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Interpreting Africa: One continent, over 2000 languages.

Do you ever wonder how many languages can be spoken in just 1 continent? Did you think that African is the language spoken in Africa? You will be surprised to find out that this is without a doubt, not the case. When organising translation or interpreting in Africa, it’s vital to know which language you need.

Accounting for around 15% of the world’s population, with over 1 billion people, Africa comprises more than 2000 languages, where each African country has its own official language. However, to make things even more complicated, there are as many as 8000 dialects and Somalia is the only African country where the whole population speaks one language, Somali. There is also a wide variety of sign languages, and some use whistle sounds instead of speech to communicate.

The vast amount of languages can be grouped into 4 language families, but there are also smaller groups that originate outside of the African continent. The four language families include:
• Afro-Asiatic group which consists of around 200 languages, mainly spoken in Northern Africa
• Nilo-Saharan family which includes approximately 140 languages, and there are over 11 million speakers belonging to this group, mainly located in Central and Eastern Africa.
• Niger-Congo is the largest family of African languages covering Sub-Saharan Africa.
• Khoisan family which includes around thirty languages, in the Western part of Southern Africa.

Because of the enormous amount of languages scattered all over the African continent, it is therefore no surprise that there is so much confusion over what language is spoken in what area. Due to the country’s fast growing economy, as well as an increase in exports over the years, the demand for African language translation services has been on the rise. Lingua Translations understands the importance of international business relations, and offers a team of professionals who specialise in interpreting to assist companies in any problems incurred when doing business in Africa. If you wish to find out more about our translation or interpreting services, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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