Some 13,443,225 people live in Mali, according to a July, 2009, estimate. The biggest ethnic group--33 percent of the population--consists of the Bambara people. Other ethnic groups: Fulani with 10 percent, Senoufo about 9 percent, Songhay 7 percent, Malinke with 6 percent, Tuareg 5 percent, and Dogon 4 percent.
Mali's official language, French, is a reflection of its former colonial status, and serves as the language of the government and schools. Mali gained independence in 1960.
The Bambara language is the most extensively spoken language in Mali, understood by 80 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook.
Mali recognizes 12 national languages in addition to French and Bambara, according to the Mali Travel Diaries website. They are Bomu, Tieyaxo Bozo, Toro So Dogon, Maasina Fulfulde, Hasanya Arabic, Mamara Senoufo, Kita Maninkakan, Soninke, Koyraboro Senni Songhay, Syenara Senoufo, Tamasheq and Xaasongaxango.
Numerous other indigenous languages and dialects are represented among Mali's diverse population, some spoken in only a handful of villages or by as few as 100 speakers.