In the apartheid era of South Africa there were just two official languages, Afrikaans and English, reflecting the country’s colonial past.

However, in 2021 there are ten indigenous official languages of the Republic of South Africa. There is an eleventh official language, English, the primary language used in parliamentary and state discourse. The breakdown of first-language speakers of the official languages is approximately as follows:

Zulu 23%

Xhosa 16%

Afrikaans 14%

English 10%

Sepedi 9%

Tswana 8%

Sesotho 8%

Tsonga 5%

Swati 3%

Venda 2%

Ndebele 2%

These proportions have remained approximately the same from the 2001 and 2011 Census to more recent private surveys. All official languages are equal in legal status.

Apart from the official languages there are at least twenty-five other indigenous languages spoken in South Africa. Ronga (also known as XiRonga, ShiRonga or GiRonga) is one of these. It is a Bantu language spoken in parts of Mozambique as well as South Africa. Ronga is grammatically close to Tsonga (an official language) in many ways but is still considered a separate language.

Unofficial languages are protected along with official languages under the Constitution of South Africa.

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