Languages of the Rainbow Nation

Published 27th September 2017
post thumbnail

This month, we welcome back our 2012 blog competition winner, Emma Wilberforce, as she writes about an inspiring visit to South Africa.

South Africa, also known as the rainbow nation, is one of the most beautiful and diverse countries I have ever visited and is home to no less than 11 official languages. The country has a well-documented and interesting history which is still very much a part of its identity. With this in mind, it is no surprise that there are so many languages to be found here.

A complete A to Z of languages form part of the official group, from Afrikaans to Zulu. With its Dutch roots, it is no surprise that both German and Dutch speakers have little difficulty understanding the Afrikaans language and interestingly my German travel companions could figure out signs in Afrikaans before I even had chance to get out my phrase book.

Dutch and English started out as the official languages of South Africa and then Afrikaans was added as part of Dutch, before Dutch was replaced by Afrikaans when the country became a republic. With around 7 million native speakers, Afrikaans is the third most spoken mother tongue in South Africa.

I was fascinated by the way South Africans we met could switch so easily between English and Afrikaans, or English and Xhosa. Sometimes, I was unsure altogether of what language they were speaking.

Prior to travelling to South Africa, I had only met a couple of South Africans who, as well as being extremely friendly, were also bilingual, putting my A Level language skills to shame.

Although I enjoy trialling out my German, my attempts at speaking Dutch whilst in Amsterdam last year didn’t go well. Needless to say my efforts at Afrikaans amounted to saying ‘dankie’ in an extremely anglicised way, so much so that it ended up sounding almost the same as ‘thank you’.

There is no doubt that language is a true reflection of a country’s society. Just as English has changed from Shakespeare’s day to modern vocabulary additions such as the much-hyped ‘twerking’, so too has South Africa’s rich mixture of languages. For those of you who have visited this nation, it is clear that its people are just as diverse as its languages or should we say that the languages are as diverse as the people, after all it is human influence that change and shape language.

There is no way that this blog can do justice to this fantastic country’s mixture of languages but it does make you think that anyone who is determined to try and make one common world language is definitely not going to succeed in South Africa.

disney-institute-lingua-translations 178 × 75
amazon-lingua-translations 120 × 28
procter-gamble - Lingua Translations 114 × 92
london-partners-lingua-translations 154 × 101
Swansea City | Lingua Translations 154 x 146
Man City | Lingua Translations 154 × 154
FC_Barcelona_(crest) 154 × 156
Star_Wars_Logo.svg_-1 1280 × 773
FiFA | lingua Translations 154 × 86
The-Score 232x120
M & S 271 × 186
Walmart-Lingua Translations 232 × 65
Welsh Government & Lingua Translations 400 × 400
Costco & Lingua Translations 232 × 155


TUI-Group Testimonial 205 × 46 EN

Ian Chapman – Director of Holiday Experience –

“Lingua Translations provides instant multi-lingual options for TUI’s 24/7 Holidayline, so 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year TUI’s customers are connected to an interpreter instantaneously. This service is designed to help holidaymakers who find themselves in difficulty and require non-English language assistance.

The service offered by Lingua Translations provides us with instant translation for every destination we travel to, and has proved invaluable.”

Roland Garros 2018- Useful Vocab!

The French open 2018 Roland Garros is almost here!     On the 21st May, some of the best will take to the clay courts to compete for the French Grand Slam title. Now, when it comes to clay, we’re always going to think it will be Rafael Nadal, but this year, who knows! Could …

Read More

Signing up a birth

Signing up a birth You might’ve seen my blog a few weeks ago about an Iranian couple who required an interpreter for the birth of their child. I’m sure anyone who has given birth or been a birth partner will say it is a scary and traumatic experience. You are hoping that everything runs as …

Read More
Get a quote today