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"Dadaab, Somalia - August 15, 2011: Unidentified children live in the Dadaab refugee camp where thousands of Somalis wait for help because of hunger on August 15, 2011 in Dadaab, Somalia"

“Dadaab, Somalia – August 15, 2011: Unidentified children live in the Dadaab refugee camp where thousands of Somalis wait for help because of hunger on August 15, 2011 in Dadaab, Somalia”

Somali Language Statistics/Facts:

Somali is a member of the Cushtic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family, specifically Lowland East Cushtic. The Cushtic branch is made up of about 40 different languages, which are mainly spoken in the Horn of Africa, Sudan, Egypt, Tanzania, and Kenya.

Of these approximately 40 languages, Somali is the best documented, with academic studies dating back as far as the 19th century.

There are approximately 16-17 million Somali speakers in the world, with about 8-10 million living in Somalia. Somali is also spoken by the majority of the population in the country of Dijbouti, a part of which is encompassed in Greater Somalia, along with the Ogaden region in Ethiopia, and the North Eastern Province in Kenya.

The language is divided into three dialects: Maay, Northern, and Benaadir. The Northern dialect (also known as Northern-Central) is considered Standard Somali. The Northern dialect has historically been used by renowned Somali poets, as well as the political elite, and is often noted as the most prestigious dialect. Benaadir, also known as Coastal Somali, is primarily spoken on the Indian Ocean seaboard, and is mutually intelligible with the Northern dialect. Maay is primarily spoken by clans in the southern regions of Somalia, and its use extends from the southwestern border with Ethiopia to an area close to the coastal strip between Mogadishu and Kismayo. Maay is not mutually comprehensible with Northern Somali or Benaadir, and differs in sentence structure and phonology. It is also not generally used in education or media. However, Maay speakers also use Standard Somali, which is often learned via mass communications and urbanization.


Somali Dialects:

Dialect Region
Maay Southern Somalia


Northern Somalia


Benaadir Coast


Countries where Somali is spoken:

Federal Republic of Somalia




Somali Speaking Country Data:

Country: Somalia
Capital: Mogadishu
Population: 10,251,000
Federal Parliamentary Republic: President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
Currency: Somali Shilling
GDP (ppp): $5.896 b
Unemployment: 70%
Government Type: Federal Republic
Industries: Mining, sugar refineries, livestock, and telecommunications.

Country: Djibouti
Capital: Djibouti
Population: 906,000
Parliamentary Republic: President Ismail Omar Guelleh
Currency: Djiboutian Franc (DJF)
GDP (ppp): $2.377 b
Unemployment: 59%%
Government Type: Constitutional Republic
Industries: Banking, insurance, transportation, tourism, and agricultural production.


Somali History

The Somali have an intriguing history. The land they occupy today belonged to the Aksum Ethiopian Kingdom from the second to seventh centuries AD. The Somali are said to have migrated from present day Yemen to the land sometime around the 9th century AD. Somalia was later colonized by the British, which led to the widespread use of English in the country.

Somali has been the official language of the Somali Republic since 1972. It was standardized under the rule of Siad Barre. Somali remained the dominant language in the war stricken country, even after the collapse of the central government in early 1990s.

The Somali country and people have had a long period of tribal differences and civil war. In 2012, however, the first permanent central government was established, the Federal Government of Somalia. The war still continues.

Interesting Somali Facts:

  • Somali is spoken by the majority of people in Somalia (>85%)
  • The Somali were colonized by both France and Britain before attaining independence in 1960.
  • The majority of Somalis are Sunni Muslims