The official language of Benin is French but there are a total of 50 indigenous languages that are also considered national dialects. American Sign Language is also an official means of communication in Benin. Of the native Beninese languages, the most prevalent in the south are Fon and Yoruba. In the northern part of the country, there are half a dozen common languages including Bariba and Fulfulde. French is used in the commercial, educational, governmental, and media sectors in Benin.
Approximately 35% of the population of Benin speak French as a native language which equates to roughly 4 million people. The language is considered prestigious in the country and many who seek employment in the cities of Benin learn French in order to improve their chances of gaining a job. All print media in Benin is in French and the language connects the citizens of the country through one common dialect. A large proportion of the population will learn multiple languages and are known as polyglots.
Hello, written as "bonjour" and pronounced as "bon-jour" is a very common greeting in any society that speaks French. "Merci" is also an easy word to learn and it means thank-you. "Parlez-vous anglais?" is a helpful phrase to politely ask "do you speak English?".
Minority languages in the country are vast but the most spoken is Fon which belongs to the Volta-Niger branch of the Niger-Congo language family. Almost one-quarter of the population of Benin speak Fon with 17% speaking it as their first language. Fon is spoken mainly in the Atlantique, Collines, Littoral, and Zou regions of the country. Other minority languages include Bariba, Dendi, Mina, and Yoruba but there are many more indigenous languages that survive in Benin to this day.
This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018
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