Language diversity in South Africa
Well, now that Australia and New Zealand are out of the World Cup, football fans might be able to get some regular sleep again! But while South Africa is still in the public eye, I’d like to draw attention to the multi-lingual status of the country.
Despite its past and present reputation for racial intolerance, South Africa’s constitution affords equal status to not just one or two languages, but 11. Although English is almost universally spoken and understood, it is the fifth most common mother tongue of South Africans.
The most commonly spoken native language is isiZulu, and the other ten official languages are Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, SiSwati, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga. As well as the official languages, there are a multitude of other languages which are recognised by the constitution, including some creoles and pidgins. SouthAfrica.info has a very comprehensive page about the country’s languages if you would like to read more.
I think it’s wonderful that so many diverse cultures and languages are recognised and celebrated. I can only imagine all those translations would make the official signs and notices pretty long, though!