Did you know that many people in Africa actually speak French and not English? Do you know what these countries are? Then keep reading to learn more.
Interestingly enough an African continent is multilingual. Fifty-five internationally recognized states in Africa all speak different languages. Apart from the languages each of them has on its own territory known as authentic languages, they also adopted the languages that were in use by their colonizers.
As the specialists in history claim, there were three biggest African colonizers in the history of the continent. They were Portugal, France, and Great Britain. When they came to conquer the lands of Africa, they brought here their traditions, worldview, and, of course, language.
Within time the colonizers’ languages became official ones and made their way into each state’s educations, science, law, and medicine. Since colonizers were mostly more educated and had big ambitions for Africa, they made people use their language and raised them with an idea that their language, namely, English, French and Portuguese, should be the language of the noble people as well as those who want to achieve more in their lives.
Eventually, French, English, and Portuguese were acquired by many Africans as a compulsory measure in an attempt to be adequate and get a better place on the social ladder. Moreover, knowledge of the languages mentioned above gave people a chance to get closer to the world’s business and trading. This, in its turn, was seen as a way to improve living conditions and the general financial situation in each and every country.
The number of, for instance, African French speaking countries reflects the scale of colonization of the continent by French colonizers. Some of the countries we are about to make you familiar with have African French as their first language; others have it as an official one. There are countries that strive to become members of the Organisation international de la Francophonie for many reasons; however, the authorities of the organization expect their members to integrate French into education and make a primary or an official language of the state.
At least 26 African countries have African French spoken within their territory. Following are such countries: Tunisia, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Seychelles, Algeria, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, Gabon, Niger, Djibouti, Morocco, Côte d'Ivoire, Mauritius, Congo-Kinshasa, Mali, Cameroon, Madagascar, Chad, Guinea, Congo Brazzaville, Chad, etc.
There is also information on the amount of people that speak French in different African countries (in percents). Statistics shows that there are ten countries, in which most population is fluent in French. Not all of them have French as an official state’s language, though they all have more than 60% of people speaking African French. These countries used to be African French colonies, and they are Gabon, Mauritius, Côte d'Ivoire, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Tunisia, Senegal, and Guinea.
The specialists used to count Algeria as one of the countries where French used to be an official language. More than a half of the whole population there spoke French. This country was once a French colony, and that is where the French language got there from.
Unfortunately, in the course of the history, Algeria decided not to join the mentioned above Organisation international de la Francophonie, As the authorities of the country explained later the reasons for such a decision were constant conflicts with its former colonizer.
It is also interesting to know the names of the countries that have African French as their official languages. French is not their only official language, though. Some of these countries have Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, English, Kirundi, Shikomor and Creole languages as their primary and formal ones.
Among the countries with African French as their official language are Tunisia, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Seychelles, Burundi, Senegal, Cameroon, Gabon, Cape Verde, Rwanda, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Egypt, Niger, Chad, Morocco, Niger, Mauritius, Democratic Republic of Congo, etc.
Another notion worth mentioning about French-speaking African countries is that there is a scientific term for people that speak the French language in Africa. This term is “French African”, and It stands for people that inhabit what used to be French colonies.
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As the trusted sources show countries where French is used as the first or the second language are referred to as Francophone countries. The French language they speak in the francophone countries is not always “proper” French. There are certain peculiarities in the vocabulary and pronunciation. For instance, there is a new Popular African French, which is mostly used on the territory of the Sub-Saharan region. This language was condemned by the upper classes, as it did not sound like the proper French they wanted to hear.
Striving for better communication, upper classes refused this language and called this Popular African French a crude mixture of proper language and urban noises. They did not let that language get into the education or any other areas of their influence in order to save the face on the world’s arena.
Nevertheless, Popular African French got into the upper class, as new generations emerge and come to lead the countries. Scientifically Popular African French consists of images and metaphors. A lot of the names are given to certain things according to their value or a particular quality.
The French language spoken in Africa is different from the original one. First of all, in the view of the difference of realities French people and African people live in, Africans had to come up with new words that did not exist before the colonization period.
However, Africans can speak regular French if they are asked to. They learn a standard version of the language in order to be able to communicate to a native speaker in a proper manner.
The second thing you should know about African French is that some words can mean different things in France and in Africa. Even though they look the same, they have different meanings. So the speaker has to be very careful when using particular words.
And finally, people that speak “correct” French in Africa are considered to be snobs. They use words that are no longer used in order to sound super-right. This creates tension between people from different classes.
As you see, African people do speak French in a lot of regions. The biggest region with the highest number of French-speaking people is the Sub-Saharan one. French might not be the primary language or can be spoken by the elite of the society, but it is still there, and Africans know it.
Moreover, the reason why so many people in Africa speak French now is in the African French colonies where people were taught French and encouraged to learn it in order to achieve more.
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