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Hausa is the most widely spoken language of West Africa. In Nigeria it is the first language of at least 25 million people, with another 15 million speaking it fluently as a second language. As a result it has become the lingua franca for most of the northern part of the country. There are also about 5 million speakers in neighboring Niger and smaller numbers in other countries. Hausa belongs to the Chadic branch of the Afro-Asiatic (Hamito-Semitic) family of languages. Before the colonial period it was written in a variety of the Arabic script known as "Ajami", but this has largely given way to a modified Roman script introduced by the British. The language contains many words borrowed from the Arabic, and has a long tradition of songs and poetry within a cosmopolitan Islamic culture which developed thanks to the geographical location of the old Hausa states astride the trans-Saharan and savannah trade routes. Today it is a language of wider communication also in terms of TV and radio broadcasting.
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