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The People of South Africa

Martie Coetser is a freelance writer from South Africa. She has a keen interest in a variety of topics.

South Africa - The Rainbow Nation


The People of South Africa

South Africa is a multi-racial country composed of eleven language groups. The country's Constitution, which is considered one of the best in the world, protects the diversity of languages and cultures. It also stresses that everyone is equal before the law.

Let me introduce you to the people of South Africa -

South Africa has eleven official languages -

South Africa's eleven official languages

South Africa's eleven official languages

Dominant language groups are to be found in specific regions -

Regions of dominant languages, South Africa

Regions of dominant languages, South Africa

South Africa: 17th Century

Before Europeans (via the Dutch East India Company) established a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope for ships traveling between Europe and India in April 1652, the most southern region of Africa was already the homeland of many distinct peoples.

Map of current South Africa with slapdash 17th-century territories


The San and Khoi-Khoi People

In April 1652, Dutch settlers arrived in the southwestern corner of southern Africa where the San and Khoi-Khoi were already settled. They named the settlement The Cape of Good Hope, today known as Cape Town. Here they met two distinct indigenous peoples - the San and the Khoi-Khoi.

The San were nomadic groups of hunters and gatherers. Tools used by them, which were found across the entire southern Africa, date back to 44,000 BC.

'San' means 'people different from ourselves'. The name was given to them by the Khoi-Khoi people. The Dutch called this group 'Bushmen' - a name that became highly offensive as racism spread among the descendants of European settlers.

The Khoi-Khoi (pronounced: coo-coo) - settled about 2000 years ago in the region of Cape Town. Although their physical appearance was similar to the San, they had a different culture and a more complex social structure. They were pastoralists, raising and herding sheep, goats and cattle. The Dutch called this group 'The Hottentots' - the only word (series of sounds) they could recognize in the language of the Khoi-Khoi, which is composed of a variety of click consonants. Today also the name 'Hottentots' is considered derogatory.

Khoisan - Historians merged the names 'San' and 'Khoi-Khoi' into Khoisan (coo-san). According to evolutionary geneticist Pontus Skoglund, the Khoisan was the largest population on Earth at some point. The oldest mitochondrial haplogroup (L0d) has been identified at its highest frequencies in this group - a distinction that makes them one of fourteen known extant “ancestral population clusters” from which all known modern humans descended.


The Khoisan adopted the new language, Afrikaans - a language that was originally called "Kitchen Dutch", as the Dutch spoken by the original settlers became larded with words spoken by Khoisan, Portuguese, Germans, French, and slaves from India (Malay), Angola, and Mozambique. Only in 1925, Afrikaans would be recognized as one of South Africa's official languages. Even today Afrikaans is the youngest language in the world.

Today only 82,000 Khoisans live in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, most of them still the way they have lived before the arrival of Europeans.

Map of current South Africa with slapdash 17th-century territories

South Africa - Khoisan Territory

South Africa - Khoisan Territory

Listen to the sound of KhoeKhoegowab - a dialect of the Khoisan language

Republic of Cameroon

Republic of Cameroon

Indigenous Africans

Proto-Bantu is the common ancestral language of about 550 languages spoken in Africa. This language group originally developed in the region known today as the Republic of Cameroon.

The word bantu is rooted in the word ntu, which means people or humans. (Ntu is the sound that is made by the footsteps of a creature that walks with two legs.) The word ba refers to people.

NB: To use the word Bantu instead of African, or Bantus instead of Africans, is disrespectful. The term Bantu may only be used in its original context in reference to African languages. Dutch, British and eventually Afrikaners referred to all Africans as 'kaffirs' - a highly offensive name meaning 'heathens'. Today the use of offensive names are against the Law.


Bantu Expansion

About 3000–4000 years ago groups of Proto-Bantu split off to begin what is hypothesized as the Bantu expansion. There were three groups.

  1. The Nguni language group (2a) developed in Central/Eastern Africa in the region of the Great Lakes.
  2. The Sotho-Tswana language group (2b) developed in Western Africa.
  3. The Venda and Tsonga group (7a) developed in Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Writing and reading were introduced to these peoples in the nineteen century, initially by British missionaries.

The amaXhosa

During the 14th century, the first Xhosa tribes originated from the Nguni language group settled in southern Africa. The word 'xhosa' is a Khoisan word meaning 'angry/fierce people'. Their language - isiXhosa - contains many "click" sounds, indicating interaction with the Khoisan for quite a period of time. Like the Khoi-Khoi, the Xhosa were stock and cattle farmers.

Today 16% of SA's population is amaXhosa speaking IsiXhosa.

Map of current South Africa with slapdash 17th-century territories

Xhosa territory, South Africa

Xhosa territory, South Africa

Listen to the sound of isiXhosa

The amaZulu

The amaZulu were originally a Nguni group formed by Zulu kaMalandela in ca.1709. They settled in the northern regions of today’s province, KwaZulu-Natal. Between 1816 and 1828, King Shaka amalgamated many small Nguni tribes into the mighty nation known today as the amaZulu. Cultivating land, raising stock, metalwork and training in warfare were everyday activities in the kingdom of the Zulus.

Today 22.7% of SA's population is amaZulu speaking isiZulu.

Map of current South Africa with slapdash 17th-century territories


Listen to the sound of isiZulu

The emaSwati

Since ca.1750, a Nguni clan known as the emaSwati, also known as the bakaNgwane, settled south of the Limpopo River. The group was named after their king Mswati II who expanded his territory and unified the emaSwati between 1840 and 1868.

Although Swaziland achieved independence on September 6th, 1968, the majority of emaSwati live in South Africa to form a population of 2.5% siSwati-speaking people.

Map of current South Africa with slapdash 17th-century territories


Listen to the sound of siSwati spoken by a citizen of Swaziland

Tsonga and Shangaan territory, South Africa

Tsonga and Shangaan territory, South Africa

The Shangaan-Tsonga Group

The first Xitsonga speaking people were traders traveling in boats on the Limpopo River and its tributaries, bartering cloth and beads for ivory, copper and salt. While the majority Vatsonga (Xitsonga-speaking people) lived in Mozambique, some of the smaller tribes were conquered by Soshangane during the Mfecane (Difaqane)- the period between 1815 and 1840 when widespread chaos and warfare occurred among indigenous ethnic communities in southern Africa. The word Tsonga is a transition of the word Rhonga, meaning dawn/east.

The amaShangaan came into being during the Mfecane (Difaqane) when King Shaka of the Zulus sent Manukosi, later named Soshangane, to conquer the Vatsonga in southern Mozambique. Manukosi decided to form his own tribe - the amaShangaan - including Xichangana, XiTsonga, isiZulu, siSwati, as well as isiXhosa-speaking people. They settled south of the Limpopo River. The word Shangaan is a Tsonga transition of the Nguni word Changana, meaning to destroy/invade/attack.

Today 4.5% of South Africans speak Xitsonga or Xichangana.

Map of current South Africa with slapdash 17th-century territories


Listen to the sound of Xitsonga

Listen to sound of Xichangana

Venda People

It is not clear when the Vhavenda (or Vhangona) settled south of the Limpopo River, and if they were part of the Mapungubwe Kingdom, which existed between 1030 and 1290 AD. The word Venda means ‘land’, ‘country’ or ‘pleasant place’.

Today 2.4% South Africans speak Tshivenda.

Map of current South Africa with slapdash 17th-century territories


Listen to the sound of Tshivenḓa

The Bapedi (Northern Sotho)

Nuclear groups of Sotho-Tswana speaking people co-existed in the north-eastern region of what would become South Africa. They identified themselves through their distinct totemic animals, such as tau (lion), kolobe (pig), kwena (crocodile), and noko (porcupine). By 1650 the group with the porcupine totem, the Maroteng, gained control over the region, hence the establishment of the Pedi paramountcy.

The Bapedi speak Sepedi and form 9.1% of South Africa's population.

Map of current South Africa with slapdash 17th-century territories


Listen to the sound of sePedi


The amaNdebele, a Nguni language group, was named after their legendary King Ndebele. During the first half of the 1600s their King Musi led them inland, away from the coast and the Zulu's, to settle in the region known today as the province of Limpopo. Internal conflict divided the tribe into two - the Northern and Southern Ndebele.

The Southern Ndebele settled in the region today known as the Mpumalanga Province. They speak isiNdebele and form 2.1% of South Africa's population.

The Northern Ndebele adopted the language and culture of their Sotho and Tswana neighbours.

Map of current South Africa with slapdash 17th-century territories


Listen to the sound of Isindebele/Sindebele (Northern Ndebeli)

Listen to the sound of Ndébélé (Southern Ndebeli)

The Basotho (Southern Sotho)

The Basotho were originally several clans of the Sotho-Tswana group that migrated from the western regions of Africa. Between 1818 and 1820 they were conquered and merged by Moshoeshoe I. Although Lesotho achieved independence in 1966, the majority of Basotho live and work in South Africa.

The language of the Basotho - Sesotho - was documented by the missioner Eugène Casalis between 1837 and 1855.

Today 7.6% of South Africans speak Sesotho.

Map of current South Africa with slapdash 17th-century territories


Listen to the sound of Sesotho

The Batswana

Since about 1300 CE the Batswana lived as herders and farmers under tribal rule. By 1880 all major Batswana villages had a resident British missionary, hence the completion of Christianization in 1923. Botswana achieved independence in 1964. Today the majority Batswana live in the Northwest province of South Africa.

Setswana is the home language of 8% of South Africans.

Map of current South Africa with slapdash 17th-century territories


Listen to the sound of Setswana


As explained in the capsule about the Khoisan, Afrikaans was the new language that developed in the Cape of Good Hope. It evolved from Hollandic, also spelled Hollandish, which was, together with Brabatian, the most frequently used dialect of the Dutch language. Larded with words from other languages that were spoken in the Cape of Good Hope, Afrikaans was originally labelled 'Kitchen Dutch.' However, by the time the British took over in the beginning of the 1800's, everybody, including the Khoisan and Malay, spoke Afrikaans. Interesting is the fact that in 1815, Afrikaans, written with the Arabic alphabet, started to replace Malay as the language of instruction in Muslim schools. (Ref: Arabic Afrikaans.)

Afrikaans also became the home language of two new races that developed due to inter-racial relationships between whites and non-whites.

The Griqua People descended from inter relations between European men and Khoi-Khoi women. They speak a unique dialect of Afrikaans. Today, less than 100,000 Griquas live mainly in the Northern Cape Province.

The Cape Coloureds are a heterogeneous group with diverse ancestral links, including links in Xhosa, Malay, and in Africans from Madagascar and Angola. The Afrikaans dialect spoken by the Cape Coloureds is also unique. The majority of Cape-Coloureds live in the Western Cape Province.

Coloureds elsewhere in South Africa - As time went by, inter-racial relationships occurred between white and blacks all over South Africa, and between South Africans and immigrants from all over the world. Their distinct descendants are also known as Coloureds. (Keep in mind that inter-racial relationships and marriages were only prohibited during the Apartheids regime [1949-1985]). Some of the families in this group speak English.

Today, 13.5% South Africans, including Griquas and Coloureds, speak Afrikaans.

Afrikaans expansion

South Africa

South Africa

Trek to the north (1836-1838)

Groot Trek (1836-1838)

Groot Trek (1836-1838)

At present: Regions dominated by Afrikaans-speaking people

Afrikaans regions, South Africa

Afrikaans regions, South Africa

Listen to the sound of Afrikaans


The first British settlers arrived in 1820. They were mainly poor and unemployed victims of the Napoleonic wars. At first they lived in an Anglo-Saxon establishment named Albany, where they kept their distinctive culture in the predominantly Xhosa and Afrikaans-speaking Cape. Eventually the lack of agricultural experience led many to establish other settlements like Grahamstown, East London and Port Elizabeth, where they reverted to their trades.

A group of the initial British settlers moved to the land of the Zulus where King Shaka allowed them to stay in exchange for access to firearm technology.

After the discovery of diamonds in 1867, and gold (in 1886), English also became predominant in Kimberley and Johannesburg.

Today 9.6% South Africans, including Indians, speak English.

South Africa: English Expansion since 1808



South African Indians are largely descending from indentured laborers brought to South Africa by the British during late 19th-century to work on sugar plantations in the province known today as KwaZulu-Natal. Today, most Indians live in KwaZulu-Natal, especially in Durban and Pietermaritzburg. However, being masters in retail, they own shops, factories, and houses all over the country. Only a minority still speaks some Indian languages such as Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, and Odia.

Settlers from Asia

Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese

The first Chinese to settle in South Africa were prisoners exiled from Batavia by the Dutch in 1660. Although Chinese immigration was banned under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1904, over sixty-three thousand contracted miners were imported from China to work the mines of the Witwatersrand between 1904 and 1910. They were repatriated after 1910 due to strong White opposition to their presence. Under the Population Registration Act of 1950, Chinese South Africans were deemed "Asiatic", then "Coloured", and finally "Chinese". Like all non-Europeans, they suffered under the Group Areas Act of 1950.

From the late 1970's onward, Taiwanese and Hong Kong Chinese migrating to South Africa were exempt from many apartheid laws and regulations as they were seen as investors and referred to as "honorary whites", while South Africans of Chinese descent continued to be classified as Coloureds or Asians. In 1984, all South African Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese finally obtained the same official rights as Europeans.

Since 1994 Chinese immigrate to South Africa in large numbers, increasing the Chinese population in SA to ± 400,000 in 2015. Most Chinese live in SA's economic hubs: Johannesburg, Durban, Port-Elizabeth, and Cape Town.



Immigrants from Africa

Legal as well as illegal immigration from African countries such as Nigeria, Angola, Somalia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, has multiplied since 1994. Immigrants from other countries in Africa are known as 'Foreign Nationals', shortened to 'Nationals'. In order to survive, these groups have to speak and understand English.

According to the 2016 community survey, 1,6-million foreign-born migrants represent 2.8% of South Africa’s population.

© 2017 Martie Coetser


Suzie from Carson City on March 26, 2019:

Martie ....You have displayed your enormous talents with such an in-depth and quite fascinating article about your beautiful country. Realizing the time and effort you have put into this piece, amazes me.

I enjoyed every bit of all you have shared, Martie. Thank you so much for the videos offering your readers a sampling of the various languages. They were intriguing, to say the least. All of the individuals in those videos .appear to be sweet, happy & peaceful people, so willing to give a language lesson for others.

Your photo choices to share with us was perfect!

I want you to know that I am grateful for this authentic education from a native South African whom I am lucky enough to know and love as my friend. An education doesn't get any better than this! So good to see you, Martie. (We have birthdays coming up! LOL).......Love & Peace, Paula

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on March 24, 2019:

Hi Alyssa

I am so glad you enjoyed this article. May your deeper understanding grows even deeper as you read more about the people of SA.

Alyssa from Ohio on March 15, 2019:

This is a fascinating article! Thank you for giving a deeper understanding of the people and the culture of South Africa. Definitely sharing this!

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on January 26, 2018:

What a fantastic article. You have outdone yourself. I will share it.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on January 07, 2018:

Wow Martie, this is a fascinating expose of your beautiful country.

I worked with a woman from Ghana and Rita told me so much about the cultures of her former country and I could see and hear that she really missed it.

This is a country that would be fascinating to visit.

Blessings my dear friend.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on October 08, 2017:

The diversity of cultures, religions, and general ideas and perceptions makes SA’s future completely unpredictable. Thanks for the visit.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on October 08, 2017:

Hi Augustine,

Sorry you had to wait 10 days for a reply. You will not be interested in my reasons.

Organize a group of not more than ten people, and B and I will show you the best and the safest of our country. We will avoid tourist traps.

Augustine A Zavala from Texas on September 27, 2017:

Well written, and completely fascinating. I would love to visit one day.

Audrey Howitt from California on September 12, 2017:

What a wonderfully diverse nation! I never realized just how diverse!

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on September 10, 2017:

Dear Audrey Hunt, sorry you had to wait so long for my response. English is our official language of communication and education. Except for some illiterate old people in the rural areas, everybody understands, speaks, and writes in English. Already at the age of 4-5, children are able to understand and even speak two languages – their mother tongue as well as English – thanks to English movies and TV-programs for children. At the age of three my eldest granddaughter was able to understand the dialogue of an English movie - thanks to illustrations and dramatizing, of course.

Take care, dear Audrey!

PS: While you cannot visit, you can have many virtual (photo) tours of South Africa. Just pick and choose them on my profile page.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on August 13, 2017:

Wow - Martie! This is a top-stellar hub. I played the video of your voice and tears welled up in my eyes. I felt close to you. I love the sound of your voice.

Now, I want to visit your country. I knew so little about South Africa until reading this . What a fascinating array of people. I'm wondering if English is the primary language - the language most spoken.

Thank you for this interesting and amazing tutorial. You've really outdone yourself my friend.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 21, 2017:

kallini2010 – You are so right about language: It is part of our identity, and like our culture it is a precious property we don’t want to lose. The next generation may, perhaps, not share our sentiments, as globalization is slowly but surely busy to lump people all over the world together.

That people get more defensive if they know they are wrong is such a transparency. For some reason only a few are able to fake innocence by refusing to react on allegations.

I love the way you handle your complexes – by denying it and programming yourself and others with slogans like “I adore my accent/voice/myself.” We should all follow suit.

Thanks for the link to the trailer of Marguerite. I think the message of the movie will touch one’s most hidden strings. The message reminds me of the compliments we get from fellow-hubbers in Hubpages. Really, I have seen so many colourful compliments on the most awful hubs, and especially on poems, I am compelled to accept comments on my work with a pinch of salt.

I don’t think we should use the word ‘judging’ when evaluating a person's voice or behavior. We rather evaluate and assess others in order to form a personal preference. Beautiful, adorable, ugly, acceptable, repelling, whatever we call our preferences. What I regard ‘adorable’ you may regard ‘acceptable’. The negative connotation attached to the words ‘judging’ and ‘judge’ prevent me from using the word in certain contexts.

Hugs to you, dear Svetlana :)

kallini2010 from Toronto, Canada on July 20, 2017:

Oh, Martie, people always make a fuss about languages because a language is a big part of identity (and ownership). They may (and will) resist, revolt and make artificial rules, but in the end, the practical aspect of communication wins.

The petty argument was interesting in many ways, one of which is - we get more defensive if we know we are wrong. So, I assume that was a part of the angry outburst - being caught red-handed. She could have taken the path of least resistance - say it was an honest mistake. That way she could have gotten away with it - simply by promising to never do it again. The other important factor was losing face - so she was trying to "win" at all costs rather than admit the wrongdoing. [on what planet people don't pay for bus rides?] But that's the thing - both are universal reactions. We are not being taught this kind of language - the communication language.


About the voice - maybe I did not express myself clearly. We don't hear our own voice and hearing it recorded rubs most people the wrong way. It's some sort of dissonance - when you have to attach that "horrible" voice to your own image of yourself. I hate my voice (recorded), but lately I decided to tell people that I find it adorable. They point out that I have an accent and I say, "Yes, I find it adorable".

Attaching your voice to the disembodied writing is hard for me to do (but it applies to anyone if I have to go from no voice to person's voice) (it was the same for Augustine, Nellieanna, Ian and Maja), it would be the same for anyone. It's not a matter of judgment.

Truth is, when we read, we sound out the text, therefore everything I read - I read in my own voice (my head voice), not the real one. If I had to record myself reading anyone's stuff, I'll hate every word of it.

There is a movie based on a true story (the trailer is all you need) to get the exaggerated idea of how one hears their own voice:


Though it's not as simple as it might look on the surface (I mean the film).

I agree with you about judging a person by the voice only - I need to see and talk with the person face-to-face. But I'd be inclined to give a leeway - how can I judge anyone without knowing them and how can I possibly know anyone?

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 20, 2017:

ChitrangadaSharan – Thank you so much for your kind and supporting comment. I believe creating equality among races/cultures/language groups is a major challenge to be met by most governments. I would love to learn more about India.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 20, 2017:

Hi DDE! I am very glad you have learned much more. The more we know about the past, the better future we will be able to build – by not repeating any injustice.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 20, 2017:

Marie Flint – I don’t think I will live to see Africa leading the way globally with a wisdom-based government that will unite the entire continent, or having a common currency. Inside politics between language groups – call it tribalism – is a reality that cannot be overlooked. I rather predict that the various language groups will sooner or later demand recognition, and education in their mother tongue. Remember the native language of Welch (Cymraeg or y Gymraeg) was suppressed for decades, and since 2011 the Welch-people want their language to have the same status as English. Thank you for the edit!

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 20, 2017:

kallini2010 – Thank you so much for your very interesting and informative comment.

I like your idea that South Africa is in a ‘painful formation of a nation’ stage.

I should have added to this hub the pidgin language – Fanagalo - that developed in the mines between Afrikaans and English speaking whites and Africans – a mixture of Afrikaans, English and isiZulu. But I don’t think Africans would like to give any recognition to this language. They regard it, as well as Afrikaans, as the ‘language of the oppressor’. (As if English-speaking British didn’t practiced Apartheid since they’ve set foot ashore in 1820!)

Fanagalo -



What a petty argument about paying for transit. Someone should remind that lady of the saying, “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” Reminds me of a friend who got rebuked because he smoked a cigarette inside Amsterdam’s airport in the late ‘90s (when this was still allowed in SA.) Nobody told him that in Holland smoking in public was against the law, and he didn’t notice any of the many no-smoking notices! Lol!

I think the treble-setting of my video was too high; my voice sounds even foreign to me. But then, voices do sound different in a recording, and even on a telephone, than in real life. I have learned to never use a person’s voice on the telephone as an indication of their physical appearance. One can, however, get an idea of the person’s character and personality by listening to the way they use their language, but only if the person speaks in their mother tongue. A genius could sound like an idiot when trying to express themselves in a foreign language.

Thank you for the link to ‘How to Pronounce Juan Ramón Jiménez’.

Re Daniel laughing at you for not being able to pronounce Manhoor - Afrikaans and English-speaking people in SA find many of the names and surnames of Africans extremely difficult to pronounce – the reason why Africans (until 1994) had to adopt an English or Afrikaans name. Fortunately, practice makes perfect.

Take care, dear Svetlana!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on July 20, 2017:

This is an excellent article about South Africa!

I really enjoyed reading this wonderfully presented hub and in fact scrolled back two to three times back to read again in detail.

South Africa sounds like a mini World to me.

I find lot of common points between South Africa and India! We also have many languages, different tribes, many regions , diversity of rituals and culture, lot of colours and so on.

Honestly I didn't know so many details about South Africa! Thanks for sharing the interesting and informative hub with beautiful pictures and lovely videos, your video in particular.

Thank You!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 18, 2017:

Incredible! You have shared an interesting and most informative topic about SA. It makes me wonder of much more about our lovely country. I learned lots here.

Marie Flint on July 18, 2017:

I commend you on tackling this diverse and lengthy topic.

Spiritual channels have said that Africa will lead the way globally with a wisdom-based government that will unite the entire continent. There will be a common currency.

I enjoyed the use of click sounds in the languages. These remind me of dolphins, which I love and respect.

Minor edit: southwestern (one word)


kallini2010 from Toronto, Canada on July 18, 2017:

Hello Martie:

As my browser got back to good behaviour, I was able to read, see and listen.

Good luck with the click languages. I read that it is impossible to speak a click language unless it's your own. The differences are not so much in tongue or muscles, but in the ability to hear sounds. Babies hear all range of sounds only for six months - after that the "receptive neuronet" is being trimmed to hear the sounds of native language.

That is why it's so hard to "hear" the bloody subtle difference between (for example) "p" and "b" (which makes a difference in the meaning).

I'm not too concerned about "r" sounds - no matter how I mess them up - it doesn't hinder understanding. What I hate about English is the difference between "man" and "men", "beach" and "bitch", "sheet" and "sh-t". Long vs. short vowels - we don't have that in Russian. Elongate all you like and it doesn't change the meaning, plus the fact that the words are longer gives you time to get the meaning.

All the contractions and shortenings make it much more difficult. I've read that's the tonality of Chinese came precisely from that - dropping off consonants - "a" sounds differently depending on the preceding consonant - the consonant was lost, but the tone remained - and good luck with those eight tones - I'm totally deaf to it. (there is even a term "English-deaf", "tone-deaf").

I'm sort of ok with languages, but there is a limit where I stop trying.

There are way too many people in South Africa and it is my belief that the distance between different groups will decrease with time. You already have your lingua franca (hell, English is lingua franca, Dutch was lingua franca, every language will absorb whatever is around and get simplified (another term is "bastardized") that way). Russian recently turned into a mess.

The prediction is that at some point we'll all get to be light brown-ish - mixing is only a matter of time. I wonder what the language would be? Mine is already broken.

Canadian multiculturalism (vs. American melting pot) is sometimes referred to as Multi-culti-mess, sometimes as Multi-culti-paradise. I believe it's neither. I call it the Babylontonian stage - hell, I already speak Babylontonian ( a uniquely incomprehensible mix of my version of English, German, French, Russian, Spanish, and Italian. Wait till I throw Chinese in.)

So, we'll have to wait for the coherent differences to turn into the incoherent mess. Good news - I always believed that wars/invasions/senseless violence was destructive. It turns out I was wrong (again) - in many instances, wars were an ultimate way of contact (interaction) and human development.

So, maybe South Africa is at that stage - painful formation of a nation.

P.S. Toronto, just a few days ago - a conflict over whether a person should pay the fare for the ride on public transit (a quarrel over $2.10)

- Nobody told me that I have to pay.

- I'm telling you now - your pass is a daily pass, it expired two days ago.

- Nobody told me I have to pay.

- You have to pay for each ride.

- Nobody told me I have to pay. I don't understand anything. I'm new to Canada.

- I'm telling you now - you have to pay. I'm only doing my job.

- Nobody told me I have to pay. I'm seventy years old. I'm new to this country. Nobody told me I have to pay.

- I'm telling you now. Your pass has expired on Saturday.

- I don't know what country you are from!!! (insults followed)

Supposedly a new seventy-year old immigrant to Canada insults a Canadian over $2.10 with the level of English which clearly indicates that she understands enough. In the end, she got away with paying $2.10 for both her husband and herself - because technically they should have paid $4.20.

This is our Toronto, Canada. A new immigrant comes and makes a fuss, a scene and gives hell to a (probably) native Canadian!!!

What kind of language did they speak? A human one, an angry one, a ridiculous one. Babylonto, I'm telling you.

P.S. It's hard for me to add your voice to my image of you (through writing + photos). You seem like an entirely different person to me! (the laws of perception, no doubt).

By the way, if you don't know how to pronounce a name - you can search it on youtube - I have found many there, including

Juan Ramón Jiménez



Daniel was laughing at me that I can't pronounce the Arabic name Manhoor (his friend)

I thought I did a decent job (he disagreed), I thought I did a much better job than he - I need an Arab-speaking person to judge how well I did it), but I found a shortcut - can't I just call her "Moonlight"? After all, that's what the word means.

Eventually, we'll all get to the essence of every language - the meaning of it. Don't you think?

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 17, 2017:

Dearest Nellieanna – your praise is deeply appreciated and very precious to me. As I’ve already said, I had to cut the original hub in half, telling myself all the time that my intention with the hub is to introduce the eleven language groups, hoping that foreigners will grasp the intense racial challenges SA has to meet.

I will definitely have to publish a separate hub for each nation. But then, there is so much information already on the Internet – one can only google the name of the race in order to learn all that is interesting and fascinating about them.

Thank you so much for your lovely comment. Love you lots!

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 17, 2017:

MsDora – Auw, I am so glad you enjoyed the video of me speaking my mother tongue. I think it is sad that African-Americans have forgotten their original language. It may also become the case in SA, as English is the language of education down here and schools that offer education in a child’s mother tongue are being neglected and even ignored by the government. Handbooks and manuals are in English or Afrikaans. The latter is constantly under pressure, because Africans refuse to read/learn anything in Afrikaans as its being regarded the language of the oppressor (the Apartheids-government).

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 17, 2017:

AliciaC – Those click-sounds are amazing, and still part of the African languages. We Westerns can’t do it. Totally impossible for me, anyway. But then, ask an Englishman to pronounce the letter ‘r’ the way it is pronounced by the Germanic language groups, and not to talk about the French-people who have another unique way of pronouncing an ‘r’. Since babyhood we develop specific muscles in the tongue and mouth in order to speak our mother tongue with a specific accent. I am glad you find the information educational and fascinating.

Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on July 17, 2017:

I’m not too easily awed, but I am quite awed by this scholarly, well-researched, beautifully written and organized work, dear Martie, my Cyber-daughter! I’m not hesitant to praise it bountifully, because it merits it!

I can only imagine the hours of dedicated time and effort you’ve put into it!! I agree with FlourishAnyway that is must be the most comprehensive work in publication on this subject, - or the multiplicity of sub-subjects involved in it! I knew you were intense and dedicated to things of value and of interest to you, and this piece proves it beyond all doubt.

It’s like a class in anthropology, geography, linguistics, history, cultures, relationships, religion, families , laws, — and on and on. We'd better make it a full course or an entire school. I have read it all, and listened to most all of the language videos, though not all of the longest ones to their ends. When it’s all so unfamiliar, more at a time doesn’t seem too familiarize it very much. But I fully intend to return and keep studying it! I’ll also recommend it! Too bad more unfamiliar people don’t familiarize themselves with other cultures. It might help make us all seem more akin, because we really are. I agree that it’s too bad that so much study of human cultures involves so much violence and war.

I had to go look up a word or two, namely mitochondroal haplogroup, which was a mini-education in itself, especially for those of us interested in genetics and anthropology.

Then there is the special treat of hearing your melodious voice! I’ve heard it before but the recitation of that lovely poem, both in English and in Akrikans, was dear to me.

Perhaps you’ll publish, in another hub, the parts of this article you felt necessary to omit to keep down its size. I’m sure it would be interesting, too.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 17, 2017:

Thanks for this very comprehensive presentation on the make-up of South African peoples. The language videos are very informative and interesting. Great hearing your beautiful voice whether you read in English or Afrikaans.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 16, 2017:

This article is very educational, Martie. It's packed with interesting information! I loved listening to the videos, especially the one about click sounds and the one that you created. They're both fascinating. Thank you very much for sharing all the facts about the people of South Africa.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 16, 2017:

Hi, billybuc! I love keeping you informed! Melanie lives in the region of Cape Town – one of the most beautiful regions in our country - while I am up here in the hot and dry Northwest - 16-18 hours’ road trip from them. The only beautiful things in my region are the Bushveld and a couple of nature reserves with beautiful wild animals. Okay, adding the semi-subtropical region of Rustenburg and Harties with its beautiful mountain range, river, dam, waterfalls and ravines – only an hour’s road trip from me, I better bite my tongue.

I think you are also a friend of fellow-hubber Nadine May. She, too, lives in Cape Town.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 16, 2017:

Dear marcoujor – Talking about voices – I do believe that YOUR voice is the most calming and melodic of all voices. Don’t argue. You will win the competition.

You will find ‘The Final Journey’ and info about its poet here - https://owlcation.com/humanities/The-Final-Journey...

Love you lots!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 16, 2017:

Well I know exactly two people from South Africa, you and another online friend Melanie. You two are nice, so I'm shooting two for two so far. Not bad!

In other words, I know next to nothing about your country, so thank you for the continued education.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on July 16, 2017:

Dear Martie,

What a wealth of information in this research - the pictures and videos are like a walk with the most fascinating tour guide.

I love your family picture of the most beautiful people on the planet (where are you, mck...?)

... and the video of your voice is calming, melodic and brings tears to my eyes. Will you please send me a copy / link to that poignant poem?

Happy, peaceful Sunday. Love and hugs, mar

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 16, 2017:

Hi, tsmog – English is the official language, but people speak their home language in their homes. The Nguni languages (Zulu, Xhosa, and Swati) have the same roots, while the Sotho-languages (including Tswana) are very much the same. The Africans in SA are extremely multilingual, able to speak and understand at least three languages. English is a compulsory subject in all schools, so everybody can speak and understand it. A language barrier could only exist in the heart of a rural area, where people seldom if ever get the opportunity to speak anything else but their mother tongue.

I think you will love my travelogues. You will find many links on my HubPages profile page.

Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on July 16, 2017:

A great and wonderful article Martie!!! Enlightening. I am dazed with complexity of languages and associated cultures. Is English the official language? Do most people speak several? I have seen with your posts you travel a bit. Do you find languages a barrier when you do? I will bear this interesting component of SA in mind when I read or see news and your posts about SA here and FB.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 16, 2017:

Hi, FlourishAnyway – Wonderful to know your cat loves my voice. What a special compliment!

I am so happy to have the opportunity to share the good as well as the bad (and the ugly) with friends all over the world, and even happier to know that they find it interesting and worthy to know.

Please give Gunther a big hug on my behalf.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 16, 2017:

suzettenaples – One of the major differences between the USA and SA, is the fact that segregation in SA was legitimate between 1948 to 1994. The inequality that develops under natural segregation and forced segregation is very much the same. Another difference is the population. While Africans are a minority in the USA, they are by far the majority in SA - 80% opposed to 9.5%.

Suzette, I am honestly so thrilled to know that you find my hubs about my country informative and fantastic. I wonder where I could buy Kaffir Boy. On the other hand, I’ve had enough of this horrible topic. I would love to read books that expose positive relations between the races in SA, but I am afraid, racial relations were either bad, or non-existing, or in a boss-slave scenario. Will racism (and tribalism) ever become something of the past?

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 16, 2017:

sallybea – Auw, I wish I could send you all of SA’s unique dishes and delicatessens. I think pulling one’s roots, shooting it elsewhere, and then longing for one’s original place under the sun, must be extremely painful. But this pain is the price one has to pay for peace and prosperity. In order to pay it, one has to be emotionally strong and rich with the abilities to endure and rebound. I take my hat off to you and all ex-South Africans, and hope that you will get the opportunity to visit your homeland again.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 16, 2017:

Hi, mckbirdbks – I am happy to know that you have read those interesting books about SA. It is always much easier to form a true, unbiased, perspective of another country when you’re not a victim of that country’s governments. You know, I believe we are all victims of governments. Although I realize the importance of a government, I regret the fact that power has the power to corrupt even the most honest individual. Somehow the players of politics lose their ability to serve and lead. I guess they get strangled in the system. A matter of being too busy to comply with policies and procedures to do the actual work. Thank you so much for the support, most attractive man on the planet. (Lol!)

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on July 16, 2017:

Nell Rose – I am honestly so glad you found this hub awesome. I bet you now know more about SA than anyone you know. I find the basic history of all countries extremely interesting. I wish battles and wars were not part of it. This hub was originally twice its size. I had to delete half of the interesting information in order to keep readers’ attention until the end.

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 15, 2017:

I cannot imagine there is a better resource on the internet on the topic. I learned so much and loved listening to your YouTube. As I played it my cat, Gunther, was talking back to you! He really responded to your voice.

suzettenaples on July 15, 2017:

Oh Martie, this hub is fantastic and so informative. I finally understand all the different people of S Africa. Here in the states we teach the novel Kaffir Boy in high school to teach apartied in S Africa to our students, which in the US we had segregation. A terrible blot on both countries. I enjoyed the language videos and it is so interesting and informative to hear and watch them. Thanks for again sharing your beautiful country with us.

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on July 15, 2017:

You have done a sterling job on this one Martie. So much research has gone into it and the result is top notch. I recognise so many people, so many sounds and colours. I lived in East London when Steve Biko died, was living in SA when Mandela was released from Robben Island. I grew up in the rolling hills of 'Zululand' so all is so familiar and yet I know it is no longer the same. It makes me yearn for familiar things and people, familiar tastes too, things like Bobotie which I still make but other things too like the taste of a Peppermint Crisp or Chocolate Log and Koeksisters. Thanks for taking me down memory lane.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on July 15, 2017:

Hello Martie - You have once again offered a panoramic view of your country. It is interesting, to me, how the different groups of immigrants are viewed. I have read a couple of books regarding the Boer Wars and Captain Richard Burton's exploits in Africa. You enlighten us to what South Africa has become in the 21st Century.

Nell Rose from England on July 15, 2017:

Wow! KhoeKhoegowab! I tried doing it, but my English tongue would not work! kaffirs surprised me. I thought that was the word that islam uses against us. I learned something!

I love the blue of the sotho, and all the other colors are amazing!

This was fantastic Martie! And I love hearing your voice and that wonderful poem! I learned so much here, the people, the colors are awesome, love that round house with all the color over it! lol! and of course the cultures. Did I say awesome? Awesome!

I have sat here for at least an hour reading it all and listening to all the accents and clicks, so amazing! Definitely your best ever!!

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