What Languages are Spoken in Zimbabwe

The official name of Zimbabwe is the Republic of Zimbabwe. It is a landlocked country of South Africa and is located between Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa from the south, Botswana from the south-west, Zambia from the north. Moreover, Mozambique is from the east. Harare is the largest city and capital of Zimbabwe. Bulawayo is the second-largest city. Zimbabwe is native to 15 million people.

Zimbabwe got independence in April 1980 from a long colonial rule. Moreover, it was also liberated from the white-dominant minority called a unilateral declaration of independence UDI in 1965.  These foreign rules have greatly impacted the languages of Zimbabwe. Do you want to know which languages are spoken in Zimbabwe? But before going to their details you should know the history of Zimbabwe languages.

History of Zimbabwe Languages

During the 9th century, the Shona civilization started to dominate Zimbabwe and they ruled the area from the 13th till 19th centuries. At that time, the Shona rulers segmented the different areas of Zimbabwe according to their political importance. After that Portuguese colonizers tried to gain control of this region in the 17th century but they were removed by the Shone.

In 1821, the Ndebele tribe entered this area and took the charge of the Shona empire. After that, British colonists arrived in this area in 1888 to use the natural resources and to capture the area of Shona and Ndebele. Around 1923, Southern Rhodesia became a ruling British colony. Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980. This entire history has greatly influenced the culture and Zimbabwe languages

Languages Spoken in Zimbabwe  

The people of Zimbabwe speak 16 official languages. Out of these 16 Zimbabwe Languages, the most spoken languages are English, Shona, and Ndebele. Around two-thirds of the people of Zimbabwe speak Shona as their first language and one out of six people speak Ndebele.

The Shona and Ndebele languages are called Bantu languages. At the time of migration to the south side, Bantu-speaking people started residing there which are now called Zimbabwe. The people that speak Ndebele start residing near Bulawayo with Shona-speaking people.  

Official Languages of Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, many people from the general public started to criticize the use of Ndebele, Shona, and English. To satisfy the general public, parliament passed a law with the amendment to the constitution which says that there are 16 official languages in Zimbabwe.  These languages are Chibarwe, Chewa, Khoisan, Kalanga, English, Nambya, Ndebele, Ndau, Sotho, Shona, Xhosa, Tonga, Venda, Tswana, and sign language. Zimbabwe has the privilege that it is the only country with the most official languages. The change in the constitution gives importance to all cultures of the country.

The official status of these languages in the country means that each language should be equally promoted. Providing all the government information in 16 languages is not an easy task. This law also says that the government should work to develop and promote these languages. One of the services that are provided in the native language is public education. In this way, Zimbabwe has saved many languages from extinction.

Shona

Shona is a Buntu language and it is spoken by the Shona people of Zimbabwe. Out of Bantu languages, it is one of the most spoken languages. As per the Ethnologue, Shona consists of Korekore, Zezuru, and Karanga dialects. It is spoken by 10.8 million people. The two other dialects of the Shona language are Ndau and Manyika and they are spoken by around 1025,000 and 2380,000 people.

The Shona language also includes the dialect of Ndau, Eastern Shona, and Karanga, Western Shona. These both dialects have their own identities and they are not mutually intelligible to Shona.

Ndebele

The Northern Ndebele language is a Nguni Bantu language. Northern Ndebele people that live in the Matabeleland region speak it. This language is mutually intelligible with the Zulu language of South Africa. This language was developed in the 19th century in Zimbabwe when Zulu people migrated to the Zulu kingdom. 

At present 20% of the Zimbabwe people speak the Ndebele language and it is one of the official languages of Zimbabwe. Few Ndebele speakers reside in the Botswana North-eastern part that is bordered by Zimbabwe.

Chewa

The Chewa language is called Nyanja. It is a Bantu language and is spoken in northeastern Zimbabwe. Approximately, 15 million people speak this language. Therefore, It is estimated that it is the third-most widely spoken language in the country besides Shona and Ndebele.

Chibarwe  

Chiberwe is also called Barwe and Sena. It is also a Buntu language and a member of the Niger-Congo language family. People living in Mozambique and Malawi speak this language.

English

English is an Indo-European Language. The people of Zimbabwe speak English widely with a unique accent. Therefore, it is one of the official languages of Zimbabwe.

Kalanga

Kalanga is also a Bantu language. It is from a Niger-Congo group of languages. Approximately 700,000 people speak Kalangi in the southwestern part of Zimbabwe.

Khoisan

Khoisan is also known as Tshwa or Tsoa. It is from a group of Khoe languages. Very few people speak this language. San people that reside in the South Western region of Zimbabwe speak this language.

Nambya

The other name of the Nambya language is Chinambya. Approximately, 80,000 in north-western Zimbabwe speak this language. 75% of its loanwords are taken from the Shona language.

Ndau

Ndau language is one of the dialects of the Shona language. People living in the Chipinge region of Zimbabwe speak this language. Apart from Zimbabwe, this language is also spoken in Mozambique because it is at the border of Zimbabwe.

Shangani

Shangani language is also called Tsonga. It is a Bantu language and is spoken by the tribes that reside in the Shangani River of Zimbabwe. It is also spoken in Eswatini, Mozambique, and South Africa.

Sotho

Sesotho language is also a Bantu language. People living in South Africa, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe speak this language. Approximately, 5.6 million people speak Sotho as their first language whereas 7.9 people speak it as their second language.

Tonga

The Tonga language is called Chitonga. It is also a Bantu language. Approximately, 1.5 million people speak this language. This language is not standardized. Therefore, you will find various dialects of this language in various regions.

Tswana

The other name of this language is Setswana. It is a Bantu language. The majority number of Tswana speakers live in South Africa but a small number of speakers also live in Zimbabwe and Namibia. A Braille version and a signed version of Tswana are also available.

Venda  

The other name of the Venda language is Tshivenda or Luvenda. The Venda language is associated with Kalanga which is widely spoken in Botswana and Zimbabwe. Approximately, 1500,00 Lemba people in Zimbabwe speak this language.

Xhosa

Xhosa is a Bantu language. Approximately, 200,000 people in Zimbabwe speak this language. One interesting thing about this language is that the old Zimbabwean national anthem is written in this language.

Sign Languages

Zimbabweans have developed sign language after the struggle of fifty years. One of the important sign languages in Zimbabwe is the Masvingo school sign. It is different from other sign languages that people speak in Zimbabwe. In the Zimbabwe national association of dead, there are 280,000 deaf members. Therefore, to assist them, sign language is also an official language of Zimbabwe.

Wrapping Up

Don’t get worried by knowing that Zimbabwe has 16 official languages. You cannot learn all these languages. However, you can take the assistance of Professional Translation Services. CCJK is a leading translation company. It has a team of native translators who know the regional and cultural intricacies and provides you with seamless translation services at quick turnaround time and economical rates.

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