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Languages Spoken in Namibia

English is the official language, but Namibia’s relatively small population is extraordinarily diverse in language and culture.  More than 11 languages are indigenous to Namibia but with its cosmopolitan society, languages from around the world are spoken in Namibia.  People commonly speak two or three languages and more than 50% of the population speaks Oshiwambo.  Due to the country’s colonial history Afrikaans, the language of the previous South African occupiers is still widely spoken and functions as the lingua franca in Namibia.  Namibia has two small groups of nomadic groups; the Khoisan speaking people, known as the Bushmen or San and the Ovahimba people, figuratively known as the red people.

Indigenous languages are included in the school syllabus at primary level.  From secondary level English is the medium of instruction.  Among European languages spoken in Namibia are German, Portuguese, Spanish and French.  According to the 2001 census figures the main indigenous languages are:

  • Oshiwambo spoken by 48% of households
  • Damara/Nama spoken by 11% of households
  • Afrikaans spoken by 11% of hoseholds
  • RuKwangali spoken by 10% of houselods; and
  • Otjiherero spoken by 8% of households.
Examples of simple, common words and phrases of the above-mentioned main indigenous languages in Namibia:

English

Oshiwambo

Damara/Nama

Afrikaans

Otjiherero

RuKwangali

Hallo

-

       -

Hallo

Hallou

         -

Hi

-

       -

Haai

      -

         -

How are you

Ongiini

Mati sa Or Mi du re (Formal)

Hoe gaan dit

Peri vi

Ngapi

Good morning

Walelepo

!Gâi //oas

Goeie môre

Moro

Morokeni

Good afternoon

Wuu hala po

!Gâi tses

Goeie middag

Mwa uhara / Metaha

Munazuhwara po

Good evening

Wa tokelwa po

!Gâi !oês

Goeie aand

Mwa tokerwa / Hwenda

Munatokwera po

I’m fine and you

Ondili nawa

!Gâi a, aitsma mîre

Goed en jy

Mbi ri nawa,

naa oove

Ame nawa one ngapi

Good night

Lalapo nawa

!Gâ-î !oês

Lekker slaap

Rara nawa

Rareni po nawa

I love you

Ondiku hole

INam tsi ta ge a (from Female to Male)

INam si ta ge a (From Male to Female)

Ek het jou lief

Mbeku suvera

Ame naku hara

What time is it?

Owili ongapi

Mati go //ae xa –i go

Hoe laat is dit

Oiri ongapi

Vili ngapi zina kutanta

Good bye

Indapo nawa

!Gai se hâre Or !Gai se !gûre

Totsiens

Ka yende nawa

Tomugendipo nawa

Sorry

Ombili

INubate

Jammer

Ndjiisira

Mbilii

Where do you stay

Oho kala peni

Maba dura hâ

Waar bly jy

U kara pi

Kupi mwakara

Come

Ila

Hâ du re Or Hare

Kom

Indjo

Wizeni

Go

Inda

!gu

Gaan

Twende

Zendeni

Take

Taamba

ū

Neem dit

Kambura

guseni

NOTE: A dash (-) means a word or phrase does not exist in that particular language.

Links of Interest
Namibian Constitution
Tourists maps of Namibia  
Exploring Namibia
Namibia Directory Online  
Namibia Trade Directory
 
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