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Top 10 Most Common Languages in Africa (2023)

Africa is a massive vast, extremely diverse, and rapidly growing continent that is expanding continuously. If you are looking to increase the number of people you reach in Africa you must be aware of the most popular African languages that are spoken on the Continent. 

Several languages are spoken in Africa but some common languages are spoken by most Africans. The most common languages in Africa comprise Swahili, Amharic, and Yoruba among others.

Top 10 Most Common languages in Africa

1. Swahili

The most common language in Africa is Swahili which is believed to have between 100-150 million speakers. Also known as a Bantu dialect, Swahili may have come from different languages, such as Arabic. It is considered to be the official language in Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya.

The language is also spoken in other countries such as Ethiopia, Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, southern Somalia as well as Northern Mozambique within the Comoros Islands. Swahili is considered to be an easy language to learn particularly when you’re already proficient in Arabic.

2. Amharic

Amharic is a Semitic language that originated in Ethiopia. It is spoken by the Ethiopians and is classified under one of the Afro-Asiatic languages. Amharic is considered to be the second most common language in Africa. The capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa means a new flower in Amharic.

Amharic is among the major languages spoken in Ethiopia by more than 20 million people. It is speculated to be the second most used Semitic language spoken in the world following Arabic which is a language that originates in the Middle East alongside Hebrew, Tigrinya, and others. Amharic is written in the distinctive Ge’ez writing system, also known as Fidel.

3. Yoruba

Over 30 million Yoruba people are spread across Nigeria, Benin, and Togo in total, making the Yoruba language one of the most common languages in Africa. The African language has over 15 dialects, comprising Ekiti, Ijebu, Oworo, Ijesha, and Ibadan.

The Yoruba language originates from Nigeria among the Yoruba tribe, located in Southwestern Nigeria. Yoruba is a term also linked to the Yoruba Ethnic Group which is one of the biggest African ethnic groups in the region.

4. Oromo

One of the most important languages used in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Egypt is Oromo. About 30 million people speak the language, and they represent more than 40% in all of the Ethiopian population.  

The Oromo people were banned from writing the language between 1974 and 1991 as it was considered to be a crime. The Oromo scholars then adopted a Latin script, which was later used for teaching reading and writing. The Oromo spoken language is known as Afaan Oromoo.

5. Hausa

As one of the official languages in Nigeria, Hausa has over 40 million people speaking it across the continent. The language is widely spoken in countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Germany, Ghana, Niger, Sudan, Togo, and lots of North African countries. It is one of the most common languages in Africa.

Hausa is a language that uses an alphabet that is based on the Boko in addition to the Latin alphabet, and it is considered to be among many of the more advanced languages of Africa overall. Hausa is reportedly the sole Nigerian language with foreign active radio stations comprising Radio France Internationale, the BBC, Voice of Russia, and Radio France Internationale.

6. Igbo

In addition to Nigeria, the Igbo language is also spoken in other countries such as Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. It is one of the official languages in Nigeria and the popular African dialect is used by more than 20 million people. The Igbo language has more than 20 dialects, including Owerri Eche and Central Igbo.

A majority of Igbo speakers are believed to have a bilingual status in English since it is the main literature language that is taught in Nigerian Schools. The Igbo language was popularized by Chinua Achebe, author of “Things Fall Apart”  who wrote the majority of his works published in Igbo. Following its popularity, the Igbo language became one of the most common languages in Africa.

7. Zulu

Zulu is one of the most spoken languages in South Africa, and it is believed to be spoken by more than 10 million people. Recognized as a part of the Bantu language group, Zulu is very much connected to other languages such as Xhosa and Ndebele. In truth, Zulu and Xhosa have very similar dialects, so people mistake them for being the same language.

The Zulu language is written in the Latin alphabet and is heavily influenced by the Khoisan language which is the reason for the distinct clicking sounds within the dialect. Zulu is not only a language, it’s also the largest ethnic community in South Africa. The Zulu language is also one of the most common languages in Africa.

8. Shona

Most commonly spoken in Zimbabwe together with English, Shona is an African language spoken by more than 10,000 people. There are three distinct Shona dialects, including the Karanga, the Zezuru, and the Korekore.

The language originates from the Bantu/Nguni families, and it uses the Latin script for its writing system. There are two distinct varieties of Shona that are used for different purposes. The low variety of the language is utilized casually like at home, and higher varieties are used for prayer.

9. Arabic

The language is spoken by more than 280 million people across the globe. The Arabic language is also spoken by people from countries such as Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Libya, Tunisia, and Eritrea. It is also known as Modern Standard Arabic which is mostly used for communication with the majority of Arabic people.

Additionally, Modern Standard Arabic is the dialect used for writing the language and it is usually found in books and media. Classical Arabic is, however, used primarily to study the language formally. The Arabic language is among the six languages spoken the most all over the world and it is one of the most common languages in Africa.

10. French

It is said that 26 African states form Francophone Africa. The French-speaking African nations comprise Gabon, Mauritius, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Sao Tome e Principe. In addition, French is also spoken by North African countries including Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco.

The French language is known to be spoken by over 120 million people across Africa. It is expected that there would be more than 700 million French speakers around the globe in 2050 of which 80% will be Africans. The French language is also one of the most common languages in Africa.