Geographical distribution of South African languages.
Geographical distribution the Sotho languages in
distribution of the Nguni languages in
South Africa has 11 official
languages, which is second in number only to the 23 national languages of India.
2. Recognising the historically diminished use and status of the indigenous languages of our people, the state must take practical and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of these languages.
3.(a). The national government and provincial governments may use any particular official languages for the purposes of government, taking into account usage, practicality, expense, regional circumstances and the balance of the needs and preferences of the population as a whole or in the province concerned; but the national government and each provincial government must use at least two official languages.
3.(b). Municipalities must take into account the language usage and preferences of their residents.
4. The national government and provincial governments, by legislative and other measures, must regulate and monitor their use of official languages. Without detracting from the provisions.
5. Pan South African Language Board established by national legislation must
a. promote, and create conditions for, the development and use of
b.(i).all official languages;
(ii). the Khoi, Nama and San languages; and
(iii). sign language; and
c. promote and ensure respect for
The eleven official languages of
Afrikaans (Afrikaans), English, Ndebele (isiNdebele), Northern Sotho (Sesotho sa Leboa), Sotho (Sesotho), Swati (siSwati), Tsonga (Xitsonga), Tswana (Setswana), Venda (Tshivenda), Xhosa (isiXhosa), Zulu (isiZulu).
The most common language spoken at home by South African is Zulu (24 percent speak Zulu at home), followed by Xhosa (18 percent), and Afrikaans (13 percent). English is only the fifth-most common home language in the country, but is understood in most urban areas and is the dominant language in government and the media.
The majority of South Africans speak a language from
one of the two principal branches of the Bantu languages represented in
As can be seen from the accompanying maps, the nine indigenous African languages of South Africa 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 languages being predominant in the northern third of the country located further inland, as also in Botswana and Lesotho. Gauteng is the most linguistically heterogeneous province, with roughly equal numbers of Nguni, Sotho and Indo-European language speakers. This has resulted in the spread of an urban argot, Tsotsitaal, in large urban townships in the province.
Afrikaans, a language derived from Dutch, is the most widely spoken language in the western third of the country (Western and Northern Cape). It is spoken not only by a majority of whites but also by about 90 percent of Coloured (multiracial) people in the country. 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 living in farming areas.
The Constitution also recognises a further eight non-official "national languages":
In reality, the membership of this additional list
above is very varied. SA Sign Language is an utterly distinct though
incompletely emerged national standard language (SA Sign Language), but which
also subsumes a cluster of semi-standardised
dialects. The status of SA Sign Language makes South
Significant numbers of immigrants from Europe, elsewhere
in Africa, and
the Indian subcontinent means that a wide variety
of other languages can also be found in parts of
These non-official languages may be used in limited semi-official use where it has been determined that these languages are prevalent. 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.
Of the listed non-official languages, the fastest growing are perhaps Portuguese — now spoken by more recent immigrants from Angola and Mozambique) — and increasingly French, spoken by immigrants and refugees from francophone central Africa. Finally, more recently, many thousands of speakers of northern, central and west African languages have arrived in South Africa, mostly in the major cities, especially in Johannesburg and Pretoria, but also Cape Town and Durban.
Algeria · Angola · Benin · Botswana · Burkina Faso · Burundi · Cameroon · Cape Verde · Central African Republic · Chad · Comoros · Democratic Republic of the Congo · Republic of the Congo · Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) · Djibouti · Egypt · Equatorial Guinea · Eritrea · Ethiopia · Gabon · The Gambia · Ghana · Guinea · Guinea-Bissau · Kenya · Lesotho · Liberia · Libya · Madagascar · Malawi · Mali · Mauritania · Mauritius · Morocco · Mozambique · Namibia · Niger · Nigeria · Rwanda · São Tomé and Príncipe · Senegal · Seychelles · Sierra Leone · Somalia · South Africa · Sudan · Swaziland · Tanzania · Togo · Tunisia · Uganda · Zambia · Zimbabwe
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In other languages