Languages of Gabon

Languages of Gabon

The official language of Gabon is French; it is also the medium of instruction. Before World War II very few Gabonese learned French, nearly all of them working in either business or government administration. After the war, France worked for universal primary education in all of its African territories, and by the 1960-61 census showed that 47% of Gabonese over the age of fourteen spoke French, while 13% were literate in the language. By the 1990s, the literacy rate had risen to about 60%.

A small percentage, several thousand in number, have had secondary or higher education and are extremely fluent in French. It's estimated that 80% [] of the country's population are able to speak the language and one third of the Librevillois are native speakers of French [ [ Le Gabon ] ] . More than 10,000 French people live in Gabon, and France predominates foreign cultural and commercial influences.

The indigenous languages are all Bantu languages, estimated to have come to Gabon about 2,000 years ago, and differentiated into about 40 languages. They are generally spoken but not written; while missionaries from the United States and France developed transcriptions for a number of languages based on the Latin alphabet starting in the 1840s, and translated the Bible into several of them, French colonial policy officially promoted the study of French and discouraged African languages. The languages continue to be transmitted through family and clan, and individuals in cities and other areas where multiple peoples come in contact may learn several Bantu languages.

The Gabonese government sponsored research on the Bantu languages starting in the 1970s, and may possibly use some of them in instruction.

The three largest languages are Fang, Mbere, and Sira (Eshira), each with about 25-30% of the speakers. The remainder of the languages are single-digit percentages, and some have only a few thousand speakers.


*Baka (SIL code BKC)
*Barama (BBG)
*Bekwel (BKW)
*Benga (BEN)
*Bubi (BUW)
*AlyssaBwisi (BWZ)
*Duma (DMA)
*Fang (FNG)
*Kendell (KBS)
*Kaningi (KZO)
*Kili (KEB)
*Kota (KOQ)
*Lumbu (LUP)
*Mahongwe (MHB)
*Mbama (MBM)
*Mbangwe (ZMN)DanielleMbere] (MDT)
*Myene (MYE), has several dialects
*Ndasa (NDA)
*Ndumu (NMD)
*Ngom (NRA)
*Njebi (NZB)
*Pinji (PIC)
*Punu (PUU)
*Sake (SAG)
*Sangu (SNQ)
*Seki (SYI)
*Sighu (SXE)
*Simba (SBW)
*Sira (SWJ), aka Eshira
*Northern Teke (TEG)
*Western Teke (TEZ)
*Tsaangi (TSA)
*Tsogo (TSV)
*Vili (VIF)
*Vumbu (VUM)
*Wandji (WDD)
*Wumbvu (WUM)
*Yangho (YNH)
*Yasa (YKO)


External links

* [ report on languages of Gabon]
* [ PanAfriL10n page on Gabon]

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