The official language in Namibia is English. It is used both in government offices and schools. Although English is the official language, very few Namibians speak the language. A significant number of Namibians speak Oshiwambo, which is an indigenous language. Other major languages spoken are Afrikaans, Kavango, Otjiherero, and Nama/Damara. Apart from the official and major languages, Namibian sign language, Bantu and foreign languages like French, Germany, Spanish, and Portuguese are also spoken.

According to the 2011 census, Oshiwambo is the language spoken by the majority of Namibians at 48.9% of the population. 11.3% speaks Damara/Nama, Afrikaans, a common South African language, is spoken by 10.4% of the population. Otjiherero is spoken by 8.6%. Kavango and Caprivi are spoken by 8.5% and 4.8% respectively. The official language of English is spoken by 3.4% of the population. German, San, and other languages are spoken by 0.9%, 0.8%, and 2.4% respectively.

Although relatively few Namibians speak English, it has been mixed with local languages to form Namlish (a Namibian slang). The mixture has brought about some unique phrases. Some of them include words like “Nawa” to mean good or nice, “skinner” to mean gossip, “stoep” which means verandah, “takkies” which means running shoes/ sneakers and “robot” which means a traffic light.

Apart from the official and major indigenous languages in Namibia, there are also minority languages in the country. They include Tswana, Diriku, Gciriku, Naro, Yeyi, Fwe, Khwedam, Kung-Ekoka, Mashi among others. Threatened languages in Namibia are Mbalanhu and !Xóõ. The distribution of Namibians who speak the minority languages is scattered all over the country with some speakers being nomads.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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