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The Languages spoken in Madagascar

The language of the country of Madagascar is Malagasy. It is the only one in the African region that belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian language family. The language is spoken throughout the country by 18 million Malagasy people (Malagasy is both the name of the language and the inhabitants of Madagascar). The colorful language is a living synthesis of Indonesian, African, and Arabic elements.

The only Malagasy people with a written language were the Antaimoro in the 19th century. The Antaimoro were the keepers of the sorabe. In 1824-25, the London Missionary Society working under the patronage of Merina King Radama I developed a written form of Malagasy using Roman characters. The consonants are pronounced in English while the vowels are in French, which resulted to an almost perfectly consistent phonetic language. The completion of the alphabet enabled the missionaries to publish a Malagasy Bible and other books for their schools.

When the First Republic adopted an official policy of bilingualism (French and Malagasy), French language is still the dominant language of the island. It continued to dominate until the inauguration of Ratsiraka and his promulgation of an official policy of Malagachization.

The Malagasy alphabet has 21 letters found in the English alphabet. It lacks the letters C, Q, U, W, and X. The letter A is always short, as in watch, while the letter E sounds like a long A, as in pace. The letter I is pronounced a long E, as in bean, and the letter J sounds like dz, and the letter O sounds like oo.


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