Languages in West-Africa

One of the features that you will notice if you travel to West Africa is the huge number of languages that are spoken. Or maybe you won't as it is easy to assume that they are all the same. While the languages do have a lot of similarities they are very different languages. This has created no end of problems for the countries of West Africa since the end of colonialism.

Given the size of West Africa there are an extraordinary number of languages that are spoken. The vast majority of them come from what is known as the Niger Congo family of languages. This is widely believed to be the largest family of languages in the world. This is a family of languages that has a similar basis and probably developed from one original language. However as of now researchers are not sure which language that was. In fact it has only been recently that it came to be understood that the language of West Africa were related and came from the same family.

The reason that there are so many languages in the area seems to be that people have lived there for so long. Presumably the early settlers all spoke the same language, however as these were nomadic tribes differences set in over the years. The result is that there is now little in common between all of the languages. This has created a lot of problems for many of the nations in West Africa as they may have citizens who speak dozens of different languages. Fortunately they do have a solution to the problem.

At one point or other all of the nations in West Africa were colonized by the French, British or Portuguese. As a result the languages of these countries became fairly widely used, mostly the French language. This has continued in the days since the colonial powers left as in most cases it was the only common language in the country. As a result most of these countries rely on the language of their colonizer as the working language. That being said there are moves under way to change this and to start using the local languages in West Africa, the problem is that nobody is really sure how to do this.

Since the colonial days have ended there have been a long series of civil wars in West Africa. In most cases these pit the various tribes that make up the population against each other. Inevitably whoever wins decides that their language will become the official one, at least until the next civil war gets fought. In fact it can be argued that a lot of the fighting exists because of language issues. The result is that despite a desire to move away from using European languages most countries in region have had to continue to do so.