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What Language Do They Speak in Togo?

What Language Do They Speak in Togo

In the small West African nation of Togo, the rich tapestry of cultures and ethnicities leads to a variety of languages. With a blend of indigenous tongues and colonial influence, understanding Togo’s linguistic landscape provides a window into its history and diverse cultures.

Key Takeaways

Official LanguageFrench
Main Indigenous LanguagesEwe, Kabiyè, and others
Percentage of French SpeakersApproximately 40% of the population is fluent in French
Lingua FrancaFrench (used for government, business, and education)
Regional VariationsDifferent languages dominate in different regions of the country

The Landscape of Languages in Togo

Togo, nestled in West Africa between Ghana and Benin, is a nation of approximately 8 million people. With this relatively small population comes an unexpected depth and variety of languages.

The Legacy of Colonialism: French in Togo

Togo was once a German protectorate until World War I, after which it became a French colony. Due to French colonization, French is the official language of Togo and serves as the lingua franca for the nation.

EducationFrench is the primary language of instruction in schools.
GovernmentOfficial documents, legislative sessions, and other governmental activities are conducted primarily in French.
MediaNewspapers, television broadcasts, and radio are mainly in French, though there are programs in local languages.

However, while French is widespread, especially in urban areas and among educated populations, not everyone is fluent. It’s estimated that around 40% of Togo’s population can speak French fluently.

Indigenous Languages: The Heart of Togo’s Culture

While French holds an official status, the soul of Togo can be found in its myriad of indigenous languages. There are approximately 40 distinct ethnic groups in Togo, each with its own language or dialect. Two of the most prominent are:

  1. Ewe (pronounced “Eh-veh”): Predominantly spoken in the southern regions of Togo, it’s the native language of the Ewe people. Ewe has a rich tradition of oral stories and music.
  2. Kabiyè: This is predominant in the northern regions of Togo and has its own unique phonetics and structure.

There are also numerous other languages like Mina, Tem, Gourma, and many more, each reflecting a unique cultural heritage and history.

The Regional Diversity

  • South: Dominated by the Ewe language, with pockets of Mina and others.
  • Central: A mix of languages including Kabiyè, Lama, and others.
  • North: Primarily Kabiyè with other languages like Nawdm and Gourma.

The Role of Language in Togo’s Daily Life

Language in Togo is more than just a means of communication. It’s a bridge to the nation’s past, a reflection of its culture, and a testament to its resilience.

Education and Employment

For young Togolese, fluency in French can determine access to higher education and better job opportunities. This is because most formal sectors in Togo, be it in business, government, or services, predominantly operate in French.

Cultural Expressions

Togo’s rich linguistic tapestry is reflected in its arts. Whether it’s the rhythm of Ewe drumming, the tales told in Kabiyè, or the songs sung in Mina, each language brings its own flavor to Togo’s cultural mosaic.

Challenges and Preservation

With globalization and the dominance of French, many of Togo’s indigenous languages are at risk. Efforts are being made to preserve them:

  • Local Radio & TV: Broadcasting in indigenous languages.
  • Cultural Festivals: Celebrating Togo’s diversity and linguistic heritage.
  • Education: Some schools teach in local languages, especially at primary levels.


Togo’s linguistic diversity is a testament to its rich cultural and historical tapestry. From the colonial legacy of French to the deep-rooted traditions of its indigenous languages, Togo offers a fascinating study in linguistic evolution and coexistence. For those interested in African languages and cultures, Togo stands as a captivating destination.