The language of Tsonga is mainly spoken throughout southern Africa by the Shangaan - Tsonga culture. The main area where Tsonga is spoken is in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa. Tsonga is a part of Bantu branch when it comes to the Niger-Congo languages.
The speakers of this language are often referred to as Shangaans, but the Tsongas say this is incorrect as that term should only be used for the Tsonga people who are living in Mozambique. Even though the Tsonga speakers are spread throughout Southern Africa, the majority of them live in the Limpopo province in South Africa. There are approximately 1,646,000 Tsonga speakers in Limpopo. Tsonga is one of South Africa’s eleven official languages as it is spoken by so many of its residents.
The language of Tsonga does not use the English alphabet, even though they are mainly based in South Africa, in actual fact they make use of the Latin alphabet. It is not an easy language to learn if you were not Tsonga born; they use specific sounds to spell, using a combination of different letters. The letters they use are not a part of the European language, but are just used to determine the language.
Nwe (1), Mbirhi (2), Nharhu (3), Mune (4), Ntlhanu (5), Ntsevu (6), Nkombo (7), Nhungu (8), Nkaye (9), Khume (10)
A few examples of what sentences look like when they are put together in Tsonga are like this;
“Va ndzi tiva” - They know me
“Ndza ku rhandza” - I love you
“Ha ku tiva” - We know you
“Wa ndzi rhandza” - You love me
Numerous dialects of the language Tsonga are used as far south as Kwazulu Natal and as far north as Zimbabwe, or the Save River in Zimbabwe. Most of the dialects are equally comprehensible, they do indeed have noticeable differences, which are geographical and based on the pressure from the colonial era. There are three popular distinct dialects, these are Xironga, which is mainly spoken in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, as well as the areas around it; Chihlengwe / Xitshwa, verbal in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and then xiTsonga, which is the language spoken in the country of South Africa. All of these dialects have different pronunciation, for example the Tsonga that’s spoken in South Africa, when they say “xi” it is pronounced as “shi”.
Did You Know?
There are 11 officially recognised languages, most of which are indigenous to South Africa. English is spoken everywhere you go. English is the language of the cities, of commerce and banking, of government and official documents. All our road signs and official forms are in English and at any South African Hotel, Bed and Breakfast or Guest House the service staff will speak to you in English.
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