of the languages spoken in Gambia belong to the Niger-Congo
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 form.
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 phrases.
(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.”
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 Basse
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!