Society

What Languages are Spoken in Somalia?

Somali and Arabic are the two official languages spoken in Somalia.

The Official Languages of Somalia

Somali

Somali is the official language of Somalia. It is spoken by the Somali people, the largest ethnic group living in the country. The Somali language is an Afro-Asiatic language that belongs to the Cushitic branch of languages. The Saho and the Afar languages are its closest relatives. As of 2006, Somalia houses about 8.3 million of the 16.6 million speakers of Somali.

There are three main dialect groups of the Somali language. Northern Somali is the closest to Standard Somali. Coastal Somali, also known as Benadir, is spoken in Somalia’s coastal region of Benadir. The Maay dialect group of Somali is spoken by the Mirifle and Digil clans in parts of southern Somalia.

Arabic

Arabic is also one of the official national languages spoken in Somalia. The language is spoken by many Somalis. The importance of the Arabic language in Somalia is due to the age-old cultural and ethnic connections between the Arab world and the Somalis. Since Islam is the dominant language of Somalia, Arabic also occupies a major role in religious studies conducted in the country. The Somali languages also use lexical borrowings from Arabic. There are about 1,436 Arabic loanwords in a major Somali dictionary.

Foreign Languages Spoken in Somalia

English is the most popular foreign language in Somalia. It is taught in many schools across the country. Although Italian was the official language spoken in Italian Somaliland, after the independence of Somalia, the use of the Italian language in the country has greatly decreased.

Minority Languages Spoken in Somalia

Bravanese

Also known as the Chimwiini, the language is a Swahili patwa variant that is spoken by Somalia’s Bravanese people. These people live mainly in Barawa, in the southern coast of Somalia.

Kibajuni

Also known as Bajuni, the language is spoken by the Bajuni people living in southern Somalia. The language is a variety of Swahili.

Mushunguli

The language is spoken by about 23,000 members of the Bantu ethnic group living in southern Somalia.

Somali Sign Language

The Somali Sign Language is spoken by Somalia’s deaf community.

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