The Central African Republic (CAR) recognizes 2 official languages: French and Sangho. The French language belongs to the Indo-European language family and uses the same Latin alphabet as English. It is the language of colonialism and is most often used by government agencies. The Sangho language is an African-based creole language, which makes the CAR one of the only countries to officially recognize an African language. Most linguists believe it belongs to the Northern Ngbandi language family. Written Sangho utilizes a 22-letter alphabet with Latin-based letters.

Although French is the language of government communication, researchers report that less than one-quarter of the population can speak this language. As of 2005, that percentage was at 22.5%. Sangho, however, is the primary language in the CAR. It is used as the language of business and is spoken by around 92% of the population. Estimates report that all of the children (under 18 years of age) in Bangui, the capital, speak Sangho as a native language.

Given that Sangho is the most widely spoken language in this country, learning a few Sangho phrases is highly recommended for anyone planning a trip to the CAR. Saying hello at any time of the day is expressed by saying, “balao”. Other useful phrases include: singili mingi (thank you very much), hein (yes), hein hein (no), and na peko ma (see you soon). Being familiar with French may also come in handy, particularly if traveling in the capital region.

In addition to Sangho and French, approximately 70 other languages are spoken in this country. Most of these languages are native to the CAR and make up part of the Ubangian language family. In the northern areas, however, the majority languages tend to belong to the Bongo-Bagirmi language family. Near the southern border, Bantu minority languages are slightly more common. American Sign Language is one of the few non-indigenous, minority languages that is utilized here.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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