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Do They Speak English in Nigeria?

Do They Speak English in Nigeria

Key Takeaways

Official LanguageEnglish
Percentage of SpeakersOver 50% of the population speaks English at varying levels of fluency
Other LanguagesHausa, Igbo, Yoruba, and many more
Reason for English UsageColonial history and need for a unifying language

A Glimpse into Nigeria’s Linguistic Landscape

Nigeria, situated in West Africa, is a country of vast cultural and linguistic diversity. With over 250 ethnic groups, the range of languages spoken is both vast and fascinating. Here, English has emerged as a vital link language, bridging gaps and acting as the country’s official language. Let’s delve into the intricacies of Nigeria’s relationship with English and its impact on the nation’s culture and communication.

History of English in Nigeria

The introduction of English to Nigeria can be traced back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries during the British colonial rule. The British empire’s influence meant that English was introduced as the language of administration, education, and governance.

How Widely is English Spoken?

Contrary to some beliefs, a significant proportion of Nigeria’s population speaks English. While the degree of proficiency may vary, it remains a dominant force in sectors like:

  • Education
  • Business
  • Media
  • Government

According to statistics:

SectorPercentage of English Usage

Regional Languages: The Heart of Nigeria’s Culture

While English serves as a unifying factor, Nigeria’s indigenous languages hold a significant place in the nation’s heart and history. These languages encapsulate the rich tapestry of Nigerian culture and tradition. A few of the major languages include:

  • Hausa: Predominantly spoken in Northern Nigeria.
  • Igbo: Primarily used in the Southeastern regions.
  • Yoruba: Common in the Southwestern areas.

The Multilingual Nigerian

A typical Nigerian is often multilingual, fluent in their regional language, a neighboring regional language, and English. For instance, it’s not uncommon for a Yoruba person from the Southwest to speak fluent Yoruba, have a working knowledge of Hausa, and be proficient in English.

The Impact of English on Nigerian Society

The widespread use of English has led to its infusion in Nigerian society in various ways:

1. Nigerian Pidgin:

This is a creole language that has developed as a blend of English and indigenous Nigerian languages. It serves as a lingua franca, especially in informal settings. Some popular phrases include:

  • “How far?” – How are you?
  • “No wahala” – No problem.
  • “I dey” – I am here.

2. Media and Entertainment:

Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry, often produces movies in English, which facilitates a broader audience reach within and outside Nigeria.

3. Education:

From primary to tertiary levels, the education system predominantly uses English. This ensures that a vast majority of educated Nigerians are fluent in the language.

The Future of English in Nigeria

With globalization on the rise, the importance of English in Nigeria is only set to grow. As Nigeria continues to interact with the global community in areas such as business, technology, and education, English will remain a key asset. Moreover, the digital age has further integrated English into the lives of Nigerians, especially the youth.

However, while English continues to grow in prominence, there’s a pressing need to preserve Nigeria’s indigenous languages. Organizations and cultural groups are working to promote these languages to ensure they aren’t lost to future generations.


In conclusion, while Nigeria is a hub of linguistic diversity, English stands tall as the official language. Whether in the realms of governance, education, or daily interaction, English’s influence is undeniable. Yet, the heart of Nigeria beats strongly in its indigenous languages, preserving the country’s rich heritage and culture.