What Are The Niger-Congo Languages?

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If there is one thing that should be constant in life is our learning process. There is so much to learn about our world and never enough time. But if we focus on a new topic every other day and read up on it, we can get to know the world and the people who live in it a little better. Getting to know the people of the planet and their lifestyle helps us get close to them. Our world today is divided in many ways. And if we stayed like this, hating on each other, we will drive ourselves to destruction. One way to learn about people is by studying their culture and languages.

What are the Niger-Congo Languages?

Most of us don’t know much about the world’s second largely populated continent and its population. You might be able to name a few African countries but you wouldn’t know anything about their culture and languages. Most people only have assumptions about the Africans, which are mostly wrong. These incorrect assumptions create divide but learning the truth can help us form new opinions about people.

The world’s biggest language family is the Niger-Congo with over fifteen hundred tongues. It is spoken widely in Africa. Its branch of Bantu languages is the most well-known group of tongues in the continent. The family as a whole has over 700 million speakers, out of which, half speak Bantu tongues. By number of overall speakers, Swahili is the biggest vernacular of the family. But when we consider only native speakers, Fula, Shona, Yoruba, and Igbo are in the lead. Niger-Congo is known for having the most distinct languages in the world.

Niger-Congo Languages

A lot of tongues in the family are indigenous and tribal. Some of them don’t have a lot of speakers but are the only tongue spoken by tribes. This is how most of the vernaculars of the group have managed to survive. They continue to be important to their native speakers who don’t use other tongues as means of communication and only focus on their primary language.

Here are a few Niger-Congo languages and some interesting facts about them:

  1. Yoruba:

This one is officially recognized in three countries. Out of Benin, Togo, and Nigeria, majority of its speakers can be found in the last one. Its native speakers are estimated to be between 30 to 40 million. It is widely spread out in Western Africa where it is spoken by various communities in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and parts of Europe and Americas. It is pretty influential in the Americas where many of its words made into the religion Candomblé. It used to be written in Arabic but adapted the Latin alphabet later which is still in use today.

  1. Swahili:

This tongue that has only a few million native speakers is very popular in African Great Lakes region. Its total number of speakers is estimated to be above a hundred and fifty million. In East Africa, it is considered a lingua franca. You can go anywhere in the region and communicate with people easily as long as you can speak Swahili.

A very interesting thing about Swahili is the Arabic influence on it. There are a few similar words in the two tongues. Mostly these words were adopted by Swahili. But with time, and because of the different grammar of Swahili, it is slowly becoming different from Arabic.

  1. Igbo:

This Niger-Congo member is the language of ethnic group known as the Igbo people. They live in the southeastern part of Nigeria. But the tongue is also spoken in other countries including Brazil, USA, Bahamas, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. The number of native speakers is estimated to be 27 million. An interesting thing about Igbo is that it is divided in twenty dialects. But lately, the differences between the dialects have been reducing and they are becoming closer to each other. It is expected that they will become more or less similar in the near future.

Why the World Doesn’t Talk About the Niger-Congo Family?

Niger-Congo Languages

Although the family has a few famous languages in its ranks, its divisions have yet to be verified. The connection between some members of the family has not been fully established. That has reduced the overall validity of the family. This is why linguists are never satisfied with this classification but they use it for convenience since there is no other option available. Studies are still being carried out so we can learn the truth about this family and whether or not it is a valid system.

However, the validity of the group does not affect the speakers of the languages in anyway. They continue to speak their tongue on daily basis and don’t care whether it is a part of a family or not. Which is why it is important for everyone to value the languages and their speakers. Translation industry should be considerate of these people and offer support for them. A lot of agencies don’t offer their services for Niger-Congo tongues but the ones who value their clients and want to help people, do hire native speaker of these languages and provide quality assistance to anyone who needs it.

So, if you are having trouble finding translation services for a language, there is no need to worry. Get in touch with the best agencies in the field and they will be able to help you out.

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