How many languages are spoken in Africa? That’s a tricky question—not even linguists know. It depends on how you define a language. But suffice it to say it’s a lot—2,000 is a good estimate. Most languages in Africa belong to the expansive Niger–Congo language family, spoken across most of sub-Saharan Africa, encompassing the massive Bantu language family that accounts for much of the southern half of the African continent. But not all African languages come from this family. Another influential group of languages—the Songhay languages—hail from the Nilo–Saharan family.
The Songhay languages, spoken along the Niger River primarily in Niger and Mali, have well over 4 million speakers collectively, making them an important group of languages in the region. The group may also be called Songhai or Ayneha—the native name of the languages and people. The Songhay languages are unrelated to the languages that surround them in Niger and Mali but are nonetheless used as lingua francas in the Timbuktu, Niamey, and Gao areas, offering them protection against language endangerment. Of course, though, the presence of larger languages, such as French or Hausa, still pose a threat. Since not many translation companies offer services for the Songhay languages, we’re proud to launch our brand-new Songhay translation team.
You can see a quote for our Songhay languages translation services if you send us a message requesting one.
A bit more information on the Songhay languages
While the Songhay languages are generally considered to belong to the Nilo–Saharan language family, some linguists cast doubt on the classification, instead suggesting that they form their own, independent family. If they are part of the Nilo–Saharan family, they’re geographically far removed from the rest of the family centered around Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Uganda, and Kenya. There are 11 main Songhay languages, which we’ve listed here:
Zarma (Djerma, Dyabarma, Dyarma, Dyerma, Adzerma, Zabarma, Zarbarma, Zarmaci, Zerma)
Songhoyboro Ciine (Songhay Ciiné)
Koyraboro Senni (Koroboro Senni, Koyra Senni, Gao Senni)
Koyra Chiini (Western Songhay)
Tadaksahak (Daoussahak, Dausahaq)
Humburi Senni (Central Songhay)
Tondi Songway Kiini
Zarma dominates the group with around 3.6 million speakers, spoken widely in southwestern Niger and constituting the second-most widely spoken language in the country. Songhoyboro Ciine, spoken to the west of Zarma but still in Niger, has almost 1 million speakers. Koyraboro Senni is next with around 430,000 speakers and has been adopted by the Mali government for use in the primary education system. Koyra Chiini, spoken in the west of Mali, is the lingua franca in Timbuktu, tying together the minority Arabic, Tamasheq, and Fula speakers.
Regarding grammar, Songhay languages tend to be tonal and use a word order of subject-object-verb, the sole exception being Koyra Chiini, which is non-tonal and uses subject-verb-object instead. Zarma features inflection for both definite (“the”) and indefinite (“a/an”) articles in addition to the demonstrative (“this/that”). Verbs in the language do not have tenses—instead, speakers use aspect (whether an action is completed, ongoing, etc.) to express the idea of tense.
Our Songhay languages translation services cover all sorts of translation domains.
We wanted to make sure the Songhay languages were well-served on our translation team, so we carefully searched for the top translators in Zarma, Songhoyboro Ciine, Koyraboro Senni, Koyra Chiini, and other other Songhay languages. The result is a well-rounded team of passionate translators of Songhay languages, ready to help with all kinds of translation projects, such as…
Business translation. With Songhay languages used as the lingua franca of various parts of Niger and Mali, they’re important for organizations eying a presence in the region. With translation of your promotional materials and internal documents into the local Songhay language, you can connect with both customers and employees. Local Songhay businesses looking to expand—we can also help you by translating your documents from a Songhay language into English!
Academic translation. The pursuit of knowledge is important in any language. Our team of academic translators for Songhay languages are ready to help both Songhay and international scholars communicate smoothly even in tricky, technical subjects with crisp, clean translation. Regardless of the subject or Songhay language, turn to us.
Literary translation. Let us help you tell Songhay stories to the rest of the world! Whether it’s a traditional tale or a modern novel, our translators are eager to smoothly translate literature in Songhay languages into English. Similarly, we’re passionate about translating literary and digital media into Songhay languages—that includes novels, poems, websites, apps, and games!
If you want translation services to or from a Songhay language, don’t hesitate—reach out!