What are the main languages in Senegal?


Senegal is known as the land of “African Pilgrims”, it was founded in 1960 and got its independence the same year.

The reason why Senegal is called the land of “African Pilgrims” is because of “Magal Touba”.

Magal Touba is an annual event in October where west Africans will gather in Senegal and pray for their founder “Serigne Touba”.

The biggest cities will have big festivities with food and prayer for an entire week. 

Senegal also has many languages spoken inside its lands. The official language is French but there are other non-official languages. 

We’ll mention a few facts about Senegal and talk about its official and non-official languages. 

5 Facts about Senegal

Senegal is a great country with lots of culture and history for its short time existing. 

As Senegal came to be after separating from the life of the French colonization and the Mali Federation, it developed its own culture and history. 

  • Senegal will be the first African country to host the 2022 Olympics.
  • Although its majority are Muslims, Senegal’s first president was Catholic.
  • There are 7 cultural sites that are recognized by UNESCO.
  • Senegal’s population’s favorite sport is Wrestling. 
  • There are more than 20 ethnic groups in Senegal.

The Official Language of Senegal

French is the official language of Senegal. This is because of the French colonization of many African countries. 

But even though it is the Official language, it is only used by 37% of the population. It is even used by them as a second language, not the first one. 

Senegalese people are proud of their ethnic languages more than the European languages. 

But French is growing as it is a primary language taught in all schools all over the nation. 

English is also growing as a foreign language around Senegal as it is taught in secondary schools.

The Non-Official Languages of Senegal

Senegal has over 30 languages spoken all over the country. They are not considered official but are actually used more than the official language which is French.

Each language spoken is related to tribes or ethnic groups around the country.

The main 5 languages that are commonly used are:

1. Wolof

Wolof is the language of the Wolof ethnic group, a majority in Senegal and a minority in Gambia and Mauritania. 

In Senegal, the Wolof people make up around 43% of the country’s population. That makes Wolof one of the major languages in Senegal.

It is spoken by more people than French. 

There are two types of scripts for Wolof, the traditional Arabic script that exists before the colonial period.

While the current script that is used is the Latin script which was adopted by a small number of Wolof speakers.

2. Pulaar

Pulaar is the second most spoken language in Senegal as it is used by around 22% of its population. 

The Pulaar language is used by two ethnic groups the Toucouleur people and the Fulani people. These two groups are found in Gambia, Senegal, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau.

The Pulaar language uses three scripts in its writing, first came the Arabic script and which was used in the old times, the second one is the Adlam script (a type of African script created by the Fulani people), it is currently used alongside the third one which is the Latin script. 

3. Jola-Fonyi

Jola-Fonyi s a language spoken by half a million people in the Casamance region of Senegal.

The language is not used by many people in the country. But it is also used in the neighboring country the Gambia. 

Jola-Fonyi is also known as Diola. It is the language of the Jola people in Senegal. 

This language uses the Latin script in its writing. 

4. Arabic

Arabic in Senegal is used by many speakers as the majority of the country is Muslim. 

Arabic is used by many countries around Africa as a first language but in Senegal, it is the first language of a good number of the population for religious purposes and is a second language as well for the very same reason. 

Arabic uses its own Arabic script for writing.

5. Serer

Serer is the language of the Serer people they have two dialects of the language which are Serer-Sine and Serer Saloum.

The Serer language is spoken by over a million people in Senegal alone. It is also spoken in both Mauritania and Gambia. 

Serer uses the Latin script for its writing like many other African languages.

Frequently Asked Questions about “What are the main languages in Senegal?”

The top 5 languages spoken in Senegal are: -Wolof (80%), Pulaar (25%), Serer (11%), Mandinka (6%), and Jola (4%).

Wolof is the most widely spoken language in Senegal, as a first or second language. It is the lingua franca of the country and is used in government, education, and business. Pulaar is the second most widely spoken language and is mainly spoken in the eastern part of the country. Serer is spoken in the central part of the country, and Mandinka is spoken in the south. Jola is spoken in the Casamance region in the south.

In addition to these top 5 languages, there are many other languages spoken in Senegal, including Arabic, French, and English. However, these languages are not as widely spoken as the top 5 languages.

Senegal is officially a French-speaking country. French is the language of government, education, and business. However, the most widely spoken language in Senegal is Wolof, which is spoken by about 80% of the population. English is also taught in schools, but it is not as widely spoken as French.

In terms of fluency, about 37% of Senegalese people speak French, mostly as a second language. In contrast, 72% use Wolof to communicate with speakers of other Senegalese languages.

So, to answer the question, Senegal is technically a French-speaking country, but Wolof is the most widely spoken language. English is also spoken by some people, but it is not as common as French or Wolof.

Wolof is not closely related to French. They are from different language families: Wolof is a Niger-Congo language, while French is a Romance language. However, Wolof has borrowed a significant number of words from French, due to the colonial history of Senegal. As a result, there are some superficial similarities between the two languages. For example, the Wolof word for “hello” is “naaw”, which sounds similar to the French word “bonjour”. However, the grammar and syntax of Wolof are very different from French. So, while Wolof speakers may be able to understand a few French words, they will not be able to understand French conversation without significant training.


Senegal is a country rich in languages and unique culture. It is a great palace to include in a business expansion plan and for cultural exchange. 

Between the national language which is French and the other 30+ plus languages, Senegal is a united country filled with love and great passion.