On March 21, 1990, Namibia, a nation in southern Africa, declared independence from South Africa. The indigenous peoples of the nation were the San, Nama, and Damara. Later, during the Bantu expansion, Bantu immigrants arrived in the region.
Since then, the Bantu people known as the Ovambo have become the majority of Namibia’s population, and their language, Oshiwambo, has become the country’s most commonly spoken language. Which already shows the diversity in languages in Namibia.
Himba women | Credit: Eye See Africa
From 1884 to 1915, Namibia was occupied by German forces and acted as a German Empire colony. The League of Nations mandated Namibia to the United Kingdom after World War I, and it was ruled by South Africa.
The country’s official languages in Namibia, during this time, were Afrikaans and English. Apartheid was also introduced in Namibia in 1948. Namibia gained full independence from South Africa in 1990, after years of unrest.
Namibia has a population of 2.1 million people and is sparsely populated due to the vast Namib Desert, which covers most of the region. Despite its limited population, Namibia has a complex linguistic environment, with languages in Namibia ranging from the Indo-European, Khoisan, and Bantu families spoken.
Languages in Namibia
The three languages in Namibia such as English, German, and Afrikaans were designated as official languages in Namibia during the apartheid regime.
However, after Namibia achieved independence from South Africa in 1990, the country’s new government declared English to be the only official language in Namibia, as stated in the country’s constitution. The language is now used in the country’s government administration as well as in schools and universities as a medium of instruction.
Oshiwambo is spoken by the majority (48%) of Namibians, especially the Ovambo people who live in the region formerly known as Ovamboland.
The Khoekhoe languages in Namibia’s second most widely spoken indigenous language, with approximately 11% of the population speaking it. About the same number of people speak Afrikaans. The Hereo and Kwangali languages are spoken by 10% of the Namibian population.
Other Bantu and Khoisan languages (Fwe, Kuhane, Yeyi, Tswana, Mbukushu) and Khoisan languages (Naro, Kung-Ekoka, Xó, Kxoe) are spoken by smaller percentages of the Namibian population.
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