What Are The South Africa Offical Languages?

south africa

What Are The South Africa Offical Languages?

What Are The South Africa Offical Languages?

(Last Updated On: December 18, 2023)

South Africa Official Languages

The languages people speak become a part of their identity. Each country, nation, and the ethnic tribe has its own specific tongue that they speak among themselves. Culture plays a huge role in influencing the everyday vernacular of people. This is why multicultural societies have more than one popular tongue. The biggest example of this is African countries. In each African country, there are multiple popular vernaculars. And if you look at South Africa official languages, you can see the true influence of outside and local cultures on the everyday speech of people. Through the words people speak, they can tell you all you need to know about their culture, beliefs, and lifestyle.

South Africa:

The country is officially known as the Republic of South Africa (RSA). It has a population of 59 million people, which makes it the 24th most populous country in the world. RSA has three capitals. The executive capital is the city of Pretoria. Bloemfontein is the judicial capital. And Cape Town is the legislative capital. The largest city in the country is Johannesburg. Nearly 80% of the country’s population is made of people with Black African ancestry, speaking various indigenous languages like Sesotho sa Leboa, Sotho-Tswana languages, and others. Large immigrant communities also live in RSA, speaking a variety of languages including European languages like Afrikaans and English, which serve as languages of commerce and business. Out of these, Asian people, Europeans, and interracial communities make up the biggest communities. RSA had to face apartheid from 1948 to the early 1990s, a period marked by institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination. During the apartheid era, the black population continuously struggled to get their rights, fighting against policies that enforced separation and discrimination. Today, RSA is celebrated worldwide for its diverse population, its history of overcoming apartheid, and its recognition of multiple languages as part of its cultural richness and identity.

south africa official language
sa official languages

What are the Official Languages of South Africa?

There are eleven official languages of South Africa, encompassing diverse tongues such as Sesotho sa Leboa, Sotho-Tswana languages, and Afrikaans, among others. Out of these, 10 are indigenous languages spoken across the republic, reflecting the rich linguistic tapestry rooted in the country’s history. English, a European language, stands as the sole foreign tongue enjoying official status in South Africa. Cape Dutch, which evolved into Afrikaans, finds its roots in the 17th century and is spoken by a significant Afrikaans-speaking population, particularly in the western parts of the country. Nelson Mandela, a prominent figure in South Africa’s history, played a pivotal role in advocating for unity among the diverse linguistic groups. In major cities like Cape Town, Pretoria, and others, the local populations converse in their distinct dialects and tongues, fostering a tapestry of linguistic diversity. The constitution’s recognition of indigenous tongues in official capacities ensures the preservation and thriving of these languages, marking a significant step in safeguarding cultural heritage and identity. However, the country also grappled with a history of apartheid, which affected language policies and marginalized certain linguistic communities. Despite this, South Africa continues to evolve, integrating its varied languages into official business, public life, and the broader tapestry of African cities, reflecting the vibrant mosaic of its people and their linguistic expressions.

Here are the official South African languages:

  1. English
  2. Afrikaans
  3. Xhosa
  4. Swati
  5. Zulu
  6. Pedi
  7. Sotho
  8. Tsonga
  9. Tswana
  10. Ndebele
  11. Venda

There are various tongues spoken in the country that have not been recognized in the constitution. These are the vernaculars that have been spoken on the land since ancient times. The majority of the country’s population can speak more than one language.


English is used as the medium of instruction in school, which is why children learn it pretty quickly. The speakers of English can be found all over the country. It is also spoken by nearly ten percent of the population as their first language. It is also used by the government and the media. Although some people consider it the language of oppression, it continues to grow popular in South Africa.


With 12 million native speakers, Zulu is the most popular tongue in RSA. The native speakers of Zulu make up 24% of the population. But nearly 50% of the population can understand Zulu. The native name of Zulu is isiZulu. It is primarily spoken in the KwaZulu-Natal province. The Latin alphabet is used to write Zulu.


Xhosa or isiXhosa is the second most spoken native tongue after Zulu. It has over eight million native speakers and eleven million L2 speakers. It also enjoys official status in Zimbabwe. The majority of Xhosa’s speakers can be found in Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape, and Gauteng. The most prominent feature of Xhosa is its click consonants. It is also written in the Latin alphabet.


Afrikaans is a member of the West Germanic languages group, originating in the 19th century. It is spoken in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia. It evolved from the Dutch language, which was the common language of the Dutch settlers when they arrived in South Africa. Initially, they spoke separate languages, but over time their vernacular underwent significant changes and turned into Afrikaans. This transformation occurred as Afrikaans speakers, initially Dutch settlers, adapted their language in the new context. Thus, Afrikaans is known as the daughter language of Dutch. There are seven million native speakers of Afrikaans, and it serves as the majority language in the provinces of the Northern Cape and Western Cape. Additionally, it is spoken by 10 million people as their second tongue and is one of the major languages understood by both Afrikaans and English speakers in South Africa.


Also known as Northern Sotho and Sepedi, Pedi is spoken in northeastern provinces of South Africa. With 4.6 million native speakers, it is the fifth most spoken tongue in South Africa. There are more than two dozen dialects of Northern Sotho. The Latin alphabet is used for writing Pedi.


The populations of Tswana speakers can be found in both Botswana and South Africa. There are 4.1 million native speakers of Tswana in RSA. Also known as Setswana, Tswana is the lingua franca of Botswana. A small number of Tswana speakers can also be found in Zimbabwe and Namibia.


Also known as Sesotho, Sotho is the national language of Lesotho. Sotho speaking populations can also be found in Zimbabwe and South Africa. It is also known as Southern Sotho. And this is spoken by 5.6 million native speakers in South Africa. Also it is understood by 7.9 million other people of the country. It belongs to the Southern Bantu languages group.

language in south africa


Tsonga speaking populations reside in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Eswatini. It is commonly known as Xitsonga. Xitsonga is the primary language of the Tsonga people of southern Africa. Xitsonga, Tswa, and Ronga are mutually intelligible. The names Tsonga and Tswa-Ronga are sometimes used to refer to all three tongues. Xitsonga has been standardized, so it can be easily used by Tsonga people for academic purposes. It has a lot of different dialects. Xitsonga is written in the Latin alphabet.


Swati, also known as Swazi and siSwati, is the native language of the Swazi people. The Swati-speaking populations can be found in South Africa, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Lesotho. There are 2.3 million native speakers of Swati and an equal number of L2 speakers. It is closely related to the Zulu and Xhosa languages. There are two main varieties of Swati and multiple dialects.


Venda is the native tongue of the Venda people who reside in the Limpopo province’s northern part. 2.2% of South Africa’s population speaks Venda, and that makes it the second smallest minority language in the country.


Known to its speakers as isiNdebele, Ndebele is the smallest minority language of South Africa. It has a little over a million native speakers. isiNdebele is spoken in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and the Limpopo province. isiNdebele is the native tongue of the Ndebele people.

Sign Language:

The language of instruction for special children is the SA sign language. 0.5% of the population uses sign language in South Africa. People who use the Sign language can be found in different parts of South Africa, including the Northern Cape, Gauteng, and western provinces.

Different Ethnic Populations

All the languages of South Africa, including Afrikaans spoken predominantly in regions like Cape Town and English widely used in business, have been influenced by each other. The different ethnic populations, including the indigenous population of North West and the diverse African populations across the country, live in various parts of the country, each region having its own specific dominant language. As a result, Cape Town and West Africa exhibit linguistic diversity shaped by their unique colonial history. Every foreign business that wants to succeed in South Africa must keep in mind the linguistic diversity of the country, considering both the Afrikaans-speaking communities and the English-speaking majority. It’s essential to understand that Afrikaans, a distinct language with a strong colonial heritage, is also a part of the linguistic fabric alongside English, which serves as the language of business. It is not just a matter of colonial languages but also a family of languages that form the linguistic heritage of the nation. Even in East Africa, where diverse indigenous languages flourish, the importance of language holds true. Even the minority populations across South Africa care about their native tongues, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging and respecting the linguistic diversity. You can find different versions of each language, showcasing the cultural richness, but you won’t find people ignoring their native tongue. Both businesses and individuals must keep the linguistic diversity of South Africa, and indeed the broader African continent, in mind if they want to connect with and truly understand the local populations. Read about our blog of Myths of doing business with Africa.

ATTACHMENT DETAILS Image filter None afrikaans.jpg February 28, 202113 KB 350 by 350 pixels Edit Image Delete permanently Alt Text Describe the purpose of the image(opens in a new tab). Leave empty if the image is purely decorative.Titl
Questions? Get in touch 24/7

buy clomid online
where can i buy clomid online
Request quote
[brb_collection id="37019"]