Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010
Category: History, Languages, Sports
With the 2010 World Cup attracting a flood of tourists from all over the world, South Africa is being bombarded not only by football hooligans but also by a slew of new languages. South African languages are already incredibly varied, as a complex history and diverse population makes it one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world.
South African Languages from Afrikaans to Zulu
South Africa is home to an astounding diversity of languages. All you have to do is take a look at the country’s list of official languages for proof. The 11 official languages named in the South African constitution include a mix of European and traditional African tongues, such as Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and English – and that’s just half the list! Looking at South Africa’s full repertoire of languages, it’s likely that you haven’t even heard of all of them.
Despite the country’s large list of official languages, it’s unlikely that you’ll hear every single South African tongue spoken on the street in a single day. Different language speakers are largely distributed on a geographic basis. While the Afrikaans and English languages dominate the Western Cape, for example, you’ll find Xhosa predominant in the country’s Eastern Cape. It’s also common for modern South African languages to influence one another, so don’t be surprised to hear some English thrown into traditional Zulu or Xhosa speech.
Explaining South Africa’s Linguistic Diversity
The astounding variety of South African languages can be attributed largely to the country’s unique history. Afrikaans, for example, was developed when Dutch settlers came to the country in the mid-17th century. Along with the formation of a unified “Afrikaner” population of Dutch settlers and their descendants came the Afrikaans language: a simplified variation of standard Dutch influenced by Native African languages as well as other settler languages, including German, French and English.
Even before European settlement, the area of modern-day South Africa housed a diversity of peoples. The San and Khoekhoe were native residents of the southern tip of Africa long before Europeans arrived, and each spoke a unique tongue which later influenced many modern South African dialects.
South Africa’s Official World Cup Language
As football-crazed tourists get into the games at the 2010 World Cup, even more languages than usual will be heard in the streets of South Africa and in the stands at the games. Football fans from Mexico to Germany bought tickets to 2010 games, leaving no doubt as to the linguistic diversity of the cheers to be heard among this year’s World Cup languages. From the German “Tor!” to the Spanish “Gol!” (or, more likely, “Tooooooooooor!” and “Gooooooooooooooooool!”), each goal at the 2010 World Cup will be announced in a plethora of languages.
Still, despite the influx of foreign languages invading the already linguistically-diverse South Africa, there is one language coming out supreme as the unofficial official language of this year’s World Cup: the memorable and ear-splitting sounds of the vuvuzela.