What Language Is Spoken In Sudan?

Asma Wahba

Author

Asma Wahba

If you want to know what language is spoken in Sudan (North and South), then it might surprise you to discover that "Arabic" isn't the only answer. In fact, like other Arabic-speaking parts of the world, the official language of South and North Sudan is not actually a native language to its inhabitants at all (see below). The region has a rich cultural and linguistic history stretching back thousands of years to the ancient Nubians (Kingdom of Kush) long before the arrival of the Arabs.

What language is spoken in Sudan?

There are hundreds of individual languages spoken in Sudan and South Sudan. Most languages belong to the Afro-Asiatic, Niger-Kordofanian, or Nilo-Saharan language families.

Despite such an enormous amount of linguistic diversity, there is one official language in both Sudan and South Sudan respectively.

The official language of Sudan is Arabic (Modern Standard Arabic).

In South Sudan, the official language is English.

Arabic (Sudanese Dialect and Modern Standard Arabic)

Sudanese Arabic is the dominant spoken language of Sudan. This is a colloquial dialect that is very close to Hijazi (West Saudi). There are also many similarities to the Egyptian dialect.

In South Sudan, the dominant spoken variety of Arabic is Juba Arabic, a variety or pidgin of Sudanese Arabic.

Chadian Arabic is spoken in the areas neighboring Chad.

It's important to note that the official language of Sudan is, in fact, Modern Standard Arabic and not the colloquial Sudanese dialect. MSA is the literary language that is derived from its ancestor, Classical Arabic (the language of the Quran). Although the literate population of the country is able to read, write and speak MSA, it is not used in day-to-day spoken discourse outside of professional contexts (media, academia, politics, etc.).

Sudanese Arabic is heavily influenced not only by MSA, but also many of the indigenous languages of the region.

Start learning sudanese Arabic today

Nubian

There are numerous Nubian languages spoken in the areas of Sudan that border Egypt. These are Nobiin, Kenzi, Midob, Birgid and Kordofan; close to a million speakers in total.

Beja

Beja, also called Bedawi (not to be confused with Bedawi/Bedouin Arabic), is a Cushitic language spoken by the Beja community who live by the Red Sea and are believed to number around 2 million.

Hausa

Hausa is a Chadic language spoken in many parts of Central and West Africa (notably Nigeria and Niger), and there are pockets of speakers (approximately 80,000) as far east as Sudan.

Dinka

Dinka, a Nilo-Saharan language with many sub-dialects, is spoken by over 1.3 million people primarily in South Sudan. The Dinka people are the largest ethnic group in South Sudan.

Nuer

Nuer is another Nilo-Saharan language with around 1 million native speakers in South Sudan. As a Nilotic language, it is very closely related to Dinka.

Other languages in Sudan

As mentioned above, there are literally hundreds of languages in Sudan and South Sudan.

Other notable languages are Fur, Masalit, Zaghawa, and the Temein languages. There are also various Niger-Congo languages spoken is pockets of Sudan and South Sudan.

Swahili is used in some limited capacity throughout Sudan.

Sudanese and South Sudanese Sign Language are also used by the deaf communities there.


Want to learn Sudanese Arabic? Sign up to get started.

Join now and start speaking sudanese Arabic today!

Create your account now and join thousands of other Arabic learners from around the world.