Most of the languages spoken in Gambia belong to the
language family of the Atlantic or Congo branches. There are at least
10 languages spoken in
Gambia by the various ethnic groups. Apart from English which is the official language spoken in
schools and public offices there is also
Wolof, Serer-Sine, Sarahole, Pulaar, Maninkakan,
Mandjaque, Mandingo, Jola-Fonyi and the
Aku's Creole (pidgin English).
They are further broken down into various dialects such as Fana Fana
of Saloum for the Wollof speakers.
Before the arrival of the Europeans
none of the ethnic languages were written as they were in purely oral
Most people are in fact multi-lingual in that the
majority can speak their own tribal tongue, a second language as well
as English. Wollof represents the lingua franca for the west coast
Kombo area while Mandinka is dominant in the up-river divisions and
particularly in the Kombos they are interspersed with English, Arabic
or French words and
(Gambian English) refers to the Gambian expressions that sound
somewhat odd to native English-speaking ears, a result of translation
from native languages. Some examples include “finished,” “I’m coming”
(when leaving), “I am having 2 dalasi,” and “moves with.”
"He" and "She"
Often mistakenly used interchangeably by Gambians
with less than flawless English skills. Wolof and
Mandinka both use
the same pronoun for both sexes.
Because of it proximity to Senegal you will also find people fairly
fluent in French along the Gambia's border regions as well as in
West Africa is among the most linguistically diverse areas on earth
and this is due primarily to the movements of peoples over the
centuries. This diversity is evident when you listen to Radio Gambia
which broadcasts its news in 5 different local languages!