The Republic of Gambia is a West African country surrounded almost entirely by Senegal except for the coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. It is located on the either side of the Gambia River. Gambia is the smallest country in the mainland Africa, covering an area of 4,127 square miles. It has a population of approximately 1.9 million people, belonging to a variety of ethnic groups. Each of the ethnic groups in the Gambia has their own language and tradition. The largest ethnic group is the Mandinka, followed by Fula, Wolof, and Jola. There are several languages spoken in the Gambia, with Mandingo being the popular language. Other languages include English, Fula, Serer, and Jola.
The Official Language Of The Gambia
English is the official language of the Gambia. Like most of the former British colonies, the Gambia retained the language of the colonialists. English was introduced during the colonial period and has been sustained even in the post-colonial period, being the primary language of instruction in schools. It is also used in businesses and commerce. However, English is only spoken as a first language by about 1,000 Gambians while 40,000 people speak it as a second language. Given that the country has a population of about 1.9 million people, English is clearly overshadowed by the indigenous languages.
The Most Popular Languages Of The Gambia
Mandingo is the most popular language in the Gambia, spoken as a first language by over 38% of the country’s population. It is the principal language of the Gambia and spoken mainly by the Mandinka people. Mandingo is a Mende language belonging to the Manding branch and similar to Bambara. It is also recognized as a minority language in Senegal, Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso. Since it is spoken in many different countries, there are many different dialects of Mandingo, with some of the dialects completely different from each other. Mandinka language is commonly used in informal conversations. However, in areas dominated by the Mandinka people, it is the primary language of communication, including in public functions.
Fula is spoken as a first language by 21% of the Gambian population. It has a variety of dialects spoken in over 20 countries in West and Central Africa. The Fula language belongs to the Senegambia branch of the Niger-Congo languages. It is the first language of the Fula people and spoken as a second language by the various people in Gambia. The Fula people refer to the language as Pular or Pulaar. The Fula language has no official recognition in the Gambia but it is recognized as one of the country’s major languages.
Wolof language is spoken by 18% of the population of the Gambia as a first language. It is mainly spoken by the Wolof people. Wolof also belongs to the Senegambian branch and originated as a language of the Lebu people. The Wolof dialects vary geographically and between rural and urban regions. About 75% of the population of Banjul, the Gambia’s capital, uses Wolof as the first language. In Serekunde, the largest town in Gambia, 70% of the population speak and/or understand the language despite the small number of ethnic Wolof in the town. Like Mandingo and Fula, Wolof is not used in formal education.