Languages in Cape Town

Where to learn foreign languages in Cape Town? Which languages are spoken in the Mother City? What is South African Slang? Which languages are taught in Cape Town schools?

Let's start with some simple facts:

The most common languages in Cape Town are English, Afrikaans and Xhosa.

Afrikaans is the most widely spoken home language with more than 40% of Capetonians speaking the language. Afrikaans is one of the eleven official languages of South Africa and is only spoken in South Africa and in Namibia.

Today many foreigners are living in the Mother City too, so you will hear a multitude of foreign languages in the streets and shopping centres. There is historically a large German, French, Dutch and Portuguese community in the Cape and many Italians, Russians and Asians have found their new home in South Africa’s Mother City.

English is spoken by most of the local Capetonians, however Afrikaans is still the lingua franca in many suburbs and in the Cape Flats.

Interesting facts about languages in South Africa

South African Slang

There are quite a few differences between South African English and British or American English as there are many influences from the Afrikaans and the local languages in the English which is spoken here. There are also a lot of typical South African expressions which you will come across.

So it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with simple words like "robot", which stands for traffic lights, and "braai" to find you ways around in the Mother City and enjoy your stay in South Africa.

So have a read through my special page on SouthAfrican slang:

The most important South African Slang words

Foreign Languages in Cape Town Schools

The South African public schools and most of the Cape Town private schools teach according to the South African curriculum. So in most of the Western Cape Schools the final school exam after grade 12, the South African Matric will be written in English as Home Language and Afrikaans as First Additional Language.

Some private schools as well as the international schools in Cape Town are teaching according to the British, American, German or French curriculum and offer other languages in Cape Town as subjects during class time. So check your language requirements to make sure your children get the right education in case they want to go back home during their school years or study further overseas at a later stage.

If you are expats and live in South Africa for less than 5 years before the Matric, your child will be exempted from taking the exam in Afrikaans and can choose another language. Please always check with the Department of Education and your school to be sure about the current regulations.

It is not common to have other foreign languages than the South African languages taught at the local schools, even internationally popular languages like French, Spanish or German are not taught in many private schools at a regular basis.

Even most of the private schools in Cape Town do not have foreign language departments in their schools as you may know them from overseas and often parents are asked to find a teacher for their child to have additional languages taught at school or home at a recognized level and also to get accepted later to have additional language skills tested at Matric level.

Language Schools in Cape Town

Cape Town is becoming more and more popular for language studies and choosen as a favorite language travel destination by tourists from all over the world. Some choose to come here to combine their language studies with some adventure travel, safari travel or homestays to get more insights into the Cape Town life.

There are also many language schools in Cape Town catering for tourists, business travelers and gap year students offering language classes for exam preparation, business English or immersion courses and some even add on work experience programs.

And learning foreign languages in Cape Town can be a lot of fun too. So have a look at my listings below.

Learn English in Capetown

As more and more visitors come to visit the beautiful city, many of them combine their holiday with English language studies in Cape Town. There are many different language schools in Cape Town offering all kinds of language learning experiences.

The Cape Town language schools are located mainly in the city centre but you will find some of them in the suburbs too. Class sizes and course prices vary, so you should check out the schools to suit your own requirements.

ExpatCapeTown Advice: Learning Languages in Cape Town: Many of the longer established schools are members of the English Language Travel Association of South Africa (ELTASA).

You will find more information and links to schools for learning languages in Cape Town here.

Learn Afrikaans in Cape Town

Afrikaans being the most important official language in South Africa next to English which is taught to children in all schools. To complete the South African High School Certificate the children will have to take exams in Afrikaans too.

For many South Africans Afrikaans is the first language and in Cape Town Afrikaans is the most widely spoken language and is spoken by the large colored community in Cape Town. However you usually will be able to speak English to almost everybody in the Cape Town metropolitan area, only further inland and in the poorer black townships the locals might speak better Afrikaans than English.

Learning Afrikaans will give you more insight into the life of the locals and as the language is a mixture of Dutch, English and German vocabulary with some Southeast Asian languages strewn in, it is quite easy to learn for people knowing these languages already.

Learn Xhosa in Cape Town

Xhosa classes are quite popular in Cape Town too, as Xhosa is one of South African official languages and the most used indigenous language in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, the former Transkei and Ciskei, where the Xhosa originally come from.

Xhosa is spoken widely in Cape Town and the local staff you will employ will have Xhosa as their mother tongue. So it is always a good idea to learn some basics of Xhosa to understand the cultural upbringing too. In adult education language classes, the cultural component of language learning usually plays a big role. And you will be surprised how many things you will learn about the right approach, cultural concepts and intercultural communication;)

In the Cape Town schools Xhosa is often offered to pupils as a complimentary subject, even some private schools offer the language experience to teach the children the values and culture of the local Xhosa people as well.

For Xhosa lessons please check out this Xhosa language school.

Other Cape Town language courses

When you live in the Mother City you might want to learn other foreign languages in Cape Town, maybe because you need it for your job, maybe to get private language tuition for your children or for travel purposes. Or maybe you want your children to study your home language more intensively than you can at home.

For every purpose there are quite a few excellent language Courses on offer in Cape Town.

• Learn Dutch in Cape Town: Nederlandse School Kaapstad in Pinelands, Tel: 021-461 2446

• Learn German in Cape Town: DSK German Internat. School in Tamboerskloof, Tel: 021-480-3835 or at the Goethe-Institut in Gardens, Tel: 021-465 1317

• Learn French in Cape Town: Alliance Francaise in the CBD, Tel: 021-423 5699

• Learn Italian in Cape Town: Italian School of Cape Town in Gardens, Tel: 021-465 8261

• Learn Japanese in Cape Town: Nihongo Kai Japanese School in Milnerton, Tel: 021-5518336

• Learn Spanish in Cape Town: Alliance Francaise in the CBD, Tel: 021-423 5699

• Learn Portuguese in Cape Town: Alliance Francaise in the CBD, Tel: 021-423 5699


Do you have any questions about learning languages in Cape Town or can you help out with a review of great language courses you participated in Cape Town, please leave a short message here.




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