French and English Africa's Official Languages

The Lingua franca and official language of an African country does not reflect the language used by a people. Often most people in Africa do not read, write, speak, or have fluent listening comprehension skills in the Lingua franca or official language of a country.

Vendor selling Hershey's ViVi peanut snack in Ghana.
Vendor selling Hershey's ViVi peanut snack in Ghana. 


Africa is made up of 54 multilingual countries but the Lingua Franca language of business, trade and education in Africa’s ten largest countries are French and English, not native African languages. In every African country many people are multilingual, fluent in a native language and dialect spoken at home and used in local trade at markets or small local businesses. Many people can understand a language but not speak it.

More often than not the official language of an African country does not refer to the language used by a people. For example, French is the official language in Senegal but the majority of the population speaks the African languages of Wolof, Pular, Jola, Mandinka, Serer, and Soninke.

Lingua franca (pronounced ling-wa fran-ka) is a language that is adopted or made official by a country as a common language between speakers who speak different languages. English is the international lingua franca language of the internet, business, aviation, and education.

Two billion people across the globe speak English as either a first or second language. English is the International language. English became the lingua franca due to the expansion of the British empire. English is the largest language by number of speakers. 

English is spoken by communities on every continent and on islands in all the major oceans. It is a co-official language of the United Nations, the European Union and many other world and regional international organizations. English is the lingua franca language of the internet, business, aviation, science, technology and education.

In every African country many people are multilingual, fluent in a native language and dialect spoken at home and used in local trade at markets or small local businesses. Why is French a lingua franca in Africa? Françafrique describes deeply rooted French influence and characterizes the colonial link between France and its former colonies in Africa.

French was the language of colonizers who ruled former French colonies throughout the continent of Africa. France officially maintained colonies in Africa from the 17th century majorly increasing its colonization in Africa during the 1885 Scramble for Africa campaign.

French is the official language in 19 African countries. The former French colonial territories in Africa are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Central African Republic, Togo, Mauritania, Cameroon, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Chad, Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Benin, Madagascar and Niger.


Women sorting coffee beans in Addis Ababa also known as Finfinne is the capital and largest city of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the worlds leading coffee exporter


Lingua franca and official languages of Africa’s 10 largest countries.

Algeria

Arabic (official), Berber (official), French (lingua franca)


Democratic Republic of the Congo

French (official), Lingala African language is the lingua franca of trade language.


Sudan

Arabic (official), English (official), Arabic (lingua franca)


Libya

Arabic (official) Arabic, Italian, English (lingua franca)


Chad

French (official), Arabic (official) Arabic (lingua franca)


Niger

French (official) Hausa, English, Djerma, French (lingua franca)


Angola

Portuguese (official) 

Portuguese and four African languages are the lingua franca of local trade language, they are Umbundu, Kikongo, Kimbundu, Chokwe (lingua franca)


Mali

French (official)

Bambara, French, Fula, Songhai (lingua franca)


South Africa

isiZulu, isiXhosa, Afrikaans, Sepedi, Setswana, English, Sesotho, Xitsonga, siSwati, Tshivenda, and isiNdebele all are official languages.

English (lingua franca)


Ethiopia  

Amharic African language is the lingua franca and official national language of Ethiopia.

Oromo African language is the official working language in the State of Oromiya Ethiopia. Somali official working language of the State of Sumale.

Tigrigna is the official working language of the State of Tigray.

Sidamo, Wolaytta, Gurage, Afar official working languages of the State of Afar. 

Trading beads at a local market in Senegal speaking Wolof
Trading beads at a local market in Senegal speaking the Wolof language



Did you know?
Language is a part of culture; nearly half of the 7,000 languages spoken in the world are expected to vanish in the next 100 years. In Africa, over 2,000 languages are spoken on the continent and hundreds are endangered or critically endangered.

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