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People, Language

primary languages, Afrikaners, Northern Sotho, African languages, Tsonga

Until apartheid ended in 1994 only Afrikaans and English were official languages, although they represent the home languages of only 15 percent and 9 percent of the total population, respectively. Afrikaans is spoken not only by Afrikaners but also by 83 percent of Coloured people. English is the primary language of many whites, but also is spoken by 95 percent of Asians. The 1994 constitution added nine African languages to the list of recognized, official languages: Zulu, Xhosa, Sesotho sa Leboa (Northern Sotho or Pedi), Tswana, Sesotho (Southern Sotho), Tsonga, Venda, Ndebele, and siSwati. Some of these African languages are mutually understood and many blacks can speak two or more of them, in addition to English and Afrikaans. Together these 11 languages are the primary languages of 98 percent of South Africans. Many Indians also speak Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, Gujarati, and Urdu.

In practice English and, to a lesser extent, Afrikaans retain a dominant position, with English as the main medium of instruction in schools and most universities. Afrikaners attach great value to their language, however, and struggle to keep it as a medium of instruction and to resist any threat to undermine its status.

Article key phrases:

primary languages, Afrikaners, Northern Sotho, African languages, Tsonga, siSwati, Telegu, Ndebele, Leboa, Tswana, Venda, apartheid, official languages, Gujarati, Urdu, practice English, Hindi, Tamil, Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Pedi, Afrikaans, Indians, constitution, threat, universities, whites, total population, great value, schools, struggle, lesser extent, language, addition, English


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