What language is spoken in Madagascar ?

When I say Madagascar, don’t think especially of King Julian or I like to move it move it, I’m talking about Madagascar, this big island that has nothing to do with this very popular animated film. For those who are not aware, Madagascar was a French colony from 1896 until 1960 (theoretically), so I won’t give you a history lesson this time. But let’s now look at what language is spoken in Madagascar.

To answer the question, the official language in Madagascar is obviously Malagasy, what did you think ? But despite this, it was still agreed that French was the first language, and English the second language.

Malagasy, the official language

What did you think ? Of course, « malagasy ofisialy » is the official language in Madagascar. But I would say that it is not the most widely spoken language on the big island. This language corresponds mainly to the language of the highlands, especially the capital, Antananarivo, except for a few notions, but Madagascar is composed of 22 regions and 18 tribes. What am I getting at ? Madagascar is an island with a very diverse population, so there are 18 different ethnic groups, each with their own dialect. The dialect can therefore vary from one region to another and I would like to note that most of the peoples of these ethnic groups do not even know the « malagasy ofisialy ». For example, once I went to Nosy-be, but I assure you, I understood nothing about what the waiter told me in a restaurant except his sentence « fa ianao moa tsy malagasy ? » (but aren’t you Malagasy ?), just because I didn’t answer any of his questions just because I didn’t understand anything.

The place of French in Madagascar

The fact that France had colonized the country plays a very important role in the language spoken in Madagascar. Indeed, French is used in all official activities such as education, meetings, press releases, paperwork, etc. Imagine that even in universities in Antananarivo, the Malagasy language course is studied in French (MDR). In the 70s and 80s (thanks to RAINIFARA A. Harison for the precision), there was a reform called « Malgachisation » but it didn’t last, in addition this reform ruined education a little.

Product brand, signs, slogan, signs etc… in short, everything is in French xD
Product brand, signs, slogan, signs etc… in short, everything is in French xD

In short, all this to say that French has a very important place in Madagascar. Films and programmes that have a high television audience in Madagascar as well as the radio audience also, and even most advertisements in Madagascar are in French.

But there is a little paradox here, it is said that French has a big place in Madagascar when not even half of the people can speak French.

Other languages in Madagascar

It can be said that Malagasy people are very interested in everything that is linguistic. Before, apart from French, English was the only language that interested Malagasy people, because it was the first international language. They say you don’t get lost anywhere in the world when you speak English, and speaking English in Madagascar has become a way to prove that you are xD cultured. But in recent years, Malagasy people seem to have a thirst to become multilingual xD.

Already, German, Spanish and Mandarin are now taught in schools, even in primary schools (there are even nurseries and kindergartens in Antananarivo that already introduce small children to Mandarin).

Only a small minority of Malagasy people speak other languages
Only a small minority of Malagasy people speak other languages

Then, since the invasion of the Kpop, i. e. Korean culture and also the animates, the young people all want to speak Korean and Japanese, hence the appearance of schools for these languages in Madagascar.

In short, Madagascar has an island with a curious people who are interested in other languages despite poverty. Some are even willing to pay a large sum to pay for adequate language training despite the cost of living in Madagascar. But unfortunately, it is only a minority, a very small minority, that has access to these foreign languages. So, to answer the question, Malagasy, which varies according to the region, is the most widely spoken language in Madagascar, even if French imposes a large place on paper and on everything official.

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