Although its official language is English, Namibia is a multilingual country as is illustrated by these examples in English, German, Afrikaans and Oshiwambo.
Up to 1990, English, German and Afrikaans were official languages. Long before Namibia’s independence from South Africa, SWAPO was of the opinion that the country should become officially monolingual, choosing this approach in contrast to that of its neighbour South Africa (which granted all 11 of its major languages official status), which was seen by them as “a deliberate policy of ethnolinguistic fragmentation.” Consequently, SWAPO instituted English as the sole official language of Namibia though only about 3% of the population speaks it as a home language. Its implementation is focused on the civil service, education and the broadcasting system. Some other languages have received semi-official recognition by being allowed as medium of instruction in primary schools. It is expected of private schools to follow the same policy as state schools, and “English language” is a compulsory subject. As in other postcolonial African societies, the push for monolingual instruction and policy has resulted in a high rate of school drop-outs and of individuals whose academic competence in any language is low.
According to the 2011 census, the most common languages are Oshiwambo (the most spoken language for 49% of households), Nama/Damara (11.3%), Afrikaans (10.4%), Kavango (9%), Otjiherero (9%). The most widely understood and spoken language is English. Both Afrikaans and English are used primarily as a second language reserved for public communication.
Most of the white population speaks either German or Afrikaans. Even today, 103 years after the end of the German colonial era, the German language plays a role as a commercial language. Afrikaans is spoken by 60%, German is spoken by 32%, English by 7% and Portuguese by 1%. Geographical proximity to Portuguese-speaking Angola explains the relatively high number of Portuguese speakers; in 2011 these were estimated to be 100,000, or 4–5% of the total population.