Wolof Radios app. Wolof is a language of Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania, and the native language of the Wolof people. Like the neighbouring languages Serer and Fula, it belongs to the Senegambian branch of the Niger–Congo language family. Unlike most other languages of Sub-Saharan Africa, Wolof is not a tonal language.
Wolof originated as the language of the Lebou people. It is the most widely spoken language in Senegal, spoken natively by the Wolof people (40% of the population) but also by most other Senegalese as a second language. Wolof dialects vary geographically and between rural and urban areas. "Dakar-Wolof", for instance, is an urban mixture of Wolof, French, and Arabic.
"Wolof" is the standard spelling, and may refer to the Wolof people or to Wolof culture. Older French publications may use the spelling Ouolof, and some English publications Wollof, predominantly referring to (anglophone) Gambian Wolof. Prior to the 20th century, the forms Volof and Olof were used.
Wolof words in English are believed to include yam, from Wolof nyami "to eat food", and hip or hep, as hip cat, from Wolof hepikat "one who has his eyes open" or "one who is aware".
Wolof is spoken by more than 10 million people and about 40 percent (approximately 5 million people) of Senegal's population speak Wolof as their native language. Increased mobility, and especially the growth of the capital Dakar, created the need for a common language: today, an additional 40 percent of the population speak Wolof as a second or acquired language. In the whole region from Dakar to Saint-Louis, and also west and southwest of Kaolack, Wolof is spoken by the vast majority of the people. Typically when various ethnic groups in Senegal come together in cities and towns, they speak Wolof. It is therefore spoken in almost every regional and departmental capital in Senegal. Nevertheless, the official language of Senegal is French.
As stated above, great care should be taken when forming an opinion based on the figures prescribed here. These figures are misleading because other tribes who have been Wolofized and speak the Wolof language are added to this figure when in fact they are not Wolofs at all. Furthermore, not only is Serer and Fula just like Wolof etc. recognised and taught in schools, not everyone speaks or understands Wolof. There are Serers, Fulas, Mandinkas, Jolas etc. who cannot speak or understand Wolof. Moreover, not only Wolof people live in cities and towns. There are cities and towns which are predominantly Serers just as there are cities and towns which are predominantly Wolofs. Furthermore, there are Wolof villages just as there are Serer villages.
In the Gambia, about three percent of the population speak Wolof as a first language, but Wolof has a disproportionate influence because of its prevalence in Banjul, the Gambia's capital, where 25 percent of the population use it as a first language. In Serrekunda, the Gambia's largest town, although only a tiny minority are ethnic Wolofs, approximately 10 percent of the population speaks and/or understands Wolof. The official language of the Gambia is English; Mandinka (40 percent), Wolof (7 percent) and Fula (15 percent) are as yet not used in formal education.
In Mauritania, about seven percent (approximately 185,000 people) of the population speak Wolof. There, the language is used only around the southern coastal regions. Mauritania's official language is Arabic; French is used as a lingua franca in addition to Wolof and Arabic.