Indigenous languages in Africa
An indigenous language is spoken by indigenous people of a region. An indigenous language is not necessarily a national language to a country because it is a language spoken by a particular community in a region. Therefore, indigenous language is the vernacular language or a local language. It is spoken, owned, and shared by people in the country that originated from a
specified place. Also, it is spoken by people of the same beliefs and culture. Unfortunately, many indigenous people have stopped passing their indigenous language to the next generation due to acculturation which has made most vernacular languages die.
Linguists have estimated Africa to be the most diverse continent with more than 2000 native languages. Also, they have stated that Nigeria has the most indigenous languages in Africa with 500 languages spoken within its borders. Africa is divided into four major tongues which include Nilo-Saharan, Afroasiatic, Niger-Congo, and Khoe.
Nilo-Sahara languages are major spoken languages in the Africa continent with speakers who live in 17 countries. Some Nilo-Saharans such as Nubians and Lugbara live in the North of the continent in countries such as Libya and Algeria while others live in the east that is in Tanzania and Kenya. ‘Luo’ is one of the major tongues in Nilo-Sahara languages spoken by a segment of the Tanzanian and Kenyan population as their first language. Other Nilo-Saharan languages spoken in Kenya include Maasai and Teso. Also, Kanuri is a dialect spoken by a significant number in Africa and it is dominant around the Lake Chad area. In West Africa, Songhay is the other prevalent Nilo-Sahara language with speakers from Mali, Niger, and Bukina Faso.
Afroasiatic languages or semito-Hamitic are the most spoken languages in Middle East and Horn of Africa with about 495 million people who use it as their first language. Among Afroasiantic languages in northern and western regions of the African continent is Berber. Arabic is the most popular Afroasiatic language followed by Tigrinya, Hebrew, Tigre, Aramaic and Maltese
speakers. Hausa is also a prominent language and it is dominant in the northern part of Nigeria, Ghana, and a southern portion of Niger.
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Niger-Congo has the most speakers in Africa. Globally, it has been ranked as third with the most native speakers since it is spoken by a large population in Africa continent. Here, Swahili is the most spoken Niger-Congo language. Other Niger-Congo languages with the highest number of speakers include Shona, Yoruba, and Igbo.
Khoe languages are dominant in the southern section of the African continent. Nama is the most prominent Khoe language spoken in Namibia. Other Khoe languages are Sandawe in Tanzania and Kung in northern Kalahari. Some Khoe languages such as Yagan and Ainu are at risk because they are facing extinction since their speakers have chosen to use the English language as compared to the languages. Unfortunately, the use of African indigenous languages is fading slowly because parents have chosen not to use the languages in their homes. It has been estimated that very few indigenous
languages are spoken across the continent because the educational institutions use foreign languages such as French, German, Portuguese, and English.