Bambara is a Western Mande language with about 14 million speakers mainly in Mali, and also in Senegal, Niger, Mauritania, Gambia and Côte d'Ivoire. It is spoken principally among the Bambara ethnic group in Mali, where it is the national language and the most widely understood one. In 2012 there were about 14 million Bambara speakers in Mali, including 4 million native speakers, particularly in the Kayes, Koulikoro, Ségou and Sikasso regions in the south of the country. Bambara is taught in primary schools in Mali, and used in literature and the media.
In 2017 there were about 84,700 speakers of Bambara in Senegal, mainly in the Tambacounda region in the southeast near the border with Mali. There are also about 50,000 Bambara speakers in Niger, 21,100 in Mauritania, 20,500 in Gambia, and about 5,500 in northern Côte d'Ivoire.
Writing was introduced to the Bambara during the French occupation (1880-1960) and Bambara is usually written with the Latin alphabet, though the N'Ko and Arabic alphabets are also used to some extent. In addition, there is a rich oral literature, consisting largely of tales of kings and heroes.
Hear how to pronounce Bambara:
Hadamaden bɛɛ danmakɛɲɛnen bɛ bange, danbe ni josira la. Hakili ni taasi b'u bɛɛ la, wa u ka kan ka badenɲasira de waleya u ni ɲɔgɔn cɛ.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Online Bambara lessons and phrases
Page last modified: 16.05.21
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