Africa’s linguistic diversity and why we need to preserve dying languages


posted on: August 16th, 2018

There are over 2,000 languages spoken in Africa. Many languages are now endangered. This means that they are at risk of disappearing. If a language dies it is not because there are no more original speakers. It means that the speakers of a language choose another more dominant language instead. Sometimes a language is endangered because African governments have official language rules that don’t leave room for native languages. Sometimes people don’t want to speak their native language because they think it is better to speak global languages like English and French. They think it will give them better job opportunities.


In Ethiopia there are 90 languages spoken. One of the most endangered languages is Ongota. In 2007 there were only 8 speakers. The speakers of Ongota are older adults. They do not want to continue speaking the language. They are not trying to pass it down to the younger generation.


Kenya has 3 endangered languages. These are the Yaaku, Omotik and Elmolo. The Yaaku people settled in the Mukogodo Forest. They gave up their old language in the 1930s. The neighbouring Maasai people did not treat them well because they did not have cattle. The Omotik people live in the Rift Valley. Their language also changed to fit with the Maasai community. The Elmolo people live by Lake Turkana. They began to spend time with the neighbouring Samburu people and their language changed.


There are 15 endangered languages in Nigeria. The Yangkam language only had 100 speakers in 1996. This number falls every year. It is mostly older people who speak the language. They have not passed it on to their children. Most Yangkam people have started to speak Hausa instead but they still keep their own identity.


African languages are beautiful and they are an important part of our identity. They are a way to share the richness of our culture. We should be proud of our languages. If people can’t read, all the knowledge of a culture is in the language we speak. If we stop speaking a language we lose a part of our identity.

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