There are about 502 languages with over 15 popular languages in Nigeria which are widely spoken. Nigeria is a multi-faceted country when it comes to Languages, cultural beliefs, and heritage.
Nigeria’s formal language is the English language; the British colonial masters’ language which was adopted by Nigerians.
Due to the large number of languages spoken in Nigeria, the country is ranked No. 3 as the richest country in languages.
With Indonesia being the 2nd with 742 languages and Papua New Guinea with 820 languages as the first.
As said earlier, among the 502 languages, only 15 are widely spoken language in Nigeria with others slowly going into extinction.
15 Most Popular Languages in Nigeria.
Hausa is the most popular language in Nigeria with over 18.5 million native speakers (both first and second native) in Nigeria.
Hausa is mostly associated with Islamic Religion. Most Hausa are known to be Muslims with fewer exceptions.
Mostly, the northern parts of the country are the Native speaker of Hausa. For example, Nigerians in Sokoto, Kaduna, Jigawa, Zamfara, Kastina speak Hausa as their 1st native language. While other states in the northern areas consider it as their second native language.
Another misconception about the Northern state is that everyone living there is an Hausa. It’s wrong as there are many ethnic groups in the northern states with different languages.
Igbo is the second most popular Nigerian Language with over 23 million native speakers. Most Igbo speaking Nigerians reside in the eastern part of the country.
Igbo being a major language in Nigeria has various dialects with intonations. The way the people in Idemili, Owerri, Bendel, Umuhia, and Onitsha speak their Igbo is slightly different from one another. Even though they can all understand what each is saying.
Abia, Anambra, Ebony, Imo, and Enugu are the Eastern part of Nigeria where Igbo is predominantly spoken by Nigerians.
Delta, Akwa-Ibom and Cross River also speak Igbo as their 2nd native language.
Yoruba is one of the most popular languages in Nigeria, with Yoruba being the 3rd major language spoken by Nigerians.
There are about 20 million native speakers in the country with most of them residing in the Southwest, Nigeria.
Yoruba is referred to as the descendants of Oduduwa who is the son of Eledumare(Yoruba gods) according to history. States in the western part of the country like Ekiti, Ogun, Lagos, Osun, Ondo, and Oyo speaks “Ede Yoruba” (Yoruba Language)
Like Igbo, there are many different Yoruba speaking groups with different intonations and dialects. As examples can be seen in the way Ondo, Abeokuta, Ekiti, Ijebu, and Ibadan speak differently.
Kogi and Kwara are the 2nd native speakers of Yoruba.
Fulfude is the native language spoken by the Fulani’s; another ethnic group in Nigeria. Fulani is mostly mistaken to be Hausas as their language seems to be almost the same. Unlike the popular misconceptions, Fulanis are not Hausas and they do have their own native language.
Surprisingly, there are many Fulanis outside Nigerians. In some West African countries like Chad, Mali, Senegal, and Cameroon, some Fulanis reside there.
Areas like Zaria, Kano, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Plateau are parts in Nigeria where Fulfude is mostly spoken.
The language is spoken by many sub-groups with varying dialects and intonation like other major languages. About 7 million Nigerians speak Kanuri.
According to past history, Kanuri-speaking Nigerians are mainly from the central Saharan tribe, who relocated to Nigeria. Some of them also settle in some West African countries like Chad and Cameroon.
States like Jigawa, Yobe, and Borno have Nigerians residing there, who speak Kanuri as their native language.
6. NIGERIA PIDGIN
This is also one of the most popular languages in Nigeria, with many tribes and ethnic groups using it to converse.
Similar to the official language; English, Pidgin can be used among different native speakers.
Nigeria Pidgin is a mix of English and any other native languages(depending on the speaker). Despite the fact that it is used by many tribes, it is majorly spoken in the delta region and could be linked to Warri town.
This language is spoken by an ethnic tribe called Nupe. About 3.5 million people speak the language, Nupe.
The Nupe despite being conquered in the 18th century by Usman Danfodio, maintains their culture and language. Nupe Kings are referred to as “Etsu Nupe” and not “Emir” as Hausas dominated areas call their kings.
This is also one of the most popular languages in Nigeria, with about 2 million people speaking the language. Tiv-speaking people can also be found outside Nigeria, particularly in Cameroon. There are minorities in Nassarawa, Taraba, and Plateau, who speaks Tiv.
Like Tiv, Ijaw is also one of the most popular languages in Nigeria spoken by over 2 million people as their native language. It is majorly spoken in the oil-rich region(Delta region area). A minority from Ondo, Ekiti, and Bayelsa speak Ijaw also.
This is also one of the most popular languages in Nigeria, mostly spoken by the Southern part of Nigeria. About 1.3 million Nigerian speaks Ibibio, especially in Akwa-Ibom state. Ibibio, Efik, and Anaang are closely related languages.
Edo language is an ancient language spoken widely by over 1 million people. Mostly Edo is spoken by the Edo people in the Eastern part of Nigeria.
This is another Nigeria language common among people living in the Cross River areas. Efik is the native language of most Nigerians residing in Cross Rivers.
This is also one of the most popular languages in Nigeria mainly spoken by the Akwa-Ibom indigenes.
Despite the fact that the major language in this state is Igbo. There are many other minor languages like Anaang, in which 8 out of the whole 31 L.G.A speaks the language.
Ebira is mostly spoken by an ethnic group called Ebiras. There are about 1 million Nigerians who are Ebiras. Mainly, they occupied the northwest of Benue and Niger.
Gbari(Gwari) or Gbagy is also one of the most popular languages in Nigeria. About 5 million Nigerians speak this language. Mainly, they can be found in north-central political zones.
The above-listed languages are just a few out of the languages in Nigeria. There are more than 450 languages which are being spoken by minorities and sub-ethnic groups.
Nigeria isn’t just blessed with natural resources alone but also with a diverse culture, language, and people. Hence, Nigeria is a Multi-Franca nation!