Bilingual Arabic–English street sign in Khartoum
Sudan is a multilingual country dominated by Sudanese Arabic. In the 2005 constitution of the Republic of Sudan, the official languages of Sudan are Literary Arabic and English.
Approximately 114 languages are native to Sudan.
Sudanese Arabic is the most widely spoken language in the country. It is the variety of Arabic spoken throughout northern Sudan. It has much borrowed vocabulary from the local languages (El Rotana) . This has resulted in a variety of Arabic that is unique to Sudan, reflecting the way in which the country has been influenced by both African and Arab cultures. Some of the tribes in Sudan still have similar accents to the ones in Saudi Arabia. Other important languages include Beja (AKA Bedawi) along the Red Sea, with perhaps 2 million speakers; Tigre is another language spoken by some Beja tribes; Fur in the west (Darfur), with perhaps a million speakers; and various Nubian languages along the Nile in the north, with half a million or so speakers. The most linguistically diverse region in the country are the Nuba Hills in Kordofan, inhabited by speakers of multiple language families, with Darfur and the Ethiopian border regions being second. There are many different accents or languages in Sudan.
Beja is the sole Cushitic language in Sudan. Arabic as well as Tigre is Semitic, the Niger–Congo family is represented by many of the Kordofanian languages, and Indo-European by Domari (Gypsy) and English. Historically, Old Nubian, Greek, and Coptic (Egyptian) were the languages of Christian Nubia, and Meroitic the language of the Kingdom of Kush which conquered Egypt.
Sudan also has multiple regional sign languages, which are not mutually intelligible. By 2009 a proposal for a unified language had been worked out, but is not widely known. The most used languages are:
- Arabic in all Sudan, along with the tribal languages.
- Sudanese Arabic.
- Najdi and Hejazi Arabic, mainly in mid-northern and mid-eastern regions.
- Chadic Arabic in western region, mainly spoken by Baggara and various Arabized African tribes.
- Nubian language in far north, mainly spoken by Nubians of Mahas, Dongola and Halfa.
- Dinka language in South Sudan.
- Beja language (also known as Bedawit) in far east alongside Red Sea, mainly spoken by Beja of Hadandawa, Amar'ar Ababda and Bisharin.
- Tigray, Beni Amer Rotana, spoken by Beni Amer and Habab tribes in Tokar, Aqiq, and Kassala.
- Fur language in far west, mainly spoken by Fur people.
- Massalit language and other Maban languages in Darfur
- Zaghawa language primarily spoken in Darfur and Chad by the Zaghawa people. Also spoken by the diaspora in Omdurman.
- Daju languages primarily spoken in Darfur and Chad by Daju people.
- Daza language (also known as Gorane or Gouran) is primarily spoken in Chad, Niger and Libya, but there is also a small community of about 3000 speakers in Omdurman.
- Kordofanian languages consist of numerous languages like Kadu, Katla, Mandi, Rashad, Lafofa and Talodi–Heiban.
- Nuba Mountains languages in Southern region, different ethnic groups speak different languages.
- Temein languages.
- Domari language, mainly spoken by Halabi/Nawar and Ghajar clans.
- Various Niger–Congo and Chadic languages, mainly spoken by Western African tribes like Fallata, also known as Fulani and Hausa.
- Other tribal languages in all Sudan with some people speaking English.
Under the 1998 constitution, only Arabic was the official language.
The 2005 constitution designated Arabic and English as the official languages of Sudan.
- All indigenous languages of Sudan are national languages and shall be respected, developed and promoted.
- Arabic is a widely spoken national language in Sudan.
- Arabic, as a major language at the national level and English shall be the official working languages of the national government and the languages of instruction for higher education.
- In addition to Arabic and English, the legislature of any sub-national level of government may adopt any other national language as an additional official working language at its level.
- There shall be no discrimination against the use of either Arabic or English at any level of government or stage of education.
As such Sudan is the only country in the Arab world to have English as a co-official language.
Literacy and education
The literacy rate is 70.2% of total population, male: 79.6%, female: 60.8%.