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How different is French spoken in Africa and France?

Are you among these people who wonder if there is any difference between French spoken in France and French spoken in Africa? Do you want to know some African French slangs? Then this article is the best fit for you.

Why do some African countries Speak French?

African French speaking countries like Sénégal, Togo, Madagascar, Burkina Faso… have all been French colonies. Even if they got independent in the sixties, French is still spoken in these countries and is the official language in most of them. That means that French is the reference language in administrations and schools.

With time, French language spoken in these countries has been influenced by local languages. That’s the case for example of the nouchi, developed in Ivory Coast in the years 80s and that is now very popular not only in Ivory Coast but also in other west African countries.

Is the French spoken in Africa different from the one spoken in France?

I have seen some discussions on Quora about the difference between French spoken by African people and French spoken by people from France. In fact, this is what inspired me to write this article.

Let me tell you that French Language rules are the same, regardless of the country. The grammar rules are the same everywhere and the vocabulary too. However, there might be some specificities in the vocabulary depending on the countries.

It can also be spoken with a bit of accent due to the influence of some local languages. For example, French accent is different from Canadian accent. Even in France, accents differ depending on the regions. Parisian accent and alsacian are slightly different.

You might be surprised by what I am going to tell you. Some educated African people speak sometimes better French than French people. I can give many examples of people like Leopold Sedar Senghor, a Senegalese poet and politician, who supported the creation of Francophonie. Other names like Camara Laye, Amadou Ampate Ba, Sembene Ousmane and so on have impressed millions of people in the world with their writting skills.

Also, for some African people who grew up in France or lived there for a while, you may not even feel any difference in the accent compared to a French person.

For a French learner, it is good to be exposed to several French accents. After all, French is mostly spoken outside France and in particular in Africa. And you will also agree with me that it doesn’t make sense to say that you speak French if you are unable to have an appropriate conversation with any francophone.

As said previously, the way French is spoken is the same everywhere but there are some specificities in any language in term of vocabulary. That’s why I thought it could be interesting to share with you some west African slangs.

French from France vc French spoken in Africa
French spoken in France and Africa

Some west African French slangs

If you are travelling to Africa or even dealing with francophone West African people, it’s good to know these expressions. Most of them are taken from the nouchi which is spoken in Ivory coast. For each expression, you will have its definition and an example of it used in context.

1. Une go : this simply means a girl.

Cette go est timide. =>This girl is shy.

2. On dit quoi? Literally translated as what do we say? It means how are things going?

Salut Linda ! on dit quoi ? => Hi Linda! How are things going?

3. Bonne arrivée : like Bienvenue which means You’re welcome, you’ll often hear Bonne arrivée. This is commonly used to welcome somebody who is coming back at home or coming back from a trip.

Bonne arrivée Papa ! => Welcome Daddy !

4. Un maquis : it’s the word for talking about a street-side eatery where you can seat and have food and drinks.

Je vais souvent au maquis avec mes amis. => I sometimes go to the eatery with my friends

5. Un deuxième bureau : literally it means second office. But in the African context, this expression is the synonym of mistress.

Elle pense que son mari a un deuxième bureau => She thinks that her husband has a mistress

6. Chef : this word is used to express superiority. In the market the customer can be called Chef, the policeman also can be called chef.

Chef, Je suis désolé d’avoir oublié mon permis de conduire. => Boss, I am sorry that i have forgotten my driving license.

7. Un boucantier : generally used for an artist or dancer who performs in the musical genre of Coupé-Décalé. It can also mean somebody who likes to show off, or dressing in a way to show his wealth.

Dès que tu vois Matt, tu sais que c’est un vrai boucantier. => As soons as you see Matt you know that he really likes to show off.


8. Le bougnac : it refers to money.

Ce garçon aime frimer alors que tout le monde sait qu’il n’a pas de bougnac. => This boy likes to show off but everybody knows he has no money.

9. Casser le cou de quelqu’un : Literally to break somebody’s neck. It means to break up with somebody.

Hier, Marie a cassé mon cou => Yesterday, Marie broke up with me.

10. Bingue : that’s the way west African people call France or Europe.

Notre voisin est parti à Bingue pour chercher du travail. => Our neighbour went to France/Europe to look for a job.

11. Une brique : means a million cents but west african people use it to say 1 million of any currency.

Si je gagne une brique, je construirai une école pour mon village => If I win 1 million i will build a school for my village.

12. Un ken : it’s the synonym for a business.

Ce ken m’a l’air louche. => This business doesn’t seem clear.

13. Un goumin : a heartache

Son petit ami l’a quittée et depuis elle souffre d’un goumin. => Her boyfriend left her and since that she suffers from a heartache.

14. Ne pas être en drap de quelque chose : this negative sentence is literally translated as not being in bedsheet of something. This expression means not to be informed of something or not to be aware of it.

Il a été surpris par la décision de son entreprise. Il n’était pas en drap des dernières évolutions. => He was surprised by the decisions of his company. he wasn't aware of the last evolutions.

15. Les bras longs du pays : influent people of the country.

Alain fait partie des bras longs du pays ; il vient d’être nommé directeur d’une banque. => Alain is one of the influent people of the country. He has just been promoted Director of a bank.

16. Affairé (e) : stands for someone who likes gossiping.

Je n’ai amais vu quelqu’un d’aussi affairé. => I’ve never seen such a gossip person.

17. Être enjaillé (e) de quelqu’un : a slang meaning to really like somebody.

Ali est enjaillé de Meryem. => Ali reallly likes Meryem.

18. Ça ne ment pas : literally translated as it doesn’t lie. But it means something with great quality.

Tu as vu sa présentation? Ca ne ment pas ! => Have you seen his lecture? The quality was great!

19. Faroter : a synonym of showing off. It also means to give money to someone, usually during celebrations or parties, in front of a lot of people, in order to show off.

Depuis que son album est devenu célèbre, cet artiste ne fait que faroter => Since his album is famous, this artist keeps showing off.

20. Être moisi (e) : this has nothing to do with mold. It only means to be broke.

Avec le coronavirus, je n’ai plus beaucoup de clients et je suis complètement moisi. => With Coronavirus, I don’t have a lot of customers anymore and I am completely broke.

To wrap it up, the way French is spoken is the same everywhere but there are some specificities in any language in term of vocabulary that is good to be known but any language learner, especially if you are in touch with west African French speakers.

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To practice on this vocabulary, do the quiz below.

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