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What Language Do They Speak in South Sudan?

What Language Do They Speak in South Sudan

Key Takeaways

Official Language:English
Major Indigenous Languages:Dinka, Nuer, Bari, and many more
Population Speaking English:English proficiency varies; used mostly in official capacities
Language Influences:Indigenous languages, Arab traders, British colonization


South Sudan, which gained its independence from Sudan in 2011, boasts a rich tapestry of cultures, traditions, and languages. As the world’s youngest nation, it has a unique linguistic profile that reflects its diverse ethnic communities. This article delves into the intricate linguistic landscape of South Sudan, offering insights into its official language, major indigenous languages, and historical influences.

Official Language: English

In the wake of its independence, South Sudan chose English as its official language. This decision aimed at unifying its diverse population and distancing itself from its northern neighbor, Sudan, where Arabic holds prominence.

English Usage in South Sudan:

  • Education: English is the medium of instruction in most schools. This policy seeks to equip students with proficiency in a globally recognized language, facilitating both local governance and international interactions.
  • Government: All official documents, legislative proceedings, and bureaucratic communications are conducted in English.
  • Media: Newspapers, television broadcasts, and radio shows also often use English, especially when targeting a national or international audience.

While English holds an official status, it’s worth noting that the general populace might not always be fluent. Many South Sudanese people primarily communicate in their indigenous languages, resorting to English primarily for formal purposes.

Major Indigenous Languages

South Sudan is home to a plethora of indigenous languages, reflecting its diverse ethnic makeup. Let’s dive into some of the major ones:


LanguageEthnic Group
BariPojulu, Kakwa, Mundari, etc.

1. Dinka

Dinka is the most spoken indigenous language in South Sudan. It’s primarily spoken by the Dinka ethnic group, which forms the largest community in the country. The language has several dialects, which sometimes vary considerably from one region to another.

2. Nuer

Nuer is the second most spoken language. Like Dinka, it too has various dialects, reflecting the different clans within the Nuer community.

3. Bari

The Bari language is spoken by several ethnic groups like Pojulu, Kakwa, and Mundari. These groups, though distinct, share many cultural and linguistic traits.

4. Others

South Sudan houses many other languages and dialects, each corresponding to a specific ethnic group or community. Some of these languages have a limited number of speakers, making them vulnerable to extinction.

Historical Language Influences

The languages spoken in South Sudan have been shaped by its rich history, peppered with interactions, migrations, and colonizations. Here’s a brief look:

  1. Indigenous Interactions: Over centuries, various tribes and communities in South Sudan interacted, traded, and sometimes intermarried. This intermingling led to some level of linguistic exchange and borrowing.
  2. Arab Traders: Before colonization, Arab traders frequented the region, introducing Arabic words and influencing some local dialects.
  3. British Colonization: The British colonial era brought English to Sudan (including present-day South Sudan). Post-independence, South Sudan retained English as its official language, indicative of the British legacy.


South Sudan’s linguistic profile is as diverse as its ethnic makeup. While English serves as a unifying medium on an official level, the heartbeats of its communities are the myriad indigenous languages. These languages not only facilitate communication but also carry the tales, histories, and identities of the nation’s many communities. As South Sudan continues to evolve, one can only hope that it preserves and cherishes this rich linguistic heritage.

Note: Engaging with locals in their indigenous language or dialect can offer a richer and more authentic experience for those looking to immerse themselves in South Sudan’s culture. If planning a visit, consider learning a few basic phrases; it’s always appreciated!