What Language Do They Speak In Ivory Coast: Expert Tell You

The article explores the official and native languages of Ivory Coast, as well as the linguistic influences and efforts to preserve diversity in the country. Ivory Coast's language landscape is diverse and reflects its rich history.

The Official Language of Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast’s official language is French.It is used in administration, education, media and commerce. French is spoken as a first language by 10% to 15% of the population,[[1]] and as a lingua franca by 80% to 85% of the population. The spread of French dates back to ivory coast’s* colonization by France from 1893 to 1960.
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ivory coast, ivorian landscape, lone road going to mountains
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Uncovering the Native Languages of Ivory Coast

Alongside French, there are around 70 native languages spoken in ivory coast, belonging to three main language families:

  • Niger-Congo family – includes the largest number of languages like Baoule, Bete and Anyi.

  • Kwa family – contains Akan languages like Twi and Anyin.

  • Mande family – comprises of Manding languages like Dyula and Mandingo.

The most spoken native languages in ivory coast are:

  • Baoule – spoken by 18.3% of the population as their native language.

  • Dioula – used by 14.8% of the population.

  • Dan – the native language of 12.8% of residents.

  • Senoufo – spoken natively by 8.5% of Ivorians.

The remaining native languages are primarily spoken by small village communities. Nevertheless, the government recognizes their importance in preserving the cultural heritage and linguistic diversity of ivory coast

ivory coast, ivorian landscape, waterfalls at daytime
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Languages Influenced by Ivory Coast’s History

The linguistic diversity of ivory coast has been shaped by two major forces in its history: colonialism and migration.

With the colonization of ivory coast by France from 1893 to 1960, French was introduced and eventually became the sole official language after independence in 1960. French now dominates the government, education system and media.

Waves of migration over the centuries have also contributed languages to the mix. Immigrants speaking Mande languages like Dyula and Manding entered ivory coast from neighboring West African countries in search of jobs on cocoa and coffee plantations.

For instance, people speaking Dyula – mainly from Mali and Burkina Faso – now comprise the second largest language group in ivory coast after Baoule.

In summary, the linguistic situation in ivory coast is a product of:

Despite the dominance of French, efforts are being made to preserve native languages that carry the historical and cultural identity of different communities living in ivory coast.

ivory coast, french, hang pink flower on white concrete building at daytime
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Promoting Linguistic Preservation and Diversity in Ivory Coast

Despite French being the dominant language, the government of ivory coast recognizes the importance of preserving the nation’s native languages and promoting multilingualism. Several efforts have been made in this regard:

Education

  • Native languages are taught as subjects in primary and secondary schools. This helps students develop pride in their cultural heritages and identities.

  • Some universities also offer courses related to Africa’s linguistic diversity.

Media

  • State radio and television channels broadcast programs in select native languages to reach non-French speakers, especially in rural areas.

  • Private media organizations also produce newspapers, programs and websites in native tongues.

Cultural organizations

  • Associations devoted to specific native languages organize events, festivals and competitions to celebrate their cultural traditions and promote interethnic relations.

  • The government provides funding and support to such cultural groups.

Despite these efforts, challenges remain in fully preserving native languages due to factors like urban migration, growing use of French in public domains and insufficient financial resources. Experts recommend:

  • Increasing native language teaching in schools, especially at primary level

  • Providing more government support to cultural organizations

  • Developing native language media content in both traditional and digital formats

Still, the current policies indicate the government’s willingness to balance linguistic unity and diversity – recognizing French as the common national language while celebrating the nation’s multilingual heritage.

ivory coast, french, white and black labeled bottles
Photo by Sigmund / Unsplash

More Helpful Guide

Frequently Asked Question

What is Ivory Coast known for?

Ivory Coast is known for its production of cocoa, coffee, and palm oil. The country is the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans.

What currencies are used in Ivory Coast?

The currency is the West African CFA franc (XOF).

What are the largest cities in Ivory Coast?

Largest cities are Abidjan, Bouaké, Daloa, Korhogo, San-Pédro, and Yamoussoukro.

What natural resources does Ivory Coast have?

Natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, diamonds, manganese, iron ore, cobalt, bauxite, copper, gold, and hydropower.

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