What languages are spoken in Cape Town?

Lifestyle May 01, 2023

The Western Cape is a charming province, known for the famous port city of Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town is beneath the famous Table Mountain which is a very popular tourist destination. Fun fact! In 2012 Table Mountain National Park was rewarded the title of New 7 Wonders of the World. 

Not only is Cape Town known for its beautiful nature, culture, and history. It is also known for the wide range of languages spoken there. South Africa has a total of 11 official languages, and in Cape Town, you will find a variety of these diverse and different languages. Let’s have a closer look at the most popular and regularly used languages.

  • Afrikaans 

Believe it or not but English is not the language that is spoken the most in Cape Town. The primary language is Afrikaans. Research shows that 35.7% of people in Cape Town are native Afrikaans speakers. Another study found that most households, in Cape Town, speak both English and Afrikaans, but Afrikaans is the most spoken home language. 

Afrikaans is an important language used to educate children at school. Not only are some subjects taught in Afrikaans but the language itself is seen as a main subject that is mandatory for learners to pass if they want to advance in their academics.

  • English 

The second most popular language spoken in Cape Town is English. More than half of the population in Cape Town learn to speak English as a second language.

A census shows that 28.4% of people classify English as their first language. Cape Town is an ideal destination for tourists who want to visit a beautiful place where their English skills will be put to the test. In Cape Town English is known as an important language and therefore it is taught as one of the main subjects in schools

Because English is regarded as important, it is automatically viewed as the language mostly used to communicate in the workplace. English is also the language used to spread the news and other important information daily.

  • isiXhosa

As you already know, almost everyone in Cape Town can speak and understand English and Afrikaans. But what you probably didn’t know is that isiXhosa is known as the most spoken African language in Cape Town. 29.8% of Cape Town’s population speak isiXhosa as their native language. Fun fact, in South Africa there are more than 8 million isiXhosa speakers and 11 million people who speak isiXhosa as a second language!

  • Zulu 

African culture is very common and very predominant in South Africa. One of the things Cape Town is known for is its diversity of languages and cultures. There are many different types of African languages spoken. One of the most popular and widely spoken African languages in Cape Town, after isiXhosa, is Zulu. Zulu is known for being a popular mother tongue for many households living in Cape Town. There is a lot of culture and history connected to this language. Zulu is spoken by around 50% of the South African population and is the native language of 22.7% of the population.

In 2011 there was a census done to determine how many people in South Africa spoke the 11 official languages. The following table you will see that Afrikaans and English are the top two most spoken languages in South Africa.

South Africa’s 11 official languages

Language Subfamily 1st language share 1st language users 2nd language users All users
Afrikaans Low Franconian 13.5% 6.9 million 10.3 million 17.2 million
English West Germanic 9.6% 4.9 million 11.0 million 15.9 million
isiNdebele Nguni 2.1% 1.1 million 1.4 million 2.5 million
isiXhosa Nguni 16% 8.1 million 11.0 million 19.1 million
isiZulu Nguni 22.7% 11.6 million 15.7 million 27.3 million
Sesotho Sotho-Tswana 7.6% 3.8 million 7.9 million 11.8 million
Sesotho sa Leboa (Sepedi) Sotho-Tswana 9.1% 4.6 million 9.1 million 13.8 million
Setswana Sotho-Tswana 8% 4.1 million 7.7 million 11.8 million
siSwati Nguni 2.5% 1.3 million 2.4 million 3.7 million
Tshivenda Sotho-Makua-Venda 2.4% 1.2 million 1.7 million 2.9 million
Xitsonga Tswa-Ronga 4.5% 2.3 million 3.4-million 5.7 million
Source: Constitution Source: Glottolog Source: Census 2011 Source: Census 2011 Source: Webb 2002 Estimate

The 11 official languages in South Africa (and how you say hello in that language) are the following: • English: Hello, Howzit, Hi! • Afrikaans: Hoe Gaan dit! • Xhosa: Molo, Molweni! • Zulu: Sawubona! • Sepedi: Dumela! • Sotho: Dumela! • Swati: Sawubona! • Venda: Ndaa!! • Tswana: Dumela! • Tsonga: Avuxeni! • Ndebele: Lotjhani!

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