to join us in wandering more, to explore her amazing languages.

There are countless languages roaming the continent. Africa is the home to some of the ancient languages in the world.

Aside Asia leading with the most languages in the world, Africa boasts of over 2000 languages as well with about 140 languages in the Central and Eastern Africa regions.

This can be quite mind-boggling trying to pick a handful to talk about. And  fishing out the oldest spoken language in Africa, might just take a whole week or more to write this article.

So, umm…we’re picking the most popular languages spoken in Africa 🙂

How about that?

Let’s get on with the most spoken language in Africa:


Swahili natively known as Kiswahili is the most spoken language in the continent having about 150 million speakers. 

It is has its origin pointing to Arabic and it is the official language of Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.

Not official in some countries, but also used in Ethiopia, Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, southern Somalia, northern Mozambique and the Comoros Islands also use Swahili to communicate 🙂


Over 20 million people speak Amharic in Africa. It is one of the main languages spoken in Ethiopia. Amharic is such a beautiful language and evident in the naming of Ethiopia’s capital, “Addis Ababa”, which means “new flower”.

Amharic is considered the second most spoken Semitic language in the world after Arabic which originated from the Middle East.


As one of the most advanced languages in Africa with over 40 million speakers, the Hausa language is the only Nigerian language that has foreign station broadcasts including BBC, Voice of Russia and Radio France Internationale.

Using Boko and Latin alphabet, the language is widely spoken in countries like Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Ghana, Niger, Sudan, Togo, including Germany.


A big time language spoken in Egypt, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, is the Oromo. 

40% of the population in Ethiopia speak Oromo. This amount to about 30 million people. But sadly between 1974 and 1991, writing Oromo was banned and considered a violation of law.

Over time, Oromo scholars adopted a Latin script which was then used to teach reading and writing.


This is a very popular language in Africa and outside it. In Nigeria, Benin, and Togo, there are over 30 million Yoruba speakers combined.

It has over 15 dialects altogether including Ijebu, Ijesha, Akoko, Oworo, and Ekiti. 

As a result of slave trade, Yoruba is one of the languages spoken in Brazil including the practice of Orisha worshipping.


Here comes Zulu!

This is also a very popular language in Africa and one of the most widely spoken languages of South Africa with over 10 million speakers. 

Zulu, they say is related to languages like Xhosa and Ndebele considering their dialects.


Chinua Achebe, a famous African writer, greatly promoted the Igbo language and culture through his works such as the popular “Things Fall Apart”.

The language has over 20 million speakers cutting across Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Nigeria where the majority lies. There are different dialects including Owerri, Eche and Central Igbo.


Shona is the most spoken language in Zimbabwe with over 10 million speakers. 

The language employs the Latin script in its writing system and has 3 dialects including Zezuru, Karanga, and the Korekore. 

When it comes to prayer, Shona speakers use a particular variety known as the high variety, while a low variety is usually used at home. The language can be traced to Bantu or the Nguni family.

By Elijah Christopher

Elijah Christopher

Elijah Christopher is a journalist at A New Touch Of Africa, is also a creative writer, a poet, and an IT enthusiast. He contributed to the collaborative poem written in celebration of Edwin Morgan Centenary, the first Glasgow poet laureate and Scottish national poet from the University of Glasgow. He loves meeting people and learning about new places, cultures, events, and lifestyles.

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