Namibia, a southern African country, gained independence from South Africa on March 21, 1990. The San, Nama and Damara peoples were the indigenous inhabitants of the country. Later, Bantu immigrants arrived in the country during the Bantu expansion. Since then, the Bantus, known as the Ovambo, became the main inhabitants of Namibia and the language, Oshiwambo, spoken by them, is the most widely spoken language in the country.
Namibia was occupied by German forces and was a colony of the German Empire from 1884 until 1915. After World War I, Namibia was sent to the United Kingdom by the League of Nations and administered by South Africa. During this period, Afrikaans and English became the official languages of the country. In 1948, the apartheid regime was also applied in Namibia. After years of unrest, Namibia achieved full independence from South African rule in 1990.
Namibia is currently a country of 2.1 million people and is sparsely populated due to the vast Namib desert that occupies most of its territory. However, despite the low population, Namibia has a rich linguistic diversity and the languages belonging to the Indo-European families, Khoisan and Bantu are spoken here.
Official language of Namibia
During the apartheid regime in Namibia, the three languages of English, German and Afrikaans were designated as official languages of Namibia. However, after Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990, the new government of the country only allowed the English language as an official language and mentioned the same in the constitution of the country. The language is now used in the government administration of the country and is the means of education in schools and universities. However, Namibian schools are facing a shortage of experienced teachers in the English language, and a report reveals that 98% of the country’s teachers do not have sufficient language training.
Indigenous languages of Namibia
Oshiwambo is spoken by a majority (48%) of the population of Namibia, in particular by the Ovambo who settled in the area formerly known as Ovamboland. The language is also spoken by the people of Angola and has about a million speakers in total. Migrant populations of workers from Ombamoland in other parts of Namibia also speak this language in their homes.
The Khoekhoe language is the second most popular indigenous language spoken in Namibia and is spoken by about 11% of the population of Namibia. The Afrikaans language has roughly the same percentage of speakers. 10% of the Namibian population speaks the Hereo language and the Kwangali language.
Several other languages are spoken by minor percentages of the Namibian population such as the Bantu languages (Fwe, Kuhane, Yeyi, Tswana, Mbukushu) and the Khoisan languages (Naro, Kung-Ekoka,! Xó, Kxoe).
Foreign languages of Namibia
As mentioned above, English is the official language of Namibia. However, the language is spoken less than 1% of the country’s population as a mother tongue. 4% to 5% of the population, mainly the Angolan community, speaks Portuguese. Among the whites of Namibia, 60% speak Afrikaans languages. German is spoken by 32% of whites, 7% speaks English and 1% speaks Portuguese.