Communicating with South Africans

The diversity of South African people extends to their languages. There are 11 official languages in South Africa: English, Ndebele, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans. Official status was given to these languages because about 98% of all South Africans use one of them. Any of these 11 languages may be used in Parliament. For practical reasons, however, most government departments and agencies use English in meetings.

English is generally understood and spoken throughout the country, often as a second language. For this reason most immigrants from South Africa who come to Canada will have at least a basic understanding of English.

Here are a few phrases and words in three of the country's official languages for you to try:

English Zulu Xhosa
Hello Sawubona Molo
Yes Cha Ewe
No Kayi Hayi
Thank you Ngiyabonga Enkosi
Good-bye Hamba Kahle Hamba Kakuhle
My name is... Igama lami ngu... Igama lami ngu...
What is your name? Ubani igama lakho? Ungubani igama lakho?

In Afrikaans, a maat is a pal or friend, and the plural is maats or maties. Ta is often used for thanks and comes from childhood days when little ones were asked to say ta.

Did you know?

The first deaf school was established in South Africa around 1846. The North British sign system was used for the deaf in White English-speaking families. In 1881, a school for Afrikaans-speaking families was begun using British sign language. Now there are 29 schools in the country. There are several African dialects used unofficially in different schools for the deaf throughout the country.