Talking about Spanish-speaking nations in Africa might come as a surprise since, owing to misunderstandings, preconceptions, or outside influences, only a few are aware that Spanish is an official or widely spoken language in several nations in Africa.
And in part, that’s true, since this language would be almost not spoken in Africa if it weren’t for a few unique groups or nations. We may not be able to talk about Spanish-speaking countries in Africa in the plural, but we can at least talk about a country, being this one the only sovereign state in this continent where Spanish is one of the official languages.
Centuries ago, the Spanish Empire ruled vast territories on the American continent for hundreds of years, bringing their language, their religion, and their culture, which later turned into nations in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. But they also left their stamp elsewhere, and that‘s why people in Asia, like in the Philippines, and African countries speak Spanish as well.
So read on, and let’s dive into this particular curiosity.
What is the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa?
You may know that there are 21 countries that speak Spanish or have it as their official language in the world, and Equatorial Guinea is one of them, the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa.
It gained independence from Spain on October 12, 1968, during Francisco Franco’s eleventh administration, as part of the “process of African decolonization” backed by the United Nations. Although this country is one of the smallest nations on the continent, it ranks third in Central Africa for biodiversity.
Equatorial Guinea is considered a developing country with valuable natural resources. Located next to the Atlantic ocean, has significant deposits of crude oil and natural gas, which have just started contributing to the world’s energy supply, and were cooled down by American multinational corporations in the late 1990s.
Equatorial Guinea’s worldwide recognition has increased dramatically over the last ten years, and the nation is seen as a bulwark of security and stability in the Central African continent (or sub-region).
DID YOU KNOW…?
Its name “Equatorial Guinea” is due to the fact that the country is geographically close to the equator line, a line that marks the middle of the globe.
Basic and interesting data of Equatorial Guinea in Spanish
Some main and interesting facts to learn about Equatorial Guinea are
- Hace parte de la cuenca del Congo. – It is part of the Congo Basin.
- Tiene variedad étnica y personas de distintos tonos de piel. – It has an ethnic variety and people of different skin tones.
- Tiene mucha biodiversidad. – It has a lot of biodiversities.
- Este país africano hogar de cientos de mamíferos. – This African country is home to hundreds of mammals.
- Su ciudad capital es Malabo. – Its capital city is Malabo.
- Tienen un modo de hablar diferente al de España o Latinoamerica. – They have a different way of speaking than in Spain or Latin America (South America, Central America, and the Caribbean).
- Este es uno de los países más pequeños del segundo continente más grande (África) – This is one the smallest countries of the second largest continent (Africa)
- La población del país es de 1600000 personas – The country’s population is 1,600,000 people.
- Es el país con el español como idioma oficial con la menor cantidad de hispanohablantes del mundo. – It is the country with Spanish as the official language with the fewest number of Spanish speakers in the world.
- La comida típica de este país africano es sopa de cacahuate. – The typical food of this African country is peanut soup.
- En Malabo, su ciudad capital, el idioma principal es el español. – In Malabo, its capital city, the official language is Spanish.
- Sus nombres comunes son José y María. – Their common names are José and María.
- Además de ser el único país hispanohablante en Africa, es el más lejano de cualquier otro país que hable este mismo idioma. – In addition to being the only country that speaks Spanish in Africa, it is the furthest from any other country that speaks this same language.
Vocabulary that can help you if you have the chance to go to Equatorial Guinea. These words also belong to the official language, as they fall within their slang and idioms.
|Equatorial Guinea Spanish (Common Spanish language)||English|
|Palabra (Demanda judicial) **||Lawsuit|
|Pepe (Pimienta)||Black pepper|
|Picú (Transporte de carga)||Freight transport|
|Rembut (Botas de goma)||Wellingtons|
|Misis (Mujer mayor de etnia blanca)||White old woman|
|Sobar (Empujar) **||Push|
** Words that take on another meaning depending on the context in which they are spoken.
How the Spanish language came to Equatorial Guinea
There are several national languages in Equatorial Guinea. Although Spanish is an official language in Guinea, it’s said that the Spanish language was not the only nor the first to reach Guinean lands.
The French, British, and mainly Portuguese who had already dominated the territory of present-day Equatorial Guinea in 1778, where they came under the command of the Viceroyalty of the Rio De La Plata and later they were controlled almost totally by Spain from 1810.
After losing territories and having recovered them again, the Spanish language established itself in 1843 after the permanent rule of Spain. After having been influenced by their language for almost 200 years, the Spanish language has been consolidated as an official language to date.
However, Spanish is not the only language spoken in Equatorial Guinea, since they preserve their native dialects of the Fang communities, Bubi, Ndowé, or Bisió in certain areas of the country, in addition to Portuguese and French as well so there are a lot of spoken languages in this country.
They are considered characteristic languages of the country due to their obvious history. This leaves us with the following data:
- 13.7% of the population of Equatorial Guinea are native speakers of the Spanish language.
- 74% of the population of Equatorial Guinea speaks and learns the Spanish language as a second language.
- 12.3% of the population of Equatorial Guinea (the vast majority) speak other indigenous languages, are not native speakers of the Spanish language, and need literacy or speak it with a marked mixture between this and a few languages.
Although you can communicate in Spanish, being this the official language, people from Equatorial Guinea have a much more complex dialect to understand than people from Spain or Latin America (Which includes South America Central America, and the Caribbean), so it is advisable to study their slang to maintain a casual conversation and understand it correctly.
Castilian and Latin American Spanish vs Equatoguinean Spanish
The native languages of the people of Equatorial Guinea affect how they speak and write. Because of this, the Spanish language that people in Equatorial Guinea speak is very different from one another.
So, what are the differences between Castilian, Latin American, and Equatoguinean Spanish? Let us show you:
Difference in pronunciation
For many cultural and historical reasons, it’s logical to think that there’s a difference in accentuation between the Spanish spoken in Spain and Equatorial Guinea, in the same way, there’s also a difference in pronunciation with how people speak in Spain and Latin America. The most common differences are:
- The “s” is pronounced strongly or omitted depending on the word.
- The letter “d” sounds like “r” depending on the word.
- There is usually no difference when mentioning the letter “r” or the double “r”.
Use of “usted” and “tú” verb forms in the same sentence
Many Equatorial Guineans may mix up tú and usted pronouns and the context in which they’re mentioned. For example:
- Usted sabes hablar el español. – You know to speak the Spanish language (The correct way is “Usted sabe” o “Tú sabes”)
- Tú conoce a mi padre. – You know my father (The correct way is “tú conoces” o “usted conoce”)
In Equatoguinean Spanish, the roots of words and how verbs are conjugated can be different.
In addition to the use of usted and tú, listeners may also notice that subject-verb agreements are not always the same.
Use of Prepositions
It is common to confuse the use of some prepositions in the Spanish language spoken in Equatorial Guinea, such as the following:
- From (de)
- In (en)
- To (a)
Gender Agreement of Nouns and Adjectives
When learning Spanish as a second language, nouns, and adjectives might not match up the way formal Spanish grammar rules say they should. This is also true for Mayan people in Guatemala who speak Spanish as a second language.
This is true for both the amount and the gender. You can use a masculine adjective with a female noun or a singular adjective with a plural noun.
|Equatoguinean trait||In Spain?||In America?||Other Country?|
|“b”, “g” and “d” plosives||no||bilingual zones||Philippines, North Africa|
|variation /s/ – (0)||Andalucía||no||Philippines|
|“Usted” + verb of “tú”||no||Quechua area, Aymara area||Portuguese of Angola|
|I go in coat||no||Rio Plata, Paraguay||No|
|variation Ustedes – Vosotros (you)||Andalucía, Canarias||no||Philippines|
|Neutralization /r/ – /rr/||no||bilingual zones: African-Bolivians||Philippines|
|Individual tones in each syllable||no||Afrodominicano, and S Basilio (500)||No|
DID YOU KNOW…?
Spanish is one of the official languages of Equatorial Guinea, but only 74% of the Equatoguineans are native Spanish speakers.
What to do in Equatorial Guinea?
If you’ve ever wondered to explore this exotic country, the capital Malabo, on Bioko island, is the first place you should visit and has the most popular locations nearby.
Among easy-to-reach beaches and other tourist attractions you can find:
Catedral de Santa Isabel
The Cathedral of Santa Isabel is a neo-Gothic Catholic building that opened in 1916 and is being fixed up right now. Even though, in January 2020, an electrical problem caused a fire that burned down part of the building. This cathedral is in the middle of the city, right next to the Plaza de la Independencia.
With a height of 3,011 m (9,878 ft), Pico Basilé is the highest mountain in Equatorial Guinea. It is the largest and highest peak of the three volcanoes that were formed by the overlapping of basaltic shields that make up the island.
If you decide to go up, there is a great view of Mount Cameroon to the northeast on days when the sky is clear. You will also want to stop at the Church of Bisila in this part of the country, which is at an altitude of 2,800 meters. Both the building and the walk around it are worth it.
Other Spanish-Speaking Countries in Africa
There are many countries on the continent of Africa. Western Sahara is almost one of them. It is on Africa’s West Coast. You may have already heard of this region but not that they speak the Spanish language, have you?
In the 1800s, it was ruled by Spain, just like Equatorial Guinea. This country, unlike the one we just talked about, has decided not to keep Spanish as its official language although they still speak it.
People in Western Sahara often speak both Arabic and French these days. In this part of the world, both languages are official. Morocco took up about 80% of Western Sahara, and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic took up the other 20%.
There are still a lot of people in Western Sahara who speak Spanish language, so you can probably still put your Spanish skills to the test there.
DID YOU KNOW…?
The official language that is spoken in Western Sahara is Arabic, but there are also many people who speak Spanish as their first or second language who have brought Arabic idioms and customs, which has led the population of this region to mix both languages and form a “Saharan Spanish”.
What to do in Western Sahara?
There are many places to visit in this Moroccan region where we can find many people who speak Spanish as a native language. Among some touristic sites to enjoy you can find:
- Laguna Naila (Naila Lagoon): Khenifiss National Park, which is 1850 square kilometers, is home to Naila Lagoon. We went on a boat ride and thought about how the waters of the Atlantic meet the sands of the Sahara. We also tried to fish, but you need a special permit for that. Also, for the past 516 years, there has been a tower called Santa Cruz de la Mar Pequea. This tower was built by order of the Catholic Monarchs.
- Cabo Bojador (Cape Bojador): It is a prominent cape on the North African Continent Atlantic coast, located on the north coast of Western Sahara, Note 1 south-southeast of the Canary Islands. The city Bojador is located in it.
Here are some typical Sahrawi Spanish words that were used by the locals in this country:
|Equatorial Guinea Spanish (Common Spanish language)||English|
|Agua tontona (Bebida alcoholica)||Spirit drink|
|Cholas (Sandalias)||Flip flops|
|Suerte Mulana (Suerte Divina)||Divine luck|
Spanish, is considered now one of the most spoken languages in the world. It had impact in other unimagined parts of the world, mixing with their cultures and shaping the nations and their people into what we know today.
If you’re eager to visit new corners of the Hispanic world, remember, learning Travel Spanish before planning your trip will not only help you get around your destinations more quickly and communicate fluently with the locals but totally enrich your travel experience to a whole new level.
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