The sovereign state of Mauritania lies within Northwest Africa. With a strong cultural history and a population of 4.4 million, a wide variation of languages is spoken throughout the region; including larger official languages, smaller regional languages and dialects that apply to certain ethnic groups.

The simplest way to explore the rich lingual background of the state is to break it down into sub-categories; Afro-Asiatic, Niger Congo, Berber and foreign languages. Each dialect has an important role within Mauritania.

Afro-Asiatic languages

The languages in this family play a vital role within the state, with Arabic being considered an official language.


Arabic is the official language of Mauritania. Typically, the modern standard variation, Arabic is used widely within the government and media. A great proportion of the Mauritanian population are Muslim- meaning that Arabic is heavily utilised and recognised by the majority of citizens.


The Berber language dates back to earlier times, when at this point it was used widely. Since then, it tends to only be spoken within southern Mauritania. In this day, there are thought to be only 200 speakers of Berber language in the region.

Niger-Congo Languages

Throughout Mauritania, there are small ethnic clusters who speak their own ethnic languages.  A lot of these come under the umbrella of the Niger-Congo language family. These include Wolof, Soninke, Bambara and Pulaar.


French is an incredibly popular language throughout Mauritania. There are approximately 705,000 speakers within the state. A large proportion of the population are able to understand French to a certain degree, or even speak it natively. The use of French dates to the French colonial rule in Mauritania.

Final thoughts

Within Mauritania the rich cultural background makes for a versatile and varying array of languages. The language spoken natively may depend upon the region you are in, however, most of the population are able to decipher the use of Arabic- meaning this is the lingua franca of Mauritania.

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