Languages of South Africa

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Languages of South Africa_table_infobox_0

Languages of South AfricaLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_0_0_0
Dominant languages in South Africa:

‹ The template below (Columns) is being considered for deletion. See templates for discussion to help reach a consensus. ›

  Afrikaans   English   Sepedi   Sesotho   Southern Ndebele   Swazi   Tsonga   Tswana   Venda   Xhosa   Zulu   None dominantLanguages of South Africa_cell_0_1_0

OfficialLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_0_2_0 English, Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Pedi, Tswana, Southern Sotho, Tsonga, Swazi, Venda and Southern NdebeleLanguages of South Africa_cell_0_2_1
SignificantLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_0_3_0 Khoekhoegowab, !Orakobab, Xirikobab, N|uuki, !Xunthali, Khwedam, SiPhuthi, IsiHlubi, SiBhaca, SiLala, SiNhlangwini ("IsiZansi"), SiNrebele (SiSumayela), IsiMpondo/IsiMpondro, KheLobedu, SePulana, HiPai, SeKutswe, SeṰokwa, SeHananwa, SiThonga, SiLaNgomane, SheKgalagari, XiRhonga et al.Languages of South Africa_cell_0_3_1
MainLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_0_4_0 EnglishLanguages of South Africa_cell_0_4_1
SignedLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_0_5_0 South African Sign LanguageLanguages of South Africa_cell_0_5_1
Keyboard layoutLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_0_6_0 QWERTYLanguages of South Africa_cell_0_6_1

At least thirty-five languages indigenous to South Africa are spoken in the Republic, ten of which are official languages of South Africa: Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venḓa, Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans. Languages of South Africa_sentence_0

The eleventh official language is English, which is the primary language used in parliamentary and state discourse, though all official languages are equal in legal status, and unofficial languages are protected under the Constitution of South Africa, though few are mentioned by any name. Languages of South Africa_sentence_1

South African Sign Language has legal recognition but is not an official language, despite a campaign and parliamentary recommendation for it to be declared one. Languages of South Africa_sentence_2

Unofficial and marginalised languages include what are considered some of Southern Africa's First Nation languages: Khoekhoegowab, !Orakobab, Xirikobab, N|uuki, !Xunthali, and Khwedam; and other African languages, such as SiPhuthi, IsiHlubi, SiBhaca, SiLala, SiNhlangwini ("IsiZansi"), SiNrebele (SiSumayela), IsiMpondo/IsiMpondro, KheLobedu, SePulana, HiPai, SeKutswe, SeṰokwa, SeHananwa, SiThonga, SiLaNgomane, SheKgalagari, XiRhonga, SeKopa( Sekgaga) and others. Languages of South Africa_sentence_3

Most South Africans can speak more than one language, and there is very often a diglossia between the official and unofficial language forms for speakers of the latter. Languages of South Africa_sentence_4

Language demographics Languages of South Africa_section_0

The most common language spoken as a first language by South Africans is Zulu (23 percent), followed by Xhosa (16 percent), and Afrikaans (14 percent). Languages of South Africa_sentence_5

English is the fourth most common first language in the country (9.6%), but is understood in most urban areas and is the dominant language in government and the media. Languages of South Africa_sentence_6

The majority of South Africans speak a language from one of the two principal branches of the Bantu languages that are represented in South Africa: the Sotho–Tswana branch (which includes Southern Sotho, Northern Sotho and Tswana languages officially), or the Nguni branch (which includes Zulu, Xhosa, Swati and Ndebele languages officially). Languages of South Africa_sentence_7

For each of the two groups, the languages within that group are for the most part intelligible to a native speaker of any other language within that group. Languages of South Africa_sentence_8

The indigenous African languages of South Africa which are official, and therefore dominant, can be divided into two geographical zones, with Nguni languages being predominant in the south-eastern third of the country (Indian Ocean coast) and Sotho-Tswana languages being predominant in the northern third of the country located further inland, as also in Botswana and Lesotho. Languages of South Africa_sentence_9

Gauteng is the most linguistically heterogeneous province, with roughly equal numbers of Nguni, Sotho-Tswana and Indo-European language speakers, with Khoekhoe influence. Languages of South Africa_sentence_10

This has resulted in the spread of an urban argot, Tsotsitaal or S'Camtho/Ringas, in large urban townships in the province, which has spread nationwide. Languages of South Africa_sentence_11

Tsotsitaal in its original form as "Flaaitaal" was based on Afrikaans, a language derived from Dutch, which is the most widely spoken language in the western half of the country (Western and Northern Cape). Languages of South Africa_sentence_12

It is spoken as first language by approximately 61 percent of whites and 76 percent of Coloureds. Languages of South Africa_sentence_13

This racial term is popularly considered to mean "multiracial", as it represents to some degree a creole population, however most of whom are in fact Khoekhoen in heritage, and many (particularly Cape Muslims) are also descendants of slave populations imported by the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) from slaving posts in West and East Africa, and from its colonies of the Indian Ocean trade route. Languages of South Africa_sentence_14

Political exiles from the VOC colony of Batavia were also brought to the Cape, and these formed a major influencing force in the formation of Afrikaans, particularly in its Malay influence, and its early Jawi literature. Languages of South Africa_sentence_15

Primary of these was the founder of Islam at the Cape, Sheikh Abadin Tadia Tjoessoep (known as Sheikh Yusuf). Languages of South Africa_sentence_16

Hajji Yusuf was an Indonesian noble of royal descent, being the nephew of the Sultan Alauddin of Gowa, in today Makassar, Nusantara. Languages of South Africa_sentence_17

Yusuf, along with 49 followers including two wives, two concubines and twelve children, were received in the Cape on 2 April 1694 by governor Simon van der Stel. Languages of South Africa_sentence_18

They were housed on the farm Zandvliet, far outside of Cape Town, in an attempt to minimise his influence on the VOC's slaves. Languages of South Africa_sentence_19

The plan failed however; Yusuf's settlement (called Macassar) soon became a sanctuary for slaves and it was here that the first cohesive Islamic community in South Africa was established. Languages of South Africa_sentence_20

From here the message of Islam was disseminated to the slave community of Cape Town, and this population was foundational in the formation of Afrikaans. Languages of South Africa_sentence_21

Of particular note is the Cape Muslim pioneering of the first Afrikaans literature, written in Arabic Afrikaans, which was an adaptation of the Jawi script, using Arabic letters to represent Afrikaans for both religious and quotidian purposes. Languages of South Africa_sentence_22

Afrikaans, however, originates in the Dutch varieties spoken in Khoekhoe communities of ǁHuiǃgaeb (the Khoekhoe name for the region of Cape Town), as a trade language before and during the early stages of the VOC occupation. Languages of South Africa_sentence_23

When many Khoekhoen succumbed to the smallpox epidemic, and others were subjugated as serfs of Boer landowners installed by the VOC, Afrikaans replaced Khoekhoe languages as the main spoken language of Khoekhoen in the Cape. Languages of South Africa_sentence_24

It also became the de facto national language of the Griqua (Xiri or Griekwa) nation, which was also primarily a Khoekhoe group. Languages of South Africa_sentence_25

Afrikaans is also spoken widely across the centre and north of the country, as a second (or third or even fourth) language by Black South Africans (which, in South Africa, popularly means SiNtu-speaking populations) living in farming areas. Languages of South Africa_sentence_26

The 2011 census recorded the following distribution of first language speakers: Languages of South Africa_sentence_27

Languages of South Africa_table_general_1

LanguageLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_1_0_0 L1 speakersLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_1_0_2
EnglishLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_1_1_0 EndonymLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_1_1_1 CountLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_1_1_2 Of populationLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_1_1_3
ZuluLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_2_0 isiZuluLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_2_1 11,587,374Languages of South Africa_cell_1_2_2 22.7%Languages of South Africa_cell_1_2_3
XhosaLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_3_0 isiXhosaLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_3_1 8,154,258Languages of South Africa_cell_1_3_2 16.0%Languages of South Africa_cell_1_3_3
AfrikaansLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_4_0 AfrikaansLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_4_1 6,855,082Languages of South Africa_cell_1_4_2 13.5%Languages of South Africa_cell_1_4_3
EnglishLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_5_0 EnglishLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_5_1 4,892,623Languages of South Africa_cell_1_5_2 9.6%Languages of South Africa_cell_1_5_3
Northern SothoLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_6_0 Sesotho sa LeboaLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_6_1 4,618,576Languages of South Africa_cell_1_6_2 9.1%Languages of South Africa_cell_1_6_3
TswanaLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_7_0 SetswanaLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_7_1 4,067,248Languages of South Africa_cell_1_7_2 8.0%Languages of South Africa_cell_1_7_3
SesothoLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_8_0 SesothoLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_8_1 3,849,563Languages of South Africa_cell_1_8_2 7.6%Languages of South Africa_cell_1_8_3
TsongaLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_9_0 XitsongaLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_9_1 2,277,148Languages of South Africa_cell_1_9_2 4.5%Languages of South Africa_cell_1_9_3
SwatiLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_10_0 siSwatiLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_10_1 1,297,046Languages of South Africa_cell_1_10_2 2.5%Languages of South Africa_cell_1_10_3
VendaLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_11_0 TshivenḓaLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_11_1 1,209,388Languages of South Africa_cell_1_11_2 2.4%Languages of South Africa_cell_1_11_3
NdebeleLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_12_0 isiNdebeleLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_12_1 1,090,223Languages of South Africa_cell_1_12_2 2.1%Languages of South Africa_cell_1_12_3
SA Sign LanguageLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_13_0 Languages of South Africa_cell_1_13_1 234,655Languages of South Africa_cell_1_13_2 0.5%Languages of South Africa_cell_1_13_3
Other languagesLanguages of South Africa_cell_1_14_0 Languages of South Africa_cell_1_14_1 828,258Languages of South Africa_cell_1_14_2 1.6%Languages of South Africa_cell_1_14_3
TotalLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_1_15_0 50,961,443Languages of South Africa_header_cell_1_15_2 100.0%Languages of South Africa_header_cell_1_15_3

Other significant languages in South Africa Languages of South Africa_section_1

Other languages spoken in South Africa not mentioned in the Constitution, include many of those already mentioned above, such as KheLobedu, SiNrebele, SiPhuthi, as well as mixed languages like Fanakalo (a pidgin language used as a lingua franca in the mining industry), and Tsotsitaal or S'Camtho, an argot that has found wider usage as an informal register. Languages of South Africa_sentence_28

Many unofficial languages have been variously claimed to be dialects of official languages, which largely follows the Apartheid practice of the Bantustans, wherein minority populations where legally assimilated towards the official ethnos of the Bantustan or "Homeland". Languages of South Africa_sentence_29

Significant numbers of immigrants from Europe, elsewhere in Africa, and the Indian subcontinent (largely as a result of the British Indian indenture system) means that a wide variety of other languages can also be found in parts of South Africa. Languages of South Africa_sentence_30

In the older immigrant communities there are: Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Portuguese, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Yiddish, Italian and smaller numbers of Dutch, French and German speakers. Languages of South Africa_sentence_31

These non-official languages may be used in limited semi-official use where it has been determined that these languages are prevalent. Languages of South Africa_sentence_32

More importantly, these languages have significant local functions in specific communities whose identity is tightly bound around the linguistic and cultural identity that these non-official SA languages signal. Languages of South Africa_sentence_33

The fastest growing non-official language is Portuguese – first spoken by immigrants from Portugal, especially Madeira and later black and white settlers and refugees from Angola and Mozambique after they won independence from Portugal and now by more recent immigrants from those countries again – and increasingly French, spoken by immigrants and refugees from Francophone Central Africa. Languages of South Africa_sentence_34

More recently, speakers of North, Central and West Africa languages have arrived in South Africa, mostly in the major cities, especially in Johannesburg and Pretoria, but also Cape Town and Durban. Languages of South Africa_sentence_35

Constitutional provisions Languages of South Africa_section_2

Chapter 1 (Founding Provisions), Section 6 (Languages) of the Constitution of South Africa is the basis for government language policy. Languages of South Africa_sentence_36

The English text of the constitution signed by president Nelson Mandela on 16 December 1996 uses (mostly) the names of the languages expressed in those languages themselves. Languages of South Africa_sentence_37

Sesotho refers to Southern Sotho, and isiNdebele refers to Southern Ndebele. Languages of South Africa_sentence_38

Controversy surrounds the designation of Northern Sesotho as Sepedi (its main dialect) instead of the comprehensive Sesotho sa Leboa (which had been the wording in the Interim Constitution of 1993). Languages of South Africa_sentence_39

The spelling of Venda is also incorrectly rendered as Tshivenda instead of the correct Tshivenḓa. Languages of South Africa_sentence_40

The constitution mentions "sign language" in the generic sense rather than South African Sign Language specifically. Languages of South Africa_sentence_41

Sample text Languages of South Africa_section_3

The following is from the preamble to the Constitution of South Africa: Languages of South Africa_sentence_42

Languages of South Africa_table_general_2

EnglishLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_2_0_0 AfrikaansLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_2_0_1 isiNdebeleLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_2_0_2 isiXhosaLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_2_0_3 isiZuluLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_2_0_4 siSwatiLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_2_0_5 SepediLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_2_0_6 SesothoLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_2_0_7 SetswanaLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_2_0_8 TshivendaLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_2_0_9 XitsongaLanguages of South Africa_header_cell_2_0_10
PreambleLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_1_0 AanhefLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_1_1 IsendlaleloLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_1_2 IntshayeleloLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_1_3 IsendlaleloLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_1_4 SendlaleloLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_1_5 KetapeleLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_1_6 KetapeleLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_1_7 PulamadibogoLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_1_8 MvulatswingaLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_1_9 MangheneloLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_1_10
We, the people of South Africa,Languages of South Africa_cell_2_2_0 Ons, die mense van Suid-Afrika,Languages of South Africa_cell_2_2_1 Thina, abantu beSewula Afrika,Languages of South Africa_cell_2_2_2 Thina, bantu baseMzantsi-Afrika,Languages of South Africa_cell_2_2_3 Thina, bantu baseNingizimu Afrika,Languages of South Africa_cell_2_2_4 Tsine, bantfu baseNingizimu Afrika,Languages of South Africa_cell_2_2_5 Rena, batho ba Afrika Borwa,Languages of South Africa_cell_2_2_6 Rona, batho ba Afrika Borwa,Languages of South Africa_cell_2_2_7 Rona, batho ba Aforika Borwa,Languages of South Africa_cell_2_2_8 Riṋe, vhathu vha Afrika Tshipembe,Languages of South Africa_cell_2_2_9 Hina, vanhu va Afrika Dzonga,Languages of South Africa_cell_2_2_10
Recognise the injustices of our past;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_3_0 Erken die ongeregtighede van ons verlede;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_3_1 Siyakwazi ukungakaphatheki kwethu ngokomThetho kwesikhathi sakade;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_3_2 Siyaziqonda iintswela-bulungisa zexesha elidlulileyo;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_3_3 Siyazamukela izenzo ezingalungile zesikhathi esadlula;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_3_4 Siyakubona kungabi khona kwebulungiswa esikhatsini lesengcile;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_3_5 Re lemoga ditlhokatoka tša rena tša bogologolo;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_3_6 Re elellwa ho ba le leeme ha rona nakong e fetileng;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_3_7 Re itse ditshiamololo tsa rona tse di fetileng;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_3_8 Ri dzhiela nṱha u shaea ha vhulamukanyi kha tshifhinga tsho fhelaho;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_3_9 Hi lemuka ku pfumaleka ka vululami ka nkarhi lowu nga hundza;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_3_10
Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_4_0 Huldig diegene wat vir geregtigheid en vryheid in ons land gely het;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_4_1 Sihlonipha labo abahlukumezekako ngerhuluphelo yokobana kube khona ubulungiswa nekululeko enarhenekhethu;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_4_2 Sibothulel’ umnqwazi abo baye bev’ ubunzima ukuze kubekho ubulungisa nenkululeko elizweni lethu;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_4_3 Siphakamisa labo abahluphekela ubulungiswa nenkululeko emhlabeni wethu;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_4_4 Setfulela sigcoko labo labahlushwa kuze sitfole bulungiswa nenkhululeko eveni lakitsi;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_4_5 Re tlotla bao ba ilego ba hlokofaletšwa toka le tokologo nageng ya gaborena;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_4_6 Re tlotla ba hlokofaditsweng ka lebaka la toka le tokoloho naheng ya rona;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_4_7 Re tlotla ba ba bogileng ka ntlha ya tshiamo le kgololosego mo lefatsheng la rona;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_4_8 Ri ṱhonifha havho vhe vha tambulela vhulamukanyi na mbofholowo kha shango ḽashu;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_4_9 Hi xixima lava xanisekeke hikwalaho ko hisekela vululami na ntshunxeko etikweni ra hina;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_4_10
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; andLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_5_0 Respekteer diegene wat hul beywer het om ons land op te bou en te ontwikkel; enLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_5_1 Sihlonipha labo abasebenzileko ekwakhiweni nekuthuthukisweni kwephasi lekhethu; begoduLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_5_2 Siyabahlonela abo baye basebenzela ukwakha nokuphucula ilizwe lethu; kwayeLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_5_3 Sihlonipha labo abasebenzele ukwakha nokuthuthukisa izwe lethu; futhiLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_5_4 Sihlonipha labo labaye basebentela kwakha nekutfutfukisa live lakitsi; futsiLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_5_5 Re hlompha bao ba ilego ba katanela go aga le go hlabolla naga ya gaborena; mmeLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_5_6 Re tlotla ba ileng ba sebeletsa ho aha le ho ntshetsa pele naha ya rona; mmeLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_5_7 Re tlotla ba ba diretseng go aga le go tlhabolola naga ya rona; mmeLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_5_8 Ri ṱhonifha havho vhe vha shuma vha tshi itela u fhaṱa na u bveledzisa shango ḽashu; naLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_5_9 Hi hlonipha lava tirheke ku aka no hluvukisa tiko ra hina; noLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_5_10
Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.Languages of South Africa_cell_2_6_0 Glo dat Suid-Afrika behoort aan almal wat daarin woon, verenig in ons verskeidenheid.Languages of South Africa_cell_2_6_1 Bakholwa bona iSewula Afrika ingeyabo boke abahlala kiyo, sibambene ngokwahlukahlukana kwethu.Languages of South Africa_cell_2_6_2 Sikholelwa kwelokuba uMzantsi-Afrika ngowabo bonke abahlala kuwo, bemanyene nangona bengafani.Languages of South Africa_cell_2_6_3 Sikholelwa ukuthi iNingizimu Afrika ingeyabo bonke abahlala kuyo, sibumbene nakuba singafani.Languages of South Africa_cell_2_6_4 Sikholelwa ekutseni iNingizimu Afrika yabo bonkhe labahlala kuyo, sihlangene ngekwehlukahlukana kwetfu;Languages of South Africa_cell_2_6_5 Re dumela gore Afrika-Borwa ke ya batho bohle ba ba dulago go yona, re le ngata e tee e nago le pharologanoLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_6_6 Re dumela hore Afrika Borwa ke naha ya bohle ba phelang ho yona, re kopane le ha re fapane.Languages of South Africa_cell_2_6_7 Re dumela fa Aforika Borwa e le ya botlhe ba ba tshelang mo go yona, re le ngata e le nngwe ka go farologanaLanguages of South Africa_cell_2_6_8 U tenda uri Afrika Tshipembe ndi ḽa vhoṱhe vhane vha dzula khaḽo, vho vhofhekanywaho vha vha huthihi naho vha sa fani.Languages of South Africa_cell_2_6_9 Tshembha leswaku Afrika Dzonga i ya vanhu hinkwavo lava tshamaka eka rona, hi hlanganile hi ku hambana-hambana ka hina.Languages of South Africa_cell_2_6_10

See also Languages of South Africa_section_4

Languages of South Africa_unordered_list_0

Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: of South Africa.