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What Languages Does Trevor Noah Speak?

Growing up in South Africa to a Xhosa mother and a Swiss-German father, it might seem natural that TV host, writer, and comedian, Trevor Noah speaks multiple languages. So, what languages does Trevor Noah speak and how fluent is he?

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How Many Languages Does Trevor Noah Speak?

According to reports, and Noah himself in his book, Trevor Noah can speak eight languages. Not all of these are fluent and some are just some odd phrases. Nevertheless, eight languages are an awful lot of languages to know!

As a comedian, Noah has traveled all around the world touring his stand-up shows, so knowing other languages would certainly come in handy.

What Languages Does Trevor Noah Speak?

The eight languages that Trevor Noah can speak with varying degrees of fluency are English, Afrikaans, Southern Sotho, Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, Tsonga, and German. Growing up in South Africa with so many tribal languages largely influenced Noah’s decision to learn multiple languages. 

He also mentioned that he learned multiple languages in order to fit in with more people. As he grew up during Apartheid as a mixed-race child, he had more trouble than most fitting in with other children and neighborhoods, so languages were a good way to blend and integrate.

How Many Languages Is Trevor Noah Fluent In?

As Trevor Noah now lives in the US on a permanent basis, he doesn’t use some of the tribal languages as much as he once did and now only considers himself fluent in six out of the eight languages.

He used to be fluent or at least conversational in all eight languages, but due to the lack of use, Noah has noted that his skills have started to wane. 

It’s unclear which of the tribal languages he thinks he has lost fluency in, as he has spoken bits and pieces of different languages on TV specials or during his stand-up, showing that despite his lack of fluency, he still feels comfortable enough to speak the languages in front of thousands of people.

He also doesn’t consider himself fluent in German but knows a conversational level due to his father being Swiss-German. The main reason he doesn’t think he’s fluent enough is due to his accent not being good enough, however, the grammar and vocabulary are there.

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Can Trevor Noah Speak Xhosa?

Yes, Trevor Noah can speak Xhosa. As his mother, Patricia is Xhosa, Trevor learned the language to feel closer to her and his heritage. He didn’t learn it growing up as his mother was insistent that he learned English in order to succeed.

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As a result, she spoke English at home, rather than Xhosa. This was a pretty firm line that she insisted on, and it resulted in Trevor taking it upon himself to learn his mother’s native language. 

It’s been widely reported that Xhosa and Zulu have a lot of similarities. As Zulu is one of the major languages in South Africa, Noah learned this language from a very young age. When he eventually wanted to learn Xhosa, he had little difficulty picking up the language.

He’s even said publicly that if you know Zulu, you can already understand a lot of Xhosa and vice versa – almost two languages for the price of one!

Check out this video of him talking a bit about Xhosa and even singing a bit!

Can Trevor Noah Speak German?

Trevor Noah’s father, Robert, is Swiss-German, so he can speak German to a conversational level. As he grew up in Apartheid-era South Africa, having mixed-race relationships was still illegal, so he rarely saw his father. This got even worse as he grew up with the tensions growing throughout the country. 

He used to stay with him in Europe so he learned and practiced German on those occasions, but as the years went on and due to Apartheid, Trevor lost contact with his father for almost a decade.

He couldn’t visit his father and essentially grew up with his mother as a single parent, due to the illegality of mixed-race relationships in South Africa at the time. 

Years later, he claimed that learning German helped him reconnect with his father and that side of his heritage, despite the fact that his father also spoke English fluently.

Despite the strong connection that Trevor Noah has to this language, he does not consider himself truly fluent due to a poor accent. This might be because of the lack of time spent in Germany, speaking to native speakers, due to Apartheid. 

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Can Trevor Noah Speak Afrikaans?

Growing up in Apartheid-era South Africa, Afrikaans would’ve been a language that Trevor Noah would’ve learned from a young age. In fact, at that time, it was compulsory in schools.

Although Afrikaans was referred to as the language of oppressors in the Noah household, his mother still urged him to learn it. She believed that it would come in handy for him growing up as a mixed-race person in Apartheid-era South Africa.

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In interviews and in his book, Noah has spoken about how he could use Afrikaans to lower suspicion from white people, especially in a group.

As he walked around he could see people whispering or giving him horrible looks, so he started to speak Afrikaans so that they’d be less suspicious of him and leave him alone a little bit more.

His mother also spoke Afrikaans to help understand what white people were saying about her. For example, a security guard was instructed to follow her around a grocery store so she didn’t steal anything. She responded in Afrikaans, asking the security guard for assistance instead. 

Can Trevor Noah Speak Tsonga?

Yes, Trevor Noah can speak Tsonga, as his stepfather is from the Tsonga tribe. He says he picked up a lot of the tribal languages that he knows from hearing different phrases on the streets around his home neighborhood of Soweto, in South Africa.

He has also spoken Tsonga during a link at the Global Citizen Festival which connected music lovers and musicians from across the world. There have been multiple occasions of Trevor Noah speaking in different tribal languages live on TV or as part of his stand-up routine, so he’s been pretty open about his talent for languages over the years. 

How Many Official Languages Are There in South Africa?

Across South Africa, there are 11 official languages as there are many different tribal languages that are in use and celebrated throughout the country. Growing up in Soweto, the main languages that Trevor Noah would’ve heard were Zulu and Southern Sotho. 

South Africa

He’s listed as being fluent in both, despite only speaking English at home and learning Afrikaans in school. This is likely because he would’ve picked it up on the streets around Soweto as he grew up.

Does Trevor Noah Like Learning Languages?

As he can speak eight languages, and six of them still fluently, it might be a foregone conclusion that Trevor Noah enjoys and likes learning languages, but for the TV host and comedian, it goes a little deeper than that.

Writing in his autobiography, Born a Crime, Trevor Noah has said that being mixed race in Apartheid South Africa (literally a crime at the time), he never felt like he fit in anywhere. With such a huge and harsh divide throughout the country, it was difficult for him to find a place for himself. 

That’s why he says he learned so many different languages. If he could speak to pretty much anyone, it helped him try and find his way through such a fractured upbringing. It meant that he could bounce in between groups and see where he fit best, opening up his options further.

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Also, the addition of English and German opened up his horizons beyond South Africa, which helped his comedic career move forward.

Ready to Learn a Few of the Languages Trevor Noah Speaks?

All in all, Trevor Noah speaks eight languages, and six languages fluently. They are English, Afrikaans, Southern Sotho, Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, Tsonga, and German. Although he used to speak them all at least to a conversational level, he lost his flair for some of the tribal languages since living in the US.

It just shows that when it comes to languages, if you don’t use them, it’s likely that you’re going to lose them. Practice and immersion are key to succeeding continually with languages. The fact that Trevor Noah can still speak six languages fluently while living in the US, is amazing.  

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