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What Language Do They Speak in Nigeria?

What Language Do They Speak in Nigeria

Key Takeaways:

Official LanguageEnglish
Number of Local LanguagesOver 520
Most Spoken Local LanguagesHausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Kanuri, Ibibio
Language of Business and GovernmentEnglish
Percentage of English SpeakersOver 50%


Nigeria, often referred to as the “Giant of Africa”, is not only known for its diverse culture and rich history but also for its linguistic diversity. With over 520 local languages spoken across its vast territories, Nigeria is a melting pot of cultures and traditions. In this article, we will delve deep into the linguistic landscape of Nigeria and explore the major languages spoken in this vibrant African nation.

Official Language: English

While Nigeria is home to hundreds of local languages, its official language is English. This is a result of the country’s colonial history with the British Empire. English is used in:

  • Government documents and proceedings
  • Legal systems
  • Education
  • Media and news
  • Business and trade

Despite being the official language, not everyone in Nigeria speaks English. However, over 50% of the population has a working knowledge of it, especially in urban areas.

Major Local Languages

Nigeria’s linguistic richness can be attributed to its major ethnic groups. Let’s explore some of the most widely spoken local languages:

  1. Hausa: Predominantly spoken in the northern parts of Nigeria by the Hausa people. It serves as a lingua franca for many northern states.
  2. Yoruba: Spoken by the Yoruba people in the southwestern parts of Nigeria. Cities like Lagos, Ibadan, and Abeokuta are major Yoruba-speaking hubs.
  3. Igbo: The primary language of the Igbo people in the southeastern region of Nigeria. Cities like Enugu, Onitsha, and Owerri are major centers for Igbo culture and language.
  4. Kanuri: Spoken mainly in the northeastern parts of Nigeria, especially in states like Borno and Yobe.
  5. Ibibio: Predominantly spoken in the Akwa Ibom State in the south of Nigeria.

Linguistic Distribution by Region

RegionPredominant Language
South WestYoruba
South EastIgbo
North EastKanuri

The Role of Pidgin

Apart from standard English and the local languages, Nigerian Pidgin plays a significant role in everyday communication, especially in informal settings. Pidgin is a creole language that has its roots in English but has been heavily influenced by local Nigerian languages. Here are some interesting facts about Nigerian Pidgin:

  • Often used in music, movies, and street-level business transactions.
  • Acts as a bridge between multiple ethnic groups.
  • Continuously evolving, with new words and phrases added regularly.

Challenges and Preservation of Local Languages

With the widespread use of English and Pidgin, many local Nigerian languages are facing challenges. Some of the smaller languages are even on the brink of extinction. However, efforts are being made to preserve these linguistic treasures:

  • Education: Some states in Nigeria have incorporated local languages into their school curriculum.
  • Media: Local language radio and TV stations play a pivotal role in promoting regional languages.
  • Literature: Many authors are choosing to write in their native languages, thus preserving the linguistic heritage.


Nigeria, with its vast linguistic diversity, offers a unique blend of cultures and traditions. While English remains the official language, the heart of Nigeria beats in its myriad of local languages, each telling its own tale of the nation’s rich history and cultural heritage.