Although English is the official language in the country, Nigeria’s large population is responsible for its linguistic diversity which is like a microcosm of Africa as a whole.
These are the top ten most popular Nigerian languages:
1. Hausa is often associated with Islamic culture in Nigeria and West Africa. It is one of the most spoken Nigerian languages. 18.5 million native speakers are found in Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Bauchi, Jigawa, Zamfara, Kebbi, and Gombe states. Hausa is also the second language of 15 million more people in Nigeria. It has prompted international radio stations like the BBC, China Radio International and Voice of Russia to broadcast in it.
2. Igbo is the main language spoken by about 24 million people (primarily of Igbo descent) in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states. Igbo is also spoken in some parts of Akwa Ibom, Delta and Rivers states. Significant Igbo speakers are also found in Cameroun while in Equatorial Guinea, it is a recognized as a minority language.
3. Yoruba is the native tongue of the Yoruba people and is spoken by about 18.9 million people living in Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Kwara, and Lagos states and parts of Kogi State. Outside Nigeria, Yoruba is also spoken by Nigerian immigrants in the UK and the USA what makes it one of the top most spoken Nigerian languages worldwide.
4. Fulfulde is now spoken by cattle pastoralists across the Sahel and largely in Northern Nigeria by the Fulani diaspora. In Nigeria, 1.7 million Fulfude speakers are found in Kano, Katsina, Zaria, Jos plateau, Bororo, Maiduguri and Sokoto.
5. Kanuri is one of the most spoken languages in the country. 3 million native speakers are mainly located in Borno, Yobe and Jigawa States. In addition, about 500,000 people use it as a second language in Nigeria.
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6. Ijaw is spoken by almost 2 million people in Bayelsa, Delta, Ondo and Ekiti states. A number of dialects exist including Arogbo, Egbema, Ikibiri and West Tarairi with about 30 of them being inherently intelligible.
7. Pidgin English is a blend of English and ethnic Nigerian languages. It is operating as a kind of lingua franca across Nigeria. Pidgin is the native language of approximately 3 to 5 million people mainly concentrated in the Niger Delta region.
8. Tiv is spoken by about 2 million people in Nigeria concentrated mainly in Benue State. But it is also widely spoken in Plateau and Taraba states.
9. Ibibio has some 1.5 million native speakers concentrated in Akwa Ibom State. Ibibio is taught in primary and secondary schools with radio and television programmes available.
10. Edo is mainly spoken by at least 1 million people in Edo State. Interestingly, in November 2013 there was a raising alarm over the ‘likely extinction of the Bini language’. This is possibly due to the lack of a common language in Edo State, gradual decline of speaking Edo in homes and the more pronounced use of English and Pidgin English.