Languages of Niger

Niger has 11 official languages, with French being the official language and Hausa the most spoken language. Depending on how they are counted, Niger has between 8 and 20 indigenous languages. The discrepancy comes from the fact that several are closely related, and can be grouped together or considered apart.

Distribution map of the national languages of Niger

Official Languages

French, inherited from the colonial period, is the official language. It is spoken mainly as a second language by people who have received an education (20% of Nigeriens are literate in French, and even 47% in cities, growing quickly as literacy improves[1]). Although educated Nigeriens still constitute a relatively small percentage of the population, the French language is the language used by the official administration (courts, government, etc.), the media and the business community. See also: African French

Niger has ten official national languages, namely Arabic, Buduma, Fulfulde, Gourmanchéma, Hausa, Kanuri, Zarma & Songhai, Tamasheq, Tassawaq, Tebu.[2] These ten national languages, their language families, the approximate percentage of the population that speak them, their approximate home regions, and additional information are as follows:

Language Family Approx % Main region Notes
Hausa Afro-Asiatic / Chadic 55.4% South, central Main trade language[3]
Songhai Songhay languages (nilo-saharan) 21% Southwest Zarma and "Kaado" Songhay are considered together
Tamasheq Afro-Asiatic / Berber 9.3% North
Fulfulde Niger–Congo / Atlantic 8.5% All Fulfulde of Western Niger & Central-Eastern Niger are considered together
Kanuri Nilo-Saharan 4.7% Southeast
Arabic Afro-Asiatic / Semitic 0.4% Southeast Particularly spoken by the Diffa Arabs mainly in the Diffa Region
Gourmanchéma Niger–Congo / Gur 0.4% Southwest corner Spoken mainly by the Gurma people of southwest Niger
Tebu Nilo-Saharan 0.4% East Spoken mainly by the Toubou people of Eastern Niger
Other N/A 0.1% Throughout Any other languages

Languages by number of speakers (according to Ethnologue)[4]

Rank Language Speakers in Niger
1 Hausa 14,500,000
2 Zarma 3,590,000
3 French 2,506,000
4 Fulfulde, Central-Eastern Niger 450,000
5 Fulfulde, Western Niger 450,000
6 Tamajaq, Tawallammat 450,000
7 Kanuri, Manga 280,000
8 Tamajeq, Tayart 250,000
9 Kanuri, Yerwa 80,000
10 Dazaga 50,000
11 Kanuri, Tumari 40,000
12 Gourmanchéma 30,000
13 Tagdal 26,900
14 Kanuri, Bilma 20,000
15 Tamahaq, Tahaggart 20,000
16 Arabic, Hassaniyya 19,000
17 Arabic, Algerian Saharan Spoken 10,000
18 Tedaga 10,000
19 Arabic, Libyan Spoken 9,300
20 Arabic, Shuwa 9,300
21 Tasawaq 8,000
22 Arabic, Standard 7,800
23 Tetserret 2,000

See also


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