African Spanish is like the unicorn of the Spanish language family.
You might not believe it even exists.
After all, it is rare, and most people will not encounter it in their lifetimes.
But the fact remains that it is out there.
Unlike unicorns, though, African Spanish does actually exist.
More specifically, Equatorial Guinea Spanish.
In the long list of countries that speak Spanish, Equatorial Guinea is one you may have overlooked. But it is true: Spanish is widely spoken in the West African nation.
In fact, Spanish is one of the country’s official languages, so learners should take note.
Whether you are planning to travel or simply want your Spanish education to be complete and well-rounded, here is everything you need to know about Equatorial Guinea Spanish—and five resources for learning it.
Why Is Spanish Spoken in Equatorial Guinea?
Most Spanish students have heard of Latin American Spanish and Castilian Spanish. Many even know about some of the differences between Castilian and Latin American Spanish, like the Castilian use of vosotros (plural “you”) and lisping c and z.
But there is (literally) a world of other types of Spanish out there. And while Africa is not usually the first continent people think of when pondering the Spanish language, the fact remains that it is there and going strong.
Equatorial Guinea presents a glimpse at a completely unique kind of Spanish that arose from a rich history and cultural background.
You can read more about the origins of the Spanish language there at Encyclopedia Britannica, but we will sum it up for you here in a nutshell.
The territory has passed through many hands throughout its history. Portugal controlled the region starting in the 1400s but ceded it to Spain in the 1700s. The Spanish wanted it as a source of slaves for Latin America. However, yellow fever soon made the Spanish retreat and the British took over for a time.
Finally, the Spanish returned in the 1800s and remained until Equatorial Guinea declared independence in 1968.
This colonial history greatly shaped the nature of the Spanish language spoken in Equatorial Guinea, making it different from any other form of Spanish in the world.
If you want to be a well-rounded Spanish student, here is all you need to know about Equatoguinean Spanish.
Equatorial Guinea Spanish: Everything Spanish Learners Should Know
The Key Aspects of Equatorial Guinea Spanish
Luckily, interested Spanish students have access to some great research for learning more about Equatoguinean Spanish.
John Lipski, a professor of Spanish linguistics at Pennsylvania State University, has conducted extensive research on the subject and some of this research is available online.
For more information and to see the subject discussed in much more detail, read his articles “The Spanish Language of Equatorial Guinea” and “The Spanish of Equatorial Guinea: research on la hispanidad’s best-kept secret.”
We share some of the key points below.
There is a lot of individual variation between speakers.
World-language resource Ethnologue estimates that Equatorial Guinea is home to 737,000 Spanish speakers, virtually all of whom know how to speak Spanish as a second language.
Most people are native speakers of languages indigenous to the region, of which there is an abundance, including Fang, Bube, Batanga, Benga, Kombe, Pidgin and many more.
Because of this linguistic diversity, native languages can influence individual speakers’ pronunciation and grammar when speaking Spanish. This produces a lot of variation in Spanish spoken in Equatorial Guinea, which you’ll undoubtedly notice in the points below.
Pronunciation varies from other forms of Spanish and between speakers.
One key difference between Equatoguinean and other types of Spanish is pronunciation.
Equatoguinean Spanish has some unique variations in pronunciation. For instance, s at the end of a syllable or word is usually strongly pronounced, but it is also sometimes omitted altogether. Additionally, d can sound like r and there is usually no distinction between r and rr.
There are quite a few other variations that you can read about in more detail in Lipski’s previously mentioned article.
Because of the linguistic diversity in Equatorial Guinea, these pronunciation guidelines can vary a good deal between speakers and can be influenced by the pronunciation rules in a speaker’s native language.
Usted (formal “you”) is often paired with the tú (informal “you”) verb forms.
This is thought to stem from the fact that Spaniards in Equatorial Guinea often expected to be addressed by locals as usted but addressed locals with tú and the associated verb tenses.
Verbal “errors” or inconsistencies are common.
Stems, declensions and conjugations can all vary in Equatoguinean Spanish. You may also notice inconsistent subject-verb agreement beyond just the pairing of usted with tú verb forms.
Prepositions may be used interchangeably or omitted altogether.
De (from), a (to) and en (in) are most notably subject to this rule. While using them interchangeably is more common, they are sometimes omitted.
One of the most common variations is that en is frequently used with motion verbs. For instance, Vamos en escuela might be used to mean “We’re going to school.”
Nouns and adjectives do not always agree.
This is true of both number and gender, meaning you might hear a feminine noun paired with a masculine adjective, or a plural noun might be paired with a singular adjective.
5 Resources for Learning Equatorial Guinea Spanish
Learning this type of Spanish can be tricky since the rules vary so widely and there are few formal resources to study.
In the following resources, you are unlikely to encounter as many variations in the language as you might encounter in real-life scenarios. This is because most of these resources are formal and feature exceptionally well-educated speakers and/or writers.
Still, you might notice some variations in pronunciation. Pay close attention and you will learn some interesting things about the language!
“Paludismo en Guinea Ecuatorial”
“Paludismo en Guinea Ecuatorial” (“Malaria in Equatorial Guinea”) is an informational YouTube video created by Medical Care Development International to educate viewers about malaria prevention efforts.
Pay particular attention to the variations in pronunciation between speakers featured in the video.
“Ambassador Discusses Equatorial Guinea’s Native Languages”
In this video, Equatorial Guinea’s ambassador to the United States, Purificación Angue Ondo, briefly discusses the languages spoken in Equatorial Guinea.
Not only is this a good opportunity to hear another variation on Equatoguinean Spanish, but it will also teach you more about the linguistic heritage of the area.
This video is particularly useful for beginning and intermediate Spanish students since the ambassador speaks slowly and clearly and the video is also captioned in English.
“Idioma español en Guinea Ecuatorial”
“Idioma español en Guinea Ecuatorial” (“Spanish language in Equatorial Guinea”) features Paloma del Sol, a singer, composer, writer, actress and painter from Equatorial Guinea.
Paloma del Sol is from the island of Bioko and also performs in the Bube language, so these factors could influence her accent and pronunciation, making it unique from some other speakers.
In this video, she discusses the art and culture of Equatorial Guinea.
Equatorial Guinea News
While it has not posted new videos in a while, the Equatorial Guinea News YouTube channel offers dozens of great videos featuring the movers and shakers of the region.
You can watch speeches by the president, enjoy videos of sporting events and more. While some videos are in English, there is also plenty of Spanish-language material to keep you busy studying up on Equatoguinean Spanish.
Literatura de Guinea
Literatura de Guinea (Literature of Guinea) is a free website devoted to Equatorial Guinean poetry and short stories.
The language used is primarily standard, academic Spanish, so you are unlikely to notice many features that are unique to Equatoguinean Spanish. However, this is still a valuable way to connect to an underrepresented Spanish-speaking demographic.
Now that you know more about Equatoguinean Spanish, go out there and spread your knowledge of this unique variety of the Spanish language! Your language learning will be richer for it.