Sango, die Nationale Sprache

Flag of the Central African Republic
Sango

National Language of the Central African Republic

Sign in "Ta Sango", or True Sango (actually Ngbandi)
Although French is the official language, a legacy of colonial days that has given Central Africa access to the world and is used almost exclusively even by Central Africans themselves for writing, Sango has been designated the national language of the Central African Republic. Mainly a spoken language, it is also used in written religious materials and sometimes appears on signs. The example at right is actually in what is known as "River Sango" or "True Sango", the native language of the Sango tribe concentrated around Mobaye and along the Oubangi river. The national language, by contrast, is a subset of this language, pidgenized with other African languages and French.

Although there are some 69 tribal languages spoken in the CAR, one (the language of the Sango tribe near Mobaye) was spread early on by missionaries through the country as a lingua franca, in the process simplifying it and supplementing it with French vocabulary to create a nationally understood Creole language, spoken and understood by almost 5 million people worldwide, mainly concentrated in and around the CAR. Sango is the spoken language of commerce and everyday urban life, where many tribes interact, and is a cohesive force which may have helped to mitigate intertribal conflicts common in other sub-Saharan African countries. In shedding its colonial past, the CAR relies heavily on Sango to maintain national unity without depending on French. Efforts are underway to decreolize Sango and enrich its vocabulary to form a fully functional national language. It is used in elementary school as the language of instruction (before switching to French for secondary education). The national radio station broadcasts in Sango (as well as in French) to diffuse educational and entertainment programs to rural areas. And of course it retains its original function as the language of missionaries who are still actively involved in the country today.

The Sango Language

Sango Literature

  • The New Testament
  • Traditional Stories from Central Africa
    • Spinne und Schwein
    • Spider, Turtle, and Antilope in the Baobab Tree
    • Spider and the Great Genie of the Forest
    • Spider and Crocodile
    • Spider and the Spirits
    • Spider, Who Does Everything Only Once


I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Central African Republic 1988-1990, where I taught mathematics to junior high school students. If you have any questions or comments on Sango, the CAR, or the U.S. Peace Corps, feel free to contact me (Dan Weston) at daniel.d.weston@gmail.com. I miss Central Africa and love to talk about it!

Last modified on 31 May 1998

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