Burkina Share

The Languages of Burkina Faso

The Burkina Phrasebook? is now available. It has guides to pronunciation and more than 500 parallel English / French / Bambara / Mòoré / Jula phrases.
Let me know your thoughts as to how we can improve it.

In Burkina Faso, the official language is French for laws and commerce, but only an estimated 10 to 15% of the people speak any French. There are also sixty national languages, the three main ones being Mòoré, the Fulfudé (or Fulani) and Jula (Dyula). These three languages ​​were chosen in 1974 because they are considered by the State as vehicular languages ​​in the country.

More than 70 languages are represented in the country. Of these, several are fairly widely used for trade and understood as a second language, but none are dominant. To further confuse matters most every language is known by numerous names. Most have only had an alphabet developed in the past 20 or 30 years and only a handful have complete Bible Translations. Virtually nothing else in available in the languages.


French is the principal language of administrative, political and judicial institutions, public services, and the press. It is the only language for laws, administration and courts. The “African French” is rapidly departing from the French spoken in France however, even more so than the divergence of British and American English, For an interesting discussion see African French.


Alternate Names

Jaan, Joore, Mossi, Mooré, Moré, Moshi, Moore, Mole, Moose, Moshi, Mossi, Ouagadougou, Saremdé, Taolendé, Timbou, Yaadré, Yaan, Yaande, Yam, Yan, Yana, Yanga, and Zaore.
The Mòoré language is one of two official regional languages of Burkina Faso, closely related to the Dagbani language spoken in northern Ghana. It is the language of the Mossi people, the largest ethnic group in Burkina Faso and is spoken by approximately 5 million people in Burkina, plus another 60,000+ in Benin, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Togo, and Ghana.



Alternate names

Bamanakan, Beledugu, Ganadugu, San, Segou, Sikasso, Somono, Standard Bambara, Wasulunkakan (Maninkakan, Eastern, Wassulu, Wassulunka, Wassulunke, Wasulu, Wasuu). Many local dialects. The main division is standard Bambara, influenced heavily by Eastern Maninkakan [emk], and rural dialects. Bamanankan dialects are spoken in varying degrees by 80% of the Mali population. In Mali, Wasulunkakan is shared by both Bamanankan and Eastern Maninkakan, but in Guinea it is only a dialect of Eastern Maninkakan.
Bambara is pronounced like 'Barbara' but without the first 'R.' Bambara and Jula are considered dialects of Mandekan (Manding), but from my initial observations there are sufficient differences between the two to cause real confusion to an outsider. Bambara is used as a trade language in the northern and northwestern part of Burkina Faso and Jula is widely used in the southwest. The same pronunciation rules and sentence structure should apply to both languages.
Some of the differences between Bambara and Jula lie in variation in pronunciation. For example, the word 'five' is duuru in Bambara and loolu in Jula.



Alternate names

Dioula, Dioula Véhiculaire, Diula, Djula, Dyoula, Dyula, Jula Kong, Kong Jula, Tagboussikan, Trade Jula
The current usage of the name Dioula appears to be the most common among native speakers. English speakers are generally referring to the language as Jula. Unless I find compelling reason to change, I will refer to the language exclusively as Jula. There is a dialect difference between the Jula spoken in Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso.


1,000,000 in Burkina Faso (Gunnemark and Kenrick 1985). Up to 3,000,000 L2 speakers (2012 V. Vydrine). Population total all countries: 2,550,000.
Mutually intelligible with Bambara [bam], Kita Maninkakan [mwk], and Eastern Maninkakan [emk].
*Not taught in government schools.
*Radio programs.
*New Testament: 1993–1997.
*Old Testament now available.



Alternate Names



Bible available

Bobo Madaré

Bible available

Dagara, Birifor, Bobo-fing, Booma, Gourma, Lobiré, San

New Testment available


For further reading

Page last modified on June 20, 2015, at 06:18 AM