South Africa has 11 official languages, and a multilingual population. IsiZulu and isiXhosa are the largest languages. English is spoken at home by 10% of the population.
They’ve been dismissed as mongrels, “township dogs”, and worse. But as a breed they are smart, tough, athletic, loyal – and ancient. They are the Africanis, the dog of Africa.
Mixed with over a dozen African languages for over two centuries, spiced by imports from British, Dutch and Portuguese colonies, South African English has its own rich, varied and sometimes weird flavour.
The home language of most people in KwaZulu-Natal is, unsurprisingly, isiZulu. In the Eastern Cape it’s isiXhosa. Around half the people of the Western Cape and Northern Cape speak Afrikaans. In Gauteng and Mpumalanga, no single language dominates.
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Nearly a third of black South Africans speak isiZulu as a first language, and 20% speak isiXhosa. Three-quarters of coloured people speak Afrikaans, and 86% of Indian South Africans speak English. Sixty percent of white people speak Afrikaans, and 30% speak English.