African Linguistic Riches

African Linguistic Riches

The number of languages spoken in Africa ranges from 1,000 to 2,500, depending on estimates and definitions.

Languages cross borders in the form of different configurations and combinations. The number of languages varies from two to three in Burundi and Rwanda, to more than 400 in Nigeria.

However, Africa is the only continent where the majority of children start school using a foreign language. 

For objective, historical, political, psychosocial and strategic reasons, the idea that widely used international languages are the only channels of economic advancement persists.

New studies increasingly show the negative consequences of these policies: the low quality of education and the marginalization of the continent, which result in a « creeping amnesia attacking the collective memory ».

UNESCO has stressed the importance of educating children in their mother tongue (UNESCO, 1953).

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) recommend that policies and practices in Africa promote multilingualism, mainly based on the mother tongue, with adequate space for languages of international communication.

Teaching in African languages will mechanically increase the potential demographic base of researchers, engineers, philosophers, sociologists and writers, bodies that are essential to pulling black Africa out of its cultural lethargy and to protect it from the security and ideological risks that weigh on it.

CICA greatly shares this vision of the UNESCO Institute. It is therefore in this sense that we offer « Plural Languages » workshops for our young friends. In these workshops, we give them mini-language lessons and train them to discover the languages of the continent. We make them practice and we share resources with families to arouse curiosity and interest. It is in this same vein that Le Griot of the CICA includes a section of the same name.

We invite you to embark on this journey with us! Share with us your mother tongues and help us to contribute to the transmission of these cultural jewels.

Sources: Ouane&Glanz, 2010; Prah, 2003; Ndao, 2016

By Thierry K with contribution of Sandra A.

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