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Learn These Phrases When Traveling to Cape Town

While English is the majority spoken language in Cape Town, learn a few fun phrases in the local dialect to boast with back home.

11 official languages

South Africa has 11 official languages, with even more unofficial languages that are not even listed! While English is the most commonly spoken language in public and business, it is only the fifth most spoken home language with isiZulu being the biggest home language in SA. According to the 2011 census, isiZulu is the mother tongue of 22.7% of South Africa’s population, followed by isiXhosa at 16%, Afrikaans at 13.5%, English at 9.6%, Setswana at 8% and Sesotho at 7.6%. The remaining official languages are spoken at home by less than 5% of the population each.

So while it would be difficult to learn a few sentences in all of South Africa’s 11 official languages, learn these easy but helpful phrases when traveling in Cape Town.

isiZulu

isiZulu is the most common language in South Africa, spoken by nearly 23% of the total population. isiZulu is closely related to isiXhosa and the most widely understood African language in SA.

  • Home language to: 22.7% of the population (11 587 374 people)
  • Linguistic lineage: Niger-Congo > Atlantic-Congo > Volta- Congo > Benue-Congo > Bantoid > Southern > Narrow Bantu > Central > S group > Nguni > isiZulu
  • Alternate and historical names: Zulu, Zunda

isiXhosa

South Africa’s second largest language which is spoken by 16% of all South Africans. 17% of all isiXhosa speakers live in the Western Cape and the language is predominant in Cape Town.

  • Home language to: 16% of the population (8 154 258 people)
  • Linguistic lineage: Niger-Congo > Atlantic-Congo > Volta- Congo > Benue-Congo > Bantoid > Southern > Narrow Bantu > Central > S group > Nguni > isiXhosa
  • Alternate and historical names: Xhosa, Xosa, Koosa

Afrikaans

Afrikaans is the third most common language in South Africa and has its roots in 17th century Dutch. It became an official language of South Africa in 1925 and is predominantly used in Cape Town.

  • Home language to:         13.5% of the population (6 855 082 people)
  • Linguistic lineage:           Indo-European > Germanic > West Germanic > Low Franconian > Afrikaans

3 Easy Everyday Phrases in Afrikaans, isiZulu and isiXhosa

English Hello, how are you? How much is this? Thank you
Afrikaans Hello, hoe gaan dit? Hoeveel is dit? Dankie
Zulu Sawubona, unjani? Imali? Ngiyabonga
Xhosa Molo, kunjani? Malini na? Enkosi

1Source: http://www.trulysouthafrican.com/official-languages.php

Source: Statistics SA and Ethnologue

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