Looking for a new challenge and an entirely different way of seeing the world? Why not learn a new language? What’s that you say? You’re dead-tired of Spanish and German because of your dull high school classes? No worries! Try something totally fresh for a change—try language courses in Africa!
Not many people know this, but the African continent has the richest linguistic diversity in the world, with a whopping 2,000+ languages. Try intensive language programs in Africa to learn any of these tongues. However, the most common of the languages spoken by the over 1 billion people on the land mass include Swahili, Yoruba, Zulu, Igbo, Afrikaans, and Hausa. The African language family also includes colonial tongues like Portuguese and French as well as Arabic and English.
Language courses in Africa run the gamut of short-term intensive programs, university classes, or even homestay options, where you truly immerse yourself in the language environment. You can sign up with language schools in Cape Town or learn Swahili, Tanzania-style.
Whatever you choose, we have some guidance for you. Our meaningful travel community predicts the 10 hottest countries to learn an African language in 2018!
Although Arabic is the most commonly spoken language in Morocco, French comes a close second. Learning these languages will help you understand the country’s checkered past underscored with indigenous Berber, Middle Eastern, and West European influences. Test those newly minted skills while bargaining for goods in souks scattered in cities like Fez and Rabat. If you’re after more intensive language programs in Africa, stay in riads (guest houses) in Meknes for fewer tourist touts and less hassle.
Recommended program: Learn Arabic in Morocco with Qalam wa Lawh
When it comes to language schools in Africa, this East African nation definitely comes out on top. Keep it 💯 while studying the most marketable languages on the continent (Swahili!) or tackle the more indigenous tongues spoken by Kenyan tribes. In fact, you can study almost any African language at the highly ranked University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University. Learn Swahili in Kenya to not only make travel in this and surrounding countries a cinch, but also prep you with some seriously competitive skills if you hope to work in world finance or aid and development.
Recommended program: Learn Swahili in Kenya with Projects Abroad
3. South Africa
If you’re considering language courses in Africa, South Africa is bar-none in terms of variety. Don’t be scared off by District 9! Sign up for language schools in Africa in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Johannesburg. This country has a whopping 11 (you heard right!) official languages to choose from, including Zulu, Xhosa, and Afrikaans. You can even study English in South Africa or sign up for African language translation programs at world ranked universities. Just *think* of all the fellow language learning nerds you’ll meet there!
Recommended program: Study English in Cape Town with Eurocentres
If your favorite Disney movie is The Lion King, then you might already know more Swahili than you think. Hakuna Matata (no worries) and rafiki (friend!) all come to mind. This language has more than 150 million speakers in the world and it’s the second most common language in Africa, and is relatively easy to learn because it uses the Latin alphabet and isn’t tonal. Like Kenya, Tanzania is also a great place for Swahili language courses in Africa and as an added bonus, for Simba spotting.
Recommended program: Study Swahili in Tanzania with Boston University
Whether you’re a Rastafarian or not, the mother country of Ethiopia calls you. This land-locked East African country is home to 83 languages, including an ancient Semitic language known as Amharic, spoken by over 20 million native speakers. If you learn fidel (Amharic script), you’ll find a whole new world of history waiting for you through Ethiopian literature. You can learn Ge’ez with intensive language courses. If you do, the hymns and rituals of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in one of the oldest Christian states in the world will make a whole lot more sense. No wonder this is a cool place to learn an African language, huh?
Recommended program: Study languages in Ethiopia with CrossContinental
Namibia is a great place for intensive language programs in Africa. Like South Africa, its former conqueror, Afrikaans, is widely spoken here. However, other dialects and tribal languages, like Oshiwambo, are used by more than half of the population. There are also pockets of German and Portuguese speakers scattered across its vast (seriously, it’s a huge country) land. English remains the country’s official language and is used in education, so this could be a soft-landing to life abroad if you’re worried language barriers. Learn any of these languages in Namibia or lesser known Bantu tongues like Fwe and Khoisan languages like Naro.
Recommended program: Study a language in Namibia with Adventure Heart
Like its other North African neighbors, Arabic is the official language of Egypt. The benefit of learning this language is that it’s also spoken by almost 300 million speakers in the world, particularly in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. If you choose to learn this African language here, you’ll better understand how Egyptian Arabic influences and connects with the local culture. Maybe you’ll even surprise yourself when you actually understand what the muezzin says at the call to prayer five times a day.
Recommended program: Study Arabic in Egypt with International Programs
Uganda is a multilingual country bordered by Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and Tanzania. Although it’s home to an estimated 41 languages, there are three main ones: English is known as the official language, Swahili the lingua franca, and Luganda is the indigenous tongue spoken by the majority of Ugandans. Sign up for intensive language programs in Africa in any of these three tongues or lesser known Ugandan languages like Tooro, Rukiga, Ateso, and Runyankole. Start your search in places like Kabale (near the gorillas and in the cooler highlands), Jinja (known as the source of the River Nile), or Kampala (the capital and largest city!).
Recommended program: Study a language in Uganda with Carpe Diem Education
If you want to go way off the beaten path when it comes to languages, try learning Malagasy.
This tongue, used throughout Madagascar, is unique from other African languages because it belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian language family and is more similar to Southeast Asian languages spoken miles away! Madagascar is also a great place to learn French, the other official language on this island in the Indian Ocean. Sign up for language schools in Africa here for a foreign language education that’s anything but basic. Yaaas!
Recommended program: Study Malagasy in Madagascar with Projects Abroad
I bet you thought you could only learn French in France. Au contraire, mon ami! The language is widely spoken by 120 million people in the former French colonies of the African continent, particularly Senegal. Senegalese French is a little different to Parisian or Quebecois French because it has its own African flair. But it’s still a great environment to master your French while experiencing life that looks a little (okay, a lot) different than yours. You can also find language schools in Senegal that offer classes in Wolof, the lingua franca spoken by the majority of Senegalese people.
Recommended program: Study French in Senegal with the University of Minnesota
A note from GoAbroad
We’d like to thank our community for not only inspiring us daily, but for also giving us enough insight to share accurate predictions for meaningful travel in 2018.
Learn more our research methodology, recommended programs, and links here.
Browse more of this year's report on top destinations for language courses
- Best Destinations for Language Courses Worldwide in 2018
- Best Destinations for a European Language School in 2018
- Best Destinations for Language Classes in the Americas for 2018
- Best Destinations for Language Courses in the South Pacific & Asia for 2018
- See ALL top destinations for ALL travel