What Are the 11 Official Languages in South Africa?

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Language diversity in South Africa is evident from the fact that there are eleven official languages in South Africa. You may be wondering what these languages are – here you will find out! I will also provide you with information on the greetings in the 11 South African languages, as well as how to say thank you in the South African languages.

Some South African Language Facts

The 11 official South African languages include English, Afrikaans, Ndebele, Xhosa, Zulu, Swati, Southern Sotho, Sepedi, Tsonga, Tswana and Venda. In general, most South Africans speak at least two languages – typically English with one of the other languages.

11 Official languages of South Africa | South Africa Travel Blog

Looking at the pie chart, the most commonly spoken languages in South Africa are:

  • Zulu, also known as isiZulu, spoken by 21% of South Africans;
  • 15% of South Africans speak Xhosa (or isiXhosa); and
  • 13,1% of South African speak Afrikaans.

English is the fourth most commonly spoke language in South Africa with approximately 12% of South Africans speaking English.

Official Languages of South Africa: English

South Africa used to be a British colony and during this period the British enforced the use of English. As a result, when the country became a union in 1910, it had two official languages of which English was one.

Although only the fourth most commonly spoken of the official languages, English is widely used as the administrative and business language. With English alone, you should find that you can communicate with most South Africans throughout the country.

Official Languages of South Africa: Afrikaans

When the country became a union in 1910, Afrikaans was one of the two official languages. During apartheid, Afrikaans was one of the compulsory languages in schools. Today it is the main language spoken in the Northern Cape and Western Cape.

Official Languages of South Africa: Zulu

A quarter of South Africans speak Zulu, making it the most widely spoken language in South Africa. In KwaZulu-Natal Zulu is the dominant language.

Official Languages of South Africa: Xhosa

Xhosa is the second most widely spoken of the 11 official South African languages. It is the main language spoken in the Eastern Cape province. Many people know Xhosa as the click-click language since it requires a clicking sound for the pronunciation of many words. Former President Nelson Mandela was a native Xhosa speaker.

Official Languages of South Africa: Ndebele

Ndebele is the least spoken of the 11 official languages and most of the Ndebele speakers live in the Gauteng and Mpumulanga provinces.

Official Languages of South Africa: Southern Sotho

There are 3 Sotho languages spoken in South Africa, of which Southern Sotho or Sesotho is mainly spoken in the Free State province of South Africa.

Official Languages of South Africa: Sepedi

Sepedi is the second of the Sotho languages spoken in South Africa and most Sepedi speakers live in the Limpopo province of South Africa. Sepedi follows Zulu and Xhosa as the third most spoken of the Bantu languages.

Official Languages of South Africa: Tswana

Tswana is the third of the Sotho languages spoken by South Africans. Although it is mostly spoken in the North-West province, South Africa’s neighbour country, Botswana, also speaks Tswana.

Official Languages of South Africa: Swati

Swati is mostly spoken in the Mpumulanga province.

Official Languages of South Africa: Venda

Venda is the second least spoken of the 11 official languages in South Africa – after Ndebele. Most of the Venda-speaking population stays in the northern areas of the Limpopo province.

Official Languages of South Africa: Tsonga

Tsonga is one of the minority languages in South Africa and is mostly spoken along the South Africa and Mozambique borders.

What Are The 11 Official Languages In South Africa

Greetings in All 11 South African Languages

Whether you visit Johannesburg or Cape Town, locals appreciate it when foreigners try to learn some basic words in their language. Don’t be shy – South Africans are friendly and will appreciate your effort. To help you make an impression, let’s look at the greetings in all eleven South African languages.

How to Say Hello

Here is how to say hello in all these languages:

LanguageWord
EnglishHello!
AfrikaansHallo!
ZuluSawubona!
XhosaMolo!
NdebeleLotjhani!
SesothoDumela!
SepediDumela!
TswanaDumela!
SwatiSawubona!
VendaAvuxeni!
TsongaNdaa!

How to Say Goodbye

Here is how to say goodbye in all the South African languages:

LanguageWord
EnglishGoodbye
AfrikaansTotsiens
ZuluHamba kahle
XhosaSala kakhule
NdebeleLisale kuhle
SesothoSala hantle
SepediSala hantle
TswanaSala sentle
SwatiSala kahle
VendaKha vha sale
TsongaSala kahle

How to Say Thank You

Here is how to say thank you in the South African languages:

LanguageWord
EnglishThank you
AfrikaansDankie
ZuluNgiyabonga
XhosaEnkosi
NdebeleNgiyabonga
SesothoKe a leboha
SepediKe a leboga
TswanaKe a leboga
SwatiNgiyabonga Ngiyabonga kakhulu
VendaNdo livhuwa Ro livhuwa Ndo livhuwa nga maanda
TsongaNdza nkhensa Ndzi khense ngopfu Inkomu swinene

Source: https://southafrica-info.com/arts-culture/11-languages-south-africa/ & https://omniglot.com/index.htm





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Sabs | South Africa Travel Blog

By Sabs

Editor of the South Africa Travel Blog that focuses on travel to South Africa, including destinations, attractions, accommodation, food & drink.

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