South Africa’s Official Languages

South Africa is known for its rich languages and fascinating cultural traditions that date back to ancient history. Colonization and European influence greatly affected the languages used in South Africa. This information helps business executives, especially those in the customer service, sales, and marketing departments attract and retain South African customers who are making a greater mark in the trade industry every day.

There are more than 25 official languages in the country; many will surprise you. Read on. 

Languages of the Region that Total 0.75% of the World’s Population 

The five most commonly-used languages for daily life are: Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, English, and Northern Sotho. There are 11 official languages in South Africa not counting variations in dialect or less common tongues. These official languages include:

  • English,
  • Afrikaans,
  • Northern Sotho,
  • Ndebele,
  • Sotho,
  • Swazi,
  • Tswana,
  • Venda,
  • Tsonga,
  • Zulu, and
  • Xhosa

Let’s take a closer look at common languages to get to know what language services audiences in South Africa will need from you..

English

English, being the native tongue of the colonists, soon became one of the official languages of South Africa.. Not surprisingly, many residents claim English as their first language. Mastery of the common language is helping South Africa conduct business with English speakers across the globe as clients, virtual assistants, support staff, and more.

Zulu

Residents of Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga speak fluent Zulu as a primary language. This noteworthy percentage reaches 22.7% of the entire South African population. It is not uncommon for an African citizen to speak some Zulu and some English in the same conversation. Challenging enough?

Xhosa

Coming in as the second most spoken language in South Africa with 16% of the entire population being fluent speakers of the dialect is Xhosa. This portion of South Africa’s occupants live mostly in the Eastern and Western Cape. The language is similar in syntax and grammar to Zulu because both belong to the Nguni languages group.

Afrikaans

Spoken by 13.5% of the South African population as their mother tongue, this third most common language is spreading. The Afrikaans Language was the predominant language of the Cape of Good Hope (Cape) and is known as “Cape Dutch’’ since the Dutch language was the official language of the Cape years ago .

Afrikaans was influenced by many other languages besides Dutch. German, French, and Portuguese, and other dialects can be heard in the area. In terms of getting the language on paper, the first written script in Afrikaans was an Arabic script by Abu Bakr about the Islamic faith.

Sign Language

Interestingly, 0.5% of the African population uses sign languages to exchange ideas and “say” what’s on their mind. Sign Language varies from region to region and is made up of accepted hand signals and word order. Users of this visual communication dialect have made it a regular part of South Africa’s already impressive collection of active languages.

We translate 12,000 words a day in popular and rare African languages

Other services for African language translation include:

  • Certified Translation
  • Website Translation
  • Mobile Application Translation
  • Desktop publishing
  • VRI
  • Telephone Interpretation  

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