Burkina Faso is considered a multilingual nation with estimates putting the number of living languages in the country at over 70; 66 of these are indigenous to Burkina Faso. The official language of Burkina Faso is French which has been considered the formal method of communication in the country since the 1919 French colonization. French remains the primary language of education, government, the mass media, and public services as well as standing alone as the only language in which administration of the court system and laws is possible. Although less than 15% of the country uses French on a daily basis, many citizens support the continued use of French as the diplomatic, education, governmental, and principal language of media.

The most common language in the nation is the Mossi language. Roughly 40% of the population use Mossi as their primary tongue. This language is most prevalent in the Centre Region which is also the most populous area and contains the capital city Ouagadougou as well as being a common language in the neighboring countries of Ghana, Mali, and Togo. There are approximately 7.5 million ethnic Mossi in the country today. As mentioned earlier, French is the official language. However, only 15% of citizens use it day-to-day. Many citizens know the language, but prefer to speak their native language while at home.

The phrase "Laafi bala?", means how are you? in the Mossi language, which has a similar pronunciation to other West African languages. "Mam yita England" is the way to say "I am from England", with the last word of the sentence able to be substituted for any other country. If the Mossi language is a little too hard to pick-up, the phrase "mam pa wumd ye", means "I do not understand". French phrases such as “bonjour”, and “merci”, meaning hello and thank you, are also commonly heard throughout the country.

Minority languages in Burkina Faso are plentiful, and there are roughly 70 languages within the nation. The Mande language is spoken by almost 3% of the population of Burkina Faso, mostly in the Bissa region, this language has three main dialects, Barka, Lebir, and Lere. Other minority languages include Gur, Bobo, and Samo, all of which are spoken almost exclusively in their home regions. Many Burkinians speak French as a second language or will have a working knowledge which makes French a useful language to know in the country.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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