It’s striking just how un-African Cape Town looks and sounds. Halfway between East and West, Cape Town drew its population from Africa, Asia and Europe, and traces of all three continents are found in the genes, language, culture, religion and cuisine of South Africa’s coloured population. Afrikaans (a close relative of Dutch) is the mother tongue of over half the city’s population. Having said that, a very substantial number of Capetonians are born English-speakers and English punches well above its weight as the local lingua franca, which, in this multilingual society, virtually everyone can speak and understand.
Afrikaans is the mother tongue of a large proportion of the city’s coloured residents, as well as many whites. The term “coloured” is contentious, but in South Africa it doesn’t have the same tainted connotations as in Britain and the US; it refers to South Africans of mixed race. Most brown-skinned people in Cape Town (over fifty percent of Capetonians) are coloureds, with Asian, African and Khoikhoi ancestry.