What Is The Oldest African Language?

What Is The Oldest African Language?
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History of Humans

There is nothing more interesting than the origin stories. If you met someone this year and became friends, you would only know them a bit. But if you had known them since they were a child, you also know what brought them to the place they are at today. Understanding people’s motives, behaviors, and actions becomes more accessible when we know their past.  The languages spoken today belong to different language families, and their origins date back thousands of years ago. This is why we study the history of humans, to understand ourselves in a better way. Our ancestors learned from their mistakes, but they also forwarded that information to us. Some societies avoid talking about a particular topic or starting a war. Their ancestors saw what was wrong with the world and told them not to go down a specific path. No matter what you want to learn about the world, studying, history can help you a lot. Chinese dominates the modern stage of human language.

What is the Oldest African Language?

The world may have more than seven thousand languages today, but they all started somewhere? If you look up the families of languages, you will see that they originated from ancient tongues whose names are not known to us. So, it is fair that the spoken word has been around for a long time. But that doesn’t mean we cannot conduct a study of languages and get to understand them a bit better. If we begin to study ancient vernaculars and notice the changes they went through, we can develop an understanding of how human influence works on things. Did you know that Lithuanian forms a part of the group of the Indo-European language, which gave birth to various modern languages like German, Italian, and English?

About Africa

Africa is a very diverse continent, which is understandable since it is the second-most populous place on Earth. It is known for the many tribes that live in it and dominate its culture. Various customs and traditions are celebrated in the second-largest continent. The number of languages spoken in Africa is also pretty high. A lot of tribal languages are spoken there. This is why linguists often take a great deal of interest in the tongues spoken in Africa. Not only do they want to understand the diverse vernaculars of the region but also observe the effects of tribal life on those tongues. Africa is known for being home to some of the ancient languages in the world.

Although it is hard to be confident that a particular language spoken in Africa was the oldest, many people agree on the name of Ancient Egyptian. The name of the Khoisan languages also shows up often during such discussions.
Oldest African Language

Diversity in Africa:

Our world is beautiful because of its diversity. But the diversity of culture and language is on another level in Africa. The continent is home to 3000 ethnic groups. All of these groups have their unique cultures. Some of them follow an ancient religion, while others have centuries-old traditions. But these groups also have their languages. Even if we exclude dialects, 2100 languages are spoken in Africa by different ethnic groups. There are 11 official languages in South Africa, which proves that the continent and all of its countries are diverse. But this diversity is not something that happened overnight. Africa has a fascinating history.

Origin of the First Humans:

Some two million years ago, the first humans emerged in Africa. This was long before modern humans came into existence. But the, modern humans, which are today known as Homo Sapiens, also appeared in Africa. This proves that Africa was the first home of humans. As time passed, people moved to different regions of the continent. They developed new traditions and customs. This is how the population of the African continent became so diverse. Each ethnic tribe on the continent has its unique customs and traditions that make them different from the others.

Languages of Africa:

Since the first humans appeared in Africa, the first language also developed on this continent. This is why multiple oldest African languages have been around for a long time. Many of these languages are not spoken on the mainland anymore. But the ones spoken by Africans today are just as unique and fascinating. Languages from six significant families are spoken by Africans. Along with that, many sign languages are also used on the continent. Here are the most popular African languages of today:

  • Swahili:

The most spoken language on the continent of Africa today is Swahili. It is the native language of the Bantu group known as the Swahili people. It is spoken in over ten African countries and has more than 100 million native speakers. Almost 20% of the vocabulary of Swahili consists of loanwords that have been taken from various tongues, including Arabic, Hindustani, and Persian. Swahili can be written in both Latin and Arabic scripts. It is also a popular second language in various African states. Swahili is also an ancient language that has survived in the modern world.

  • Afrikaans:

Afrikaans is one of the official languages/national language of South Africa. It belongs to the West Germanic branch of the Indo-European family. It evolved from the variety of Dutch, which was spoken by Dutch settlers in South Africa. Slowly the Dutch language got mixed with regional dialects and turned into Afrikaans. Due to this reason, it is known as the daughter language of Dutch. In written form, the two are mutually intelligible to a great extent. Afrikaans is also spoken in Namibia. It has 7.2 million native speakers, but it is also spoken by over 10 million people as their second language.

  • Amharic:

Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia. The Amharas are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. Amharic is the first language of the Amharas. Since Ethiopia is a multilinguistic country, Amharic works as the lingua franca of most of the country’s population. Amharic is a Semitic language, like Arabic. After Arabic, it is the most popular language of the group. The Amharic writing system was derived from the Ge’ez script. Linguists have failed to come up with a universal system of Romanizing Amharic.

  • Yoruba:

Yoruba is a Niger-Congo language that has 50 million native speakers. It is primarily spoken in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo. It is the first language of the Yoruba People, one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. It was previously written in the Arabic script, but the writing system changed. Today, Yoruba is written in a Latin script. Yoruba is known for having multiple dialects. There are five major dialect areas, but clear boundaries cannot be drawn between them.

Ancient Egyptian:

Egypt is regarded as one of the world’s oldest civilizations, and Egyptian Coptic is the country’s oldest indigenous language. Egyptian is still in use today as the Coptic Church’s liturgical language. The reason why this is thought to be the oldest vernacular of Africa is that its complete written sentence, which was discovered, dates back to 2690 BC. A form of this tongue is still used by a limited number of people. The ancient form of this vernacular is something you must have seen in movies or on the internet already. It is most widely known for using limited information to convey a message. In simple words, it completely avoided the use of writing because of the time at which it was developed. What it did use, however, were hieroglyphs. The hieroglyphs writing system was one in which people relied on small images to convey their messages to others.

Oldest African Language

Ancient Egyptian Unique Characters

The fascinating writing system is still around in the form of memes. You can also see it frequently in movies. One exciting thing about Ancient Egyptian is that it had a thousand unique characters. Not only is that something challenging to memorize but also to remember. However, it worked for the Egyptians of the time who kept on using it to talk to each other. There was also a type of cursive hieroglyphs. Knowing the tongue and using it in correspondence proved the efficiency of a person in the old times. Today, not many people know this tongue, but it continues to be fascinating in many ways. This is why it is still being studied by linguists.

Khoisan Languages:

Another ancient tongue from Africa is Khoisan. It is a group of tongues, all of whom share many similarities and hence grouped under the name of Khoisan. This ancient vernacular was spoken by people of the Khoekhoen. But the vernacular has managed to survive even after all this time. A fascinating fact about the speakers of Khoisan is that they were descended from anatomically modern humans. Anatomically close. They came to Egypt a long time ago, probably when they started making their languages for Africa and introduced them to the region.

Since Bantu is a majority tongue in a few African countries, there is always a rivalry between its speakers and those of Khoisan languages. The latter speakers are raising their voices to force the governments to take notice of their vernaculars. They want their tongues to enjoy the same protocol as other vernaculars get. Although so far Khoisan continues to be a minority language which is also not recognized by the state, the reason that it is around should be considered a miracle.

African languages may have been known for their style and ancient history, there is still a lot to be learned about them. And all of this learning can only be accomplished by trying to understand the vernaculars. Since old history is lost to us, it is sadly true that many ancient vernaculars have also reached a point in history where they became unknown and meaningless for the rest of the world.


Most Nigerians speak English as their first language in Nigeria. English is the official language. It is the language spoken on the streets and also the language of education. Consequently, as long as you go to school in Nigeria, you will be able to speak English.

Ghana’s indigenous language Akan is the most extensively spoken and used. Akan is spoken as a native language by around 44 percent of Ghana’s 22 million people. Akan is spoken as a first and second language by approximately 80% of Ghanaians.

The ancient South-Arabic script, which was used indigenously in Ethiopia’s pre-Axumite Kingdoms, particularly D’mt, was the first of the scripts used below the Sahara, with the earliest inscriptions going back to between the 9th and 7th centuries BC, written in Sabaic.

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