European languages of Africa
2. African language policies
3. The situation of African languages today
4. The linguistic pyramid
5. Modernization of African languages
6. The use of African languages in modern sectors.
1. The European languages of Africa
essentially the languages that are a result of the colonization of Africa from the middle
of the 18th century to the middle of the 20th century, namely: English, French,
Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and Afrikaans. In the wake of independence, the majority of
the African countries had confirmed the situation that was prevailing before independence
in adopting the language of the colonial power as their official language.
accounts for 16 countries: Botswana, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi,
Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, Sierra-Leone, Swaziland, Zambia, and
accounts for 17 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea,
Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo,
Rwanda, Senegal, Chad, and Togo.
Portuguese accounts for 5 countries: Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau,
Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe. Spanish accounts for: Equatorial Guinea.
hypothetical cases are characterized as follows:
that, since gaining independence, have taken on a language other than the colonial
language as their official language:
obtained independence with the use of arms, immediately proclaimed Arabic as its official
language, while French continues to be widely used by its population. Tanzania proclaimed
Kiswahili as its official language without having prohibited the use of English. So, the
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic recognizes Arabic as its official language, in spite of
its disputed existence.
that, since gaining independence, have recognized other national and official languages in
conjunction with the colonial language:
Arabic are joint official languages of Tunisia, Morocco, and Mauritania. Egypt, which was
never truly an English colony, has always preserved Arabic as its official language. Sudan
gained its independence and made Arabic and English its official languages. Somalia, that
is largely Muslim and was colonized by England and Italy alternately, officially
recognizes three languages: Arabic, Italian, and English. Later on, this country would
proactively take on a linguistic distribution in favour of Somalian.
shortly after gaining independence reunified its territory of which one part had been
placed quite a while back under British authority, declared French and English its
official languages after its reunification. Guinea, who under a tense climate, gained its
independence from France and raised eight languages of the country to national language
status without neglecting French. The homogenous linguistic situation of Burundi and
Rwanda lead both countries to adopt Kirundi and Kinyarwanda respectively as official
languages alongside French. Thus, Seychelles gained its independence by declaring English,
French, and Creole as its official languages!
From 1965 on,
Chad declared Arabic and French as official languages while Senegal gave "national
language" status to six of its African languages just as Guinea did. In 1970,
following a political and cultural revolution, Madagascar declared Malagasy as its only
official language. Despite a come-back of French in 1990, this legal provision would not
be modified. During this same period, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly called
the "Republic of Congo") re-established four of the main common languages of the
country, namely: Lingala, Kiswahili, Ciluba, and Kikongo. Thus, in 1991, the Central
African Republic declared Sangho as the official language in conjunction with French.
2. African language policies
diversity of the language policies
In the light
of the above, one can easily see that Africa has not had a single type of language policy.
The individual histories of each country and their sociolinguistic conditions have often
times influenced decisions or the lack of decision regarding language policy.
Ben Bellas Algeria declared Arabic as the official language, it was not simply for
cultural and demographic reasons, but primarily in order to break with the official
position of French, reaffirming its independence that was gained at such a high price. In
Sekou Toures Guinea, the recognition of eight Guinean languages as "national
languages" and their systematic promotion falls in line with the same logic of
breaking off from France because of the immediate independence demanded and obtained by
Sekou Toure which, in doing so, opposed Charles de Gaulles plan.