HomeLanguage EducationLanguage LearningSpanish-Speaking Countries in Africa - Rosetta Stone

Spanish-Speaking Countries in Africa – Rosetta Stone


There are millions of Spanish speakers around the world and on every continent! While you’re probably familiar with Spanish-speaking countries in Central and South America, did you know that there’s a country in Africa whose official language is Spanish? 

It’s called Equatorial Guinea, and it’s located on the western coast of Africa, just below Cameroon, and right next to the Gulf of Guinea. It’s the only country in Africa with Spanish as the official language.

If you’re thinking about traveling the world, learning Spanish is a great skill to help you get around in a lot of countries. With Rosetta Stone, you can learn on the go from anywhere in the world with bite-sized 10 minute lessons and pronunciation recognition.

Which countries in Africa speak Spanish?

There is only one country in Africa whose official language is Spanish, but as a result of colonization throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, many countries in Africa have small pockets where Spanish is still spoken.

Equatorial Guinea

Capital: Malabo

Population: 1.634 million people

Other languages: French, Portuguese

Formerly a Spanish colony, the country of Equatorial Guinea is the only country in Africa to have Spanish as the official language. It is also one of the smallest countries in Africa. After gaining independence from Spain in 1968, Equatorial Guinea kept Spanish as its official language along with French and Portuguese.The latter two languages represent the lasting influence of France and Portugal, who also colonized Equatorial Guinea prior to Spanish rule. 

About 90 percent of the population are fluent Spanish speakers, though for many it’s a second language. The dialect is heavily influenced by Bantu languages of the region. Equatoguinean Spanish, as it’s referred to, is more similar to European Spanish than Latin American Spanish. 

Some notable linguistic differences are:

  • There is no distinction between “s” and “z” sounds. For example, the words caza (hunt) and casa (house) will sound the same.
  • Equatoguinean Spanish speakers omit definite articles.
  • There aren’t any distinctions between indicative and subjunctive moods.
  • En (in) replaces a (to), so voy a Malabo (I’m going to Malabo) becomes voy en Malabo.

Morocco

City of Tangier in Morocco

Cities: Ceuta, Melilla

Population: 171,528

Other languages: Berber, Arabic

Two cities on the northern coast of Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla, both speak Spanish as their main language. Though it’s not the official language of Morocco, these cities were once part of the Spanish protectorate in Morocco and retained the language after independence from Spain. 

Established in 1912, the Spanish protectorate in Morocco was a sphere of influence that included a northern section of Morocco along the Strait of Gibraltar, bordering Spain, and a southern section around Cape Juby, bordering Spanish Sahara.

In the 1950’s Spain relinquished control of both of these territories. Now, these two cities in Northern Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla, are considered independent Spanish territories similar to British territory of Gibraltar. They are major shipping and trade hubs, and both are considered autonomous cities. 

As both cities have large Muslim populations and recognize Eid al-Adha as national holidays, they are the first Spanish territories to officially recognize non-Christian holidays. Both have dialects similar to European Spanish, and Ceuta is often considered a part of the Andalusia region of Spain because of its close geographical proximity.

Western Sahara

Territory: Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

Population: 618,243

Other languages: Arabic, Berber

The “Southern Provinces” of Morocco or “Free Zone” of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in Western Sahara has a large population of Spanish speakers. Formerly a part of Spanish Sahara, the self proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic makes up around 20 percent of the territory’s population. 

While Arabic is the official language of the constitution, Spanish is often preferred for radio and TV broadcasts. The language is mainly influenced by European Spanish, and there are expatriate communities in Spain, the Americas, and Cuba. The local population also adopted many Spanish words for everyday use.

A few examples of Sahrawi Spanish vocabulary: 

Spanish English
enchufe plug
destornillador screwdriver
tornillo screw
martillo hammer
muelle pier
coche car
caja de cambio gearbox
tubo de escape exhaust pipe
chapa sheet
furgoneta van
motor engine
volante steering wheel
defensa defense
extremo extreme
gol goal
mueble furniture
cuna cot
mesa table
cama bed
dispensario dispensary
receta ointment
pomada sale
venda prescription 
jeringuilla syringe
biblioteca library
recreo recess
lápiz pencil
pera pear
manzana apple
helado ice cream
tortilla omelette
zumo juice
queso cheese
chaqueta jacket
falda skirt
blusa blouse

Algeria

Cities: Oran, Tindouf

Other languages: Arabic, French

The city of Oran, located on the northern coast of Africa, was once a Spanish stronghold from the 1500s through the 1700s. It was later taken over by the French, who have had a major impact on the area. However, the Spanish quarter and the old city of La Blanca have a distinctive Spanish architectural style, and Spanish left a lasting impact on the local dialect. Oran is also home to one of two Cervantes Institutes in the country of Algeria. These institutes are non-profits created by the Spanish government to teach Spanish language and culture.

The Algerian town of Tindouf is home to Sahrawi refugees, who brought Spanish with them from Western Sahara. As these refugee populations are not counted in the region’s census, the exact number of Sahrawi people residing in Tindouf is unknown.

What other languages are spoken in Africa?

Africa’s linguistic diversity is incredibly high. With 1500+ languages spoken on the continent, Africa is the home continent for about one-third of the world’s languages. These languages are highly regional, and most belong to the Niger-Congo language family. Around 85% of the population in Africa speaks at least one language from this family. 

Aside from those languages, many African countries that speak Spanish also have French, Portuguese, and Arabic speakers. Due to the geographical proximity of Northern Africa to Europe and the Middle East, African countries have had numerous colonial powers cycle in and out of control for most of history through the late 1900s.

Learn Spanish you can use around the world

Looking for more language learning tips? Start by learning foundational words and phrases, reviewing the essential basics for learning Spanish, or exploring Oaxaca, Mexico through everyday conversations. Rosetta Stone can help you learn a language faster and more confidently than you would if you studied on your own.

With Rosetta Stone, you’ll learn Spanish naturally with a unique immersive approach to learning. Bite-sized lessons help you learn at your own pace, and the Rosetta Stone app lets you do it all on the go. Plus, you’ll have the option to choose between Latin American or European Spanish to ensure you master the right nuances of each dialect! 

Ready to jump right in? Start your first lesson today at rosettastone.com.

AuditStudent.com, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.

Rizwan Ahmed
Rizwan Ahmed
AuditStudent.com, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.
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