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Languages in Somalia

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Somali is the official and national language of Somalia. It is spoken by more than 8 million people throughout the country, especially in the urban areas. A member of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family related to the Afar and Oromo languages, it is divided into three main dialects of Northern, Benaadir and Maay. The Northern Somali dialect is the base of the Standard Somali language, while Benaadir or Coastal Somali is spoken mainly on the Benadir coast from Cadale to South Merca, including the capital city of Mogadishu. Maay Somali is spoken by the Digil and Mirifle clans in the country’s southern areas.

The Arabic language is also widely spoken due to the country’s long years of ties with the Arab world and the influence of Arabic religious education and media to the life of the Somalis. While English is also widely used and taught in schools, especially higher education, Italian is now only spoken by older generations. Minority language Bravanese, which is a variant of the Swahili, is spoken by a small number of Bravanese populations along the coastal zones.

Until the development of the Somali script in 1973, English and Italian were the languages of the government. The script made available sufficient materials in the Somali language, and allowed it to become as a medium of instruction in all levels of education below the university, and in the university itself in late 1980s. Currently, the language is spoken locally by some 8.34 million Somalis and by about 12.66 million people around the world.

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