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Africa: The Multilingual Paradise

The beautiful people of Africa are much more talented than some know and are extremely underestimated by the world. The people of Africa have acquired a special skill that the rest of the world is yet to learn... There are 34 historically established languages in South Africa, said Mary Alexander in South Africa Gateway. Four of these are unfortunately extinct.


South Africa has 11 official languages: isiNdebele, Sesotho, Xitsonga, Tshivenda, isiZulu, Sepedi, siSwati, Setswana, isiXhosa, Afrikaans, and English. Of these languages, isiZulu is the most common amongst South Africans, with it being the first language of around a third of black South Africans. A fifth of the black population speaks isiXhosa. This is a considerable amount of people when a person realises that South Africa has almost 60-million people living within its borders.


A bit more than two-thirds of white people in South Africa speak Afrikaans and the rest English. Afrikaans is not limited to the white people though; it is a significant part of the coloured people’s history. Three-quarters of the coloured people of South Africa speak Afrikaans and the remaining speak English. Many black people living in South Africa know the language as well, and a great number of them speak it better than many white and coloured people do. The only reason English is second on the list of most spoken languages outside of people’s homes is because of its global use. The world is in the process of globalisation and English is on the front line.


Even though there are so many languages that are still alive in South Africa, only a fraction of the population (less than 2% to be exact) has a first language that is not official. South Africa is not only diverse in its habitats, people, animals, and natural elements, but the languages also form part of the reason why South Africa is such a diverse country.


According to Emily with Across the Sahara (African Travel Guide), studies done 10 years ago have discovered that on average, each person in South Africa speaks 2.84 languages. Taking into consideration that some people only speak one language, it leaves us with an estimation that most South Africans speak 3 languages.


Black South Africans, however, can know as many as all the official languages or at least close to the total amount. This is nothing short of impressive. They speak and understand more languages than most people around the world do. South Africa is a multilingual country because most South Africans understand and/or speak more than one language.


The demand in schools to develop multilingual skills in young children is increasing every year. Languages like isiZulu will be implemented for grade 1 in some schools. This can greatly improve social interactions between children, and it helps with their social development by allowing them to communicate with other children. The Conversation posted an article that showed research on the benefits of being taught in your mother language. The socio-economic advancement of being taught in English is undeniable, though.


Many benefits come with being multilingual. It has been proven to stimulate your brain more and clearer thinking is a natural result. It enables people to connect with others on a more personal level and even enhances trust in relationships. There is no doubt that being multilingual is a very important skill to have and all people should try to learn a new language. It ultimately brings people together.


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