Monday, March 28, 2016

Country Profile: The Languages of the Republic of the Congo

In our most recent country profiles, we've looked at the languages of Ireland, Costa Rica, and the Central African Republic. This week, we're going to take a look at the linguistic diversity of the Republic of the Congo, which shouldn't be confused with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which borders it to the east and south.

Official Languages

Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo,
and the Congo River as seen from space.
The sole official language of the Republic of the Congo is French, a former colonial language that is still widely used throughout the country. While only around 28,000 people in the country speak French as a native language, over 2.5 million use it as a second language.

The Republic of the Congo also officially recognizes two national languages: Kituba and Lingala. Kituba is an important lingua franca that is spoken by over 1 million people, mainly throughout southern parts of the country. Lingala, on the other hand, is primarily used in northern areas, and is spoken by about 90,000 people. Both belong to the large group of Bantu languages spoken throughout Africa.

Other Languages

The linguistic landscape of the Republic of the Congo is incredibly diverse since it is home to over 60 languages, almost all of which are Bantu languages. In terms of number of speakers, the closely related Teke languages are some of the most spoken indigenous languages in the country. There are over 700,000 Teke speakers, including over 95,000 native speakers of Teke-Tsaayi, over 49,000 Teke-Tege speakers, nearly 40,000 Teke-Kukuya speakers, and over 14,000 Teke-Tyee speakers, among other varieties.

The Republic of the Congo is also home to over 100,000 native speakers of three more Bantu languages: Suundi, Beembe, and Mbosi. There are also about 90,000 native speakers of Ngbaka Ma'bo, a Ubangian language, as well as Laari, a Bantu language that is most often known as Kongo or Kikongo.

There are dozens more languages that are used by anywhere between 1,000 and 60,000 native speakers in the Republic of the Congo. This includes the Fang language, which is one of the most important languages in neighboring Gabon, and Bomwali, which is also spoken in neighboring Cameroon. If you'd like to see the full list, we recommend checking out the country's language statistics on the Ethnologue website.