Opinions on Bantu languages

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The Bantu languages (/ˈbænt/), technically the Narrow Bantu languages, constitute a traditional sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages. There are about 250 Bantu languages by the criterion of mutual intelligibility, though the distinction between language and dialect is often unclear, and Ethnologue counts 535 languages. Bantu languages are spoken largely east and south of present-day Cameroon; i.e. in the regions commonly known as Central Africa, Southeast Africa, and Southern Africa. Parts of the Bantu area include languages from other language families (see map).

The Bantu language with the largest total number of speakers is Swahili; however, the majority of its speakers know it as a second language. According to Ethnologue, there are over 180 million L2 (second-language) speakers, but only about 45 million native speakers.

According to Ethnologue, Shona is the most widely spoken as a first language, with 10.8 million speakers (or 14.2 million if Manyika and Ndau are included), followed closely by Zulu, with 10.3 million. Ethnologue separates the largely mutually intelligible Kinyarwanda and Kirundi, but, if grouped together, they have 12.4 million speakers.

Estimates of number of speakers of most languages vary widely, due both to the lack of accurate statistics in most third-world countries and the difficulty in defining exactly where the boundaries of a language lie, particularly in the presence of a dialect continuum.


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Thanks to this graph, we can see the interest Bantu languages has and the evolution of its popularity.

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