• Africa has over 1,500 languages.
  • Over the years, some languages have spread across various parts of the continent.
  • We explore the five major ones in West Africa.

It is home to an estimated 1500–2000 local languages. By comparison, Europe, the third-most-populous continent in the world, has only about 300 languages.

Nigeria alone has over 250 languages and holds the third position on the list of countries with the most languages in the world, according to Buzz Nigeria.

Thanks to certain factors like the trans-Atlantic slave trade, immigration, and cattle grazing, languages have managed to travel outside their home countries. 

For instance, Yoruba, a language that used to be primarily spoken by just Nigerians, can now be found in other parts of the continent as well as communities all over the world.

Business Insider SSA by Pulse takes a look five popular languages that can be found anywhere in West Africa:

Yoruba

Let's start with Yoruba which is considered the most widely spoken language outside Nigeria and Africa, according to Wikipedia. There are over 40 million Yoruba primary and secondary language speakers across the globe.

___8391328___2018___5___18___0___Yoruba-people
___8391328___2018___5___18___0___Yoruba-people

Outside Nigeria, it can be found in certain parts of West Africa like Togo, Benin Republic, Sierra Leone and Liberia. 

Arabic

Arabic is another widespread language in West Africa. This is could be due to the fact that is the co-official language of West African countries like Mali and Niger

Another reason could be because of its association with Islam. As of 2002, 40% of Africa's population were estimated to be Muslims. With this number of people speaking or reading Arabic as their "holy language", it makes sense that it would be quite popular.

Arabic inscription of Allah
Arabic inscription of Allah

It can be found in other parts of Africa like Algeria, Mauritania, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Eritrea, Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Djibouti and Western Sahara.

ALSO READ: 30 foreign countries where Nigerian languages are spoken

Hausa

Hausa is spoken by an estimated 70 million people in Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and other West African countries.

It serves as a lingua franca for Muslim populations in this region. It is also widely used for business and education. 

French

Next up is French. It is very popular in former French colonies in West African countries like Ivory Coast, the Republic of Benin, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Burkina Faso.

'African French' is believed to be spoken by 120 million people including Nigerians.

Learn foreign language(ied)
Learn foreign language(ied)

English

Like French, English was introduced into Africa through colonial masters. Despite gaining independence, many former colonies of Britain have adopted English as their official language for government, business, and education. 

Now, English is spoken in over 23 African countries including Botswana, Cameroun, Gambia, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.