According to a census carried out in 2011, eleven and a half million people use Zulu as their first language; this is twenty percent of South Africa’s general population. The second most predominant language is Xhosa with eight million speakers. The number of people that speak Zulu has declined over the last decade. However, the number of people that communicate in Afrikaans has slightly increased during the same period. There has been a steady increase in the number of locals that use English as their first language.
The Zulu dialect can be traced back to the Amazulu, a descendant of the Zulu patriarch. Zulu was the son of a Nguni chief from the Congo basin. The Zulu migrated to their current location during the 16th century. Upon settling, down they found themselves adopting some customs from the San for example; the linguistic clicking sounds. During the early 19th century the tribesmen were ruled by King Shaka. They had the strongest military in the region; with the help of their military force they conquered foreign lands. When Dingaan took over from Shaka he started signing treaties with the British. His successor, Mpande, gave the British control over his subjects. By the time of his death the English had a stronghold over the Zulu. Cetewayo took reign thereafter and tried to resist the British but he was sent to exile in England. The last person who tried to resist colonization was Chief Bombatha, he headed the Inkatha Freedom Party. He fought against apartheid for over three million people.
Zulu language has various dialects although it has been generally categorized into four major dialects; Zulu of Zululand, Zulu of Natal, Qwabe and Lala. The four regions where you will find its variants are Natal, Zimbabwean Ndebele, Zululand and Transvaal. The Matabele of North Ndebele speak a dialect that is slightly different from the Zulu dialect, in nonlinguistic circles the dialect is considered to be a different language. There is a pidgin version of Zulu that goes by different names such as Fanagalo. It is mostly used by industrial workers; it consists of Afrikaans, English, Zulu and other vocabulary from African languages.