While English and Arabic number among the most common languages spoken in Africa — with French taking up big chucks of linguist real estate as well — Swahili (a Bantu language) and Amharic (a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia) boast some pretty substantial numbers that shouldn’t be ignored either. Businesses seeking to expand operations and commercial outreach in Sub-Saharan Africa need to focus on European languages and Arabic when it comes to translations, of course. But African translation services that also focus on indigenous African languages can give a business a competitive edge — and access to millions of additional potential customers.
African Translation Services across a Vast Continent
Five of the most common indigenous African languages are Swahili (also known as Kiswahili), Hausa, Amharic, Oromo and Yoruba. As you can probably imagine, these languages are as diverse as the continent itself, which is why African translation services specializing in this part of the world need to take geography, regional dialects, linguistic politics and varying lexicon into account.
For example, Oromo, spoken by well over 45 million people (mostly in Ethiopia, Somalia and parts of Kenya) has quite a few different dialects, many of which aren’t mutually intelligible. The politics that surround Oromo education in schools, what alphabet to use, and a few other thorny cultural and language issues are fairly complex. This is why a business translation service specializing in the multifaceted nuances of African languages and dialects, like GlobalVision does, is important to liaise with before your company decides to venture into new territory.
The numbers of people speaking native African languages, combined with Africa’s incredible growth, point to the importance of concentrating on indigenous languages, and the communities speaking those languages. Swahili, used in Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Rwanda, Burundi and more, claims around 100 million speakers (estimates vary), although many only speak it as a second language to communicate with others in. Hausa, prevalent in Chad, Niger and Nigeria, can count around 44 million souls, with well over 30 million native speakers. Ethiopia’s Amharic language has more than 25 million speakers. Around 22 million Africans communicate in the tonal language of the Yoruba people (Nigeria and Benin).
Business Translation, Commercial Opportunities, and African Demography
While countries in Europe, Japan, and other regions are experiencing population declines, Africa is set to boom. The continent’s population, which is just over 1 billion now, is projected by the United Nations and other organizations to double by 2050. Population growth of this kind will present many challenges (access to resources, jobs, competing ideas and interests), but will also create a ton of new commercial opportunities and ventures for a continent of diverse people looking for a better life — and partners to work with.
Language services, from marketing translations and business translation services to translating webpages, software, product labels, product directions and beyond, will all play a part as Africa grows over the next few years, and decades. GlobalVision — and its premium African translation services — can help any company operating in Africa reach as many people as it possibly can, in as many ways as it can.
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