How many South Africans speak their indigenous languages?


It was Africa Day on the 25th of May, here are South African languages and their histories

South Africa democracy constitution which came into effect on the 4th February 1997, recognizes 11 languages to which the state guarantees equal status.



Afrikaans originate and initially known as cape dutch, Afrikaans is spoken mainly by who lives in cape town. Afrikaans is spoken mainly by white Afrikaners, colored South African and sections of the black population. Although the language has European roots, today majority of Afrikaans speakers are not white.

English is the highest influence language and originated from Britain in the mid 5th to 7th centuries AD. It’s never easy to pinpoint exactly when a specific language began. Today English is the primary language of government, business, and commerce. It is a compulsory subject in all schools and medium of instruction in most schools and tertiary institution.

IsiNdebele is originated from the Nguni people of KwaZulu-Natal, and it is classified as a member of the southeastern or Nguni Subgroup of the Bantu Division of language. Ndebele people have always managed to retain their cultural practices. Ndebele people are famously known for painting.

IsiXhosa which formerly spelled Xosa and is the second largest language spoken in South Africa. The word Xhosa is derived from the Khoisan language and means “angry men.”The sound system of Xhosa contains three types of click sounds borrowed from the neighboring Khoisan languages. Xhosa uses a system of tones to distinguish words that would otherwise sound the same.

IsiZulu is a South African official language spoken mainly by the South African community. The presence of the Zulu language in South Africa date from 14th century A.D. During this period the language adopted many sounds from the San and Khoi. IsiZulu is now a widespread language that can be found throughout Africa. It is especially widely spoken in KwaZulu-Natal, which is also known as “land of the Zulu.”

Sepedi is closely related to the official language of Setswana and Sesotho. Sepedi is also sometimes referred to as Sesotho sa Leboa or Northern Sotho. It appears that the Sotho people migrated southward from the Great Lakes in Central Africa about five centuries ago in successive waves and the last group; namely, the Hurutse, settled in the Western Transvaal towards the beginning of the 16th century.


Sesotho is part of the Sotho language group, along with Western and Northern Sotho. The history of the Sotho people dates back as far as the first century and lays claim to an intriguing past that is still celebrated in Sesotho language oral and literary traditions today.

Setswana is largely found in North West, a province bordering South Africa and Botswana, where the language has also dominated the language spoken by the Botswana people. Tswana culture, social organizations, ceremonies, language and religious beliefs are similar to that of the other two Sotho groups (Sotho and Pedi) although some Tswana chiefdoms were more highly stratified than those of other Sotho Groups.

Tshivenda, The history of the Venda, starts from the Mapungubwe Kingdom (9th Century). Vhavenda speakers live in the Northern parts of South Africa Limpopo Province. Those that speak Tshivenda have a royal family line and adhere to strict traditions that relate to this connection. VhaVenda came from the Great Lakes of Central Africa. They first settled down in the Soutpansberg Mountains. Here they built their first capital, Dzata. The language also shares features with Shona and Northern Sotho. There has also been some influence on the language from the Nguni languages.

Xitsonga Tsonga is spoken throughout Southern Africa by the Shangaan-Tsonga culture but is concentrated in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa. The speakers of the Tsonga language are often referred to as Shangaans, but the Tsongas say that this is incorrect, claiming that that term should only be used for the Tsonga people who are living in Mozambique. Although the Tsonga speakers are spread throughout Southern Africa, the majority of them live in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The Tsonga language does not use the English alphabet, even though they are mainly based in South Africa. In fact, they make use of the Latin alphabet. It is not an easy language to learn. It makes use of specific sounds to spell, using a combination of different letters.


siSwati The Swati Language bears some similarities to Ndebele, Xhosa, and Zulu and they are often confused by those with an untrained ear. Even though the language Siswati is closely related to IsiZulu a lot has been done in the last quarter of a century to enforce the differences between the languages for the sake of standardization of Siswati – especially in Swaziland but also in South Africa due to political reasons.

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