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Old 01-22-2014, 10:49 PM
 
Location: Denver
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I believe that initially most of sub-Saharan Africa spoke languages in the Nigerian Congo family with a small exception of the Khosian family near Namibia.

How many Africans still speak their native tongue? How many speak the language of their colonists? How many speak English? Do most know more than one language? How closely related are the Nigerian Congo languages? Are they like Spanish and Italian where one can kind of understand the other?

What languages do you think are going to increase in use in Africa in the future and what languages do you think will decrease?
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Old 02-01-2014, 12:32 PM
 
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A huge number of languages is spoken in Africa, several hundred at least, but they mainly derive from about 10 or 15 groups. The Bantu group of languages is one of these, and comprises many distinct languages or dialects. Bantu is the group I think you are referring to as being from the Congo/Nigeria area.

In South Africa alone there are eleven official languages, including English and Afrikaans, which is closely related to Dutch, as Quebecois French or Brazilian Portuguese are based on the original language of the European settlers of those areas.

Shona and Ndebele were the common languages of Zimbabwe, where I lived for many years, but a "made up" language called Funigalo was used as common ground between people who did not understand each other. This developed as a means for miners from different countries all working on the reef in Jo'burg to communicate with each other and their European bosses.

My guess would be that English is spreading as the population becomes more urban and more people come into contact with English through television and newspapers, and need a common language for business or dealing with officials.

For some reason it seems most North Americans think Swahili is widely spoken in Africa when in fact it is the mother tongue of only a few million (according to Wikipaedia) and spoken by possibly 15-20% of Africans as a second language. In 20 years of living in Zimbabwe I never met anyone who spoke Swahili! Another of the common misconceptions I suppose.
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Old 02-02-2014, 07:07 PM
 
Location: TX
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It depends who colonized that particular African Country. For example, Ivory Coast is a french speaking country(colonized by the French). However, they still speak their tribal languages as well. Nigeria has a population of 150 million and they have over 500 languages! The official language of Nigeria is English though.

Most African countries have over 10 to 15 tribes so you can only imagine! Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria are official english speaking countries. However they still have their tribal dialect. Liberia is a smaller country so there is about 15ish tribes. Some tribes even have two different types of dialect within a tribe! So yes, most Africans speak, the language of the colonist, and their native tongue. Most Africans know more then 1 language.

Yes there are some tribes that live nearby each other and they may have similar words/phrases. Some tribes only live amongst themselves. However in the cities, it's usually one big melting pot. There are just way to many languages spoken in Africa, it's impossible to get an exact count.

Nigeria is more closely related to the bordering countries like Benin and Cameroon.Some of the foods that Nigerians and camerronians eat are the same/similar, even though cameron is a french speaking country.

In regards to Congo, Congo is more situated in central Africa so they are going to have more in common with other Africans in that region. They have things more in common with people from Central African Republic.

West Africans have more things in common with other West African countries. Nigerians and Ghanians have more things in common then with a central African.

I don't see any dialects/languages decreasing unless a tribe just dies out or decreases in numbers for some odd reason. I think the non speaking English countries will improve their English speaking skills due to technology.

I am African by the way = )
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Old 02-04-2014, 12:46 PM
 
Location: Denver
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Thanks for the great replies! It sounds like there are no real dominating native languages, but rather a big mix of many tribal languages. How complex many of the tribal languages? Do many of the tribal languages have similar grammar structures even if the words are different? Do you see English as taking place of the colonized language, such as Portuguese, or being learned along side the colonized language? What are some advantages or things that people like about the native tongue that isn't found in English and what are some of the benefits of English over the native tongue as far as the language itself and not the people who speak it. I can imagine that English is nice in that it's universally understood and the tribal language is nice as a bonding agent between members of a tribe.
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Old 02-04-2014, 02:43 PM
hvl
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil P View Post

Thanks for the great replies! It sounds like there are no real dominating native languages, but rather a big mix of many tribal languages. How complex many of the tribal languages? Do many of the tribal languages have similar grammar structures even if the words are different? Do you see English as taking place of the colonized language, such as Portuguese, or being learned along side the colonized language? What are some advantages or things that people like about the native tongue that isn't found in English and what are some of the benefits of English over the native tongue as far as the language itself and not the people who speak it. I can imagine that English is nice in that it's universally understood and the tribal language is nice as a bonding agent between members of a tribe.
-- Thanks for the great replies! It sounds like there are no real dominating native languages, but rather a big mix of many tribal languages.

It depends on the country.
Swahili is a native language (arab influenced bantu language) and it's very much dominating in several east-African countries (I'm not including the horn of Africa).
Setswana is a dominating language in Botswana, given that the main ethnic group counts for over 80% of the country.
In Rwanda, the local language was and probably is still spoken by everyone and it's 1 language for all ethnic groups. Imho it's probably the Hutu language and it was adopted by the other groups. The Burundi language is close to the rwanda one. Those countries were either 1 unified kingdom or 2 very closely related kingdoms before colonization.

Nigeria may contain 500 languages but there are really 3 big ethnic groups in Nigeria : The Yoruba, the Igno and the Hausa/Fulani. They make up the vast majority of Nigerians.

In most African countries where you had a large number of ethnic groups, the colonial language became the lingua franca. I've read that in the Ivory Coast and Gabon, you actually have a group of people for whom the colonial language is the mother tongue. Those folks would be based in the capitals, where all the ethnic groups come to meet and where they thus need a common language to communicate. Sometimes you'll have interethnic marriages and the parents will stick to french at home and the kids grow up with that.

--- How complex many of the tribal languages? Do many of the tribal languages have similar grammar structures even if the words are different? Do you see English as taking place of the colonized language, such as Portuguese, or being learned along side the colonized language?

Not sure what you mean by complex. They are languages of agricultural, pre-modern people so I don't expect them to have much technical vocabulary, though technical vocabulary can be invented, of course, and any language, i think, can express technical ideas if the effort is put into building the new words.
English is right now taking the place of french in Rwanda. It's pretty amazing.
I don't see french being displaced from Gabon or Ivory Coast or Senegal anytime soon though.
I doubt Portuguese will fade away, with the rise of Brazil it probably has bright days ahead.
Languages of the same family will of course have similar sounding words and grammar.
Note : Niger-Congo includes most of the "black african" languages but excludes Khoisan and Nilo-Saharan and afro-asiatic. So both Bantu and, say, Yoruba are included.
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Old 04-05-2015, 09:49 AM
 
Location: Middle of the Pacific Ocean
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Most Africans still speak their native tongue, even if they also understand certain European languages (e.g. French, English, Spanish, etc.) or/and live in nations that have "English" or "French" as their official language. For instance, take a look at Ghana. Its official language is English. And while many may understand English in full or in part, most of the nation certainly doesn't have a firm grasp on English (now, this may not be true for some of the former French colonies, where I believe French may be more formally widespread, even if the inhabitants of those nations also know their tribal languages). In fact, the true national language of Ghana is Akan (Twi-Fante), and this is the language that even non-members of the various Akan groups will learn if they want to communicate with the rest of the nation. Note, as someone else mentioned in this forum, even to the extent that Africans can understand English, French, etc., they almost always learned such languages as a second language, and have a better grasp on their tribal language.
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