There are 11 official languages in South Africa. These languages are enshrined in the country's constitution. They are recognised to be Afrikaans, English, Ndebele (isiNdebele), Northern Sotho (Sesotho sa Leboa), Sotho (seSotho), Swati (siSwati), Tsonga (Xitsonga), Tswana (Setswana), Venda (Tshivenda), Xhosa (isiXhosa) and Zulu (isiZulu).

There are also the Khoi, Nama and San languages that are indigenous to the ancient hunter-gatherers who roamed Southern Africa. The /Xam language of the Khoisan became extinct in the early 20 th century. These languages and languages used for religious purposes such as Arabic and Hebrew are also protected under the South African constitution.

Zulu is the most spoken language but most people in the larger cities also speak English. South Africa has pockets of German, Portuguese, Greek and Italian speaking peoples. All documents are written in English as well as road signs.

The influence of the many languages in South Africa has resulted in a hybrid of words borrowed from different languages used in common conversation.

The motto on the South African coat of Arms, "!ke e: /xarra //ke" is written in the extinct Khoisan language /Xam. It literally means 'diverse people unite'.