Languages of Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwe holds the world record for the most official languages used, although it’s not the country with the most languages, but because the languages of Zimbabwe are recognized as languages of the whole country, spoken by many of its populations. Zimbabwe has 16 official languages - namely Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koi-san, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, Sign Language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda and Xhosa. However, English, Shona and Ndebele are the most widely spoken languages in the country.

Zimbabwe was a British colony therefore English is the language widely used in Business. English is also the usual language of instruction in schools. In a recent Constitutional amendment, the government would like children in the remote parts of the country (where minority languages are spoken) to have the opportunity to receive instruction in their native languages as well and be tested in national examinations. 

Most posters in public places are in English, Shona and Ndebele. Road signs are in English. If you are in the urban areas you can safely stop anyone to ask for directions and most people will be able to give a response in some form of simple English, even elderly people or street vendors. However, in rural areas, some may not be able to engage in conversation. In rural areas, most people will be courteous and mostly curious. 

Local television and radio have a mixture of all the languages and foreigners have the opportunity to look out for news bulletins in English from a variety of these stations. 

Here are a few phrases to help you as you travel to Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans are generally warm friendly people so go ahead and say Hello...

Good Morning ----Mangwanani/Livukenjani
Good afternoon----Masikati/Litshonile
Good Evening----Manheru/Litshone Njani
Goodbye- -----Chisarai zvakanaka/Lisakhule
Yes -----Hongu/Yebo
No-----Aiwa/Kwete/ Hayi
Thank You-----Tatenda/Mazvita/Siyabonga