South Africa - Languages

The interim constitution adopted in 1993 recognized 11 languages as official at the national level: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu. All were still recognized officially in 2002. The African languages spoken in South Africa are of the Niger-Congo family. In general, English is more commonly spoken in the cities, and Afrikaans in the rural areas.

Afrikaans is a variant of the Dutch spoken by the 17th-century colonists, and it includes lexical items, phrases, and syntactic structures from Malay, Portuguese, the Bantu group, Hottentot, and other African languages, as well as from English, French, and German. Afrikaans has borrowed from English words such as gelling (gallon), jaart (yard), sjieling (shilling), and trippens (three pence), while English has taken over kraal, veld, and other Afrikaans words. More than 70% of South African whites are bilingual. Afrikaans was the mother tongue of 58% and English of 39% in 1991; the remaining 3% included speakers of German, Portuguese, and other languages. Some 83% of Coloreds spoke Afrikaans as their first language. Asians mostly (95%) spoke English as their first language. Zulu was the most common language of the blacks; 39% spoke it as their first language (excluding blacks in the four "sovereign" homelands).

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