Lingua Franca In The Gambia

Language As A Culture Of Civilization


Seedy Fofanah

By Seedy Fofanah

A lingua franca is any language which a country adopts as its official language, and which has different language chosen group country like The Gambia, Nigeria, India, Indonesia and many other countries alike though. A lingua Franca is supposed to be one of the languages spoken in a country and that which all the native speakers of the other language must subscribe and contributed to.

Presently, the Gambia is still using English which was handed over from our former British colonisers- so it can be at best called our official language in the Gambia. In the Gambia, we have seven different ethnic groups each preserving its own language and traditions.

The Mandinka ethnicity is the largest, followed by the Fula, Wolof, Jola, Serahule, Serers and  Bianunkas. The Krio people, locally known as Akus, constitute one of the smallest ethnic minorities in the Gambia. They are descendants of the Sierra Leone Creole people and have been traditionally concentrated in the capital Banjul. According to the 2013 Census, there are approximately 28,500 non-African residents in the Gambia, including Europeans and families of GambianLebanese origin (roughly 0.23% of the total population). Most of the European minorities are British nationals many of whom left after the independence.English is the official language of the Gambia. Other languages are Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, Serer, Krio and other indigenous vernaculars. Due to geographical setting, knowledge of the French language is relatively widespread.

Having a lingua franca is desirable for some reasons. It makes communication and interaction easy among diverse group of people who find themselves in the same country like the Gambia. Language is a prime medium of communication. In other sense, lingua franca is good for national or patriotic reasons. When a group of people use another group or country’s language for their official dealings they could be easily described pejoratively as a people that lack a well-developed linguistic medium. It’s through a people’s or country’s language that a culture or civilization of the people can be effectively promoted. The adoption of a language as a country’s lingua franca presupposes that there is already a large population of native speakers of it. For example, in the Gambia, the Mandinka ethnic groups constitute the largest and choose it as our official language may create violent oppositions among the other ethnic groups.

Adopting a lingua franca fraught comes with many problems. First, the different people or speakers of their own mother tongues are wont to resist any attempt to deprive them of their linguistic autonomy by imposing another people’s language on them. India, for instance, there have been violent and tragic language riots. In Nigeria, the various subtle attempts to adopt one of the three main languages as their lingua franca have failed. So, in the Gambia, if the president Jammeh claims to change our official language from English to any of the local languages would be totally difficult or impossible. One of the main factors for choosing a language as a lingua franca is the large number of its native speakers cum their geographical spread.

But in the Gambia, using this criterion is problematic because, Gambians show unusual interest in census matters and some ethnic groups will do anything to influence their numerical strength for certain advantages over the others.

The desire for a lingua franca in the Gambia in our education system could bring violent because no Gambian ethnic groups would want to embrace another local imperialism.




  1. I got a solution why don’t we create a whole new language with say 28 letters.let us I invent our own number system more like a base 8 so that physics and chemistry and all other knowledge that is written on the wall will be at our hand.The wealth of knowldege.What do you guys think?

  2. Fact spoken there bro.

  3. Hi guys since The Gambia has like around 10 languages including English and French why don’t we do a combination of these languages and “BAAM” we got us a fine language.For example we can form some words based certain criteria.A quarter of one language plus a quarter of another and the rest in one.For example .. Our greetings …Abe*nadii? Nanka-def? Onowaii? Kasumaii ? etc Now since Onowaii and Kasumaii’s ending sounds almost the same then we can use that as ou greeting and it will go something like this..Kasuwaii? Meaning how are you?Then we can grab a mandinka word a wollof word sarahuke manjago word and combine them for the reply.This will go something like this.. Mankijan..This is just a suggestion and like I said if the Gambians are interested we can do this and the much awaited development of our nation will be born.We need to do this and the earlier the better.This project will consist of all the members of the local tribes in The Gambia.Bob said … We know when we understand.I can’t even write good in English maybe that’s why I am pushing for this…Nah maybe not.,,,For The Gambia our homeland.Thank you kairo news…

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