The Republic of the Congo is located in Central Africa, bordering Gabon, Cameroon, Central Africa, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The country is sparsely populated, with the majority of the people living in the southwestern portion of the country. The vast northern area is a tropical jungle, virtually uninhabited. Congo is one of the most urbanized countries in Africa, as about 70% of the country’s population lives in urban areas, including the capital, Brazzaville. The population of Congo is ethnically and linguistically diverse, with 62 languages divided into three groups.
Official Language of the Republic of the Congo
French is the official language of the Congo, while Kituba and Lingala are the country's national languages. About 30% of the Congolese population can fluently speak French. French is widely spoken in the European community and among African elites. However, the African elites rarely speak French in their homes. The majority of the French speakers in Congo (88%) live in the urban area of Brazzaville. French is used as the medium of instruction in schools and other educational facilities throughout the country. It is also taught as a subject as part of the school curriculum. French is also used as the language of communication by the government, as the government is patterned by the French system. While French remains highly prestigious, it appears that ethnic and trade languages of the country have a wider use than French.
Almost every ethnic and sub-ethnic group in Congo has retained their traditional languages. The largest ethnic language in the Republic of the Congo is Kituba. Kituba is mainly spoken as a primary language in the southern half of the country, in regions such as Kouilou, Niari, Pool, and Brazzaville. It is also a national language and is spoken by over 50.35% of the Congolese population. It is a language of regional administration and elementary education in some schools in these regions.
Lingala is mainly spoken in the northern and eastern regions of the Congo. It was especially used as a means of communication between the European settlers and the African community living in the country. It is widely used in trade, administration, and educational training. The tone and structure of Lingala language spoken in the country exhibit a Bantu influence. It is based on some of the local languages including Bangi, Mango, and Losengo. The Lingala language spoken in Congo is divided into several dialects and variations. These include standard Lingala, which is used in educational and news broadcasting, and spoken Lingala, used in everyday activities. Lingala is considered the fastest growing language in the Republic of the Congo, with the majority of the ethnic groups choosing it as a second language.
There are about 60 other distinct minor languages spoken in Congo. Some of the notable minor languages in the country include the Kiteke language, spoken mainly by the Bateke people. The Batekes accounts for about 18% of the Congo’s population, and mostly inhabit the Plateau Department. Kiteke belongs to the Bantu language family. Other languages include Akwa, Beembe, Koongo, Likuba, and Baganda. There are over 100 ethnic groups in Congo,and nearly every ethnic group speaks a language of their own.
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