About the Southern Sesotho Language

Southern Sesotho is a Bantu language that originates from the Bantu-Nguni era. It is also known as Suto, Souto, Sisutho, and Suthu. The dialects originate from Suto, Pedi amd Tswana, but these are all considered to be separate languages.

Did you know? Marriages are traditionally pre-arranged between families of Southern Sesotho culture; which sometimes means that brides are as young as 12 years old. This has, however, changed over time and most youngsters are free to choose their partners.

Being one of the 11 official South African languages, Southern Sesotho is spoken by almost 4 million people in South African, as well as in Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. In Lesotho, Southern Sesotho is one of the two official languages and is spoken by more than 85% of its inhabitants. According to scholars, the original written form of this language was based on the dialect from Tlokwa and is today based mainly on the dialects from the Kwena and Fokeng.

To describe the language is not easy, as it has nine vowels, which are collapsed into five letters each. This, when compared to other languages of this nature, is quite a large amount. The language consists of 35 consonants, which include two semi-vowels, for non-homogenous doubled eloquent and a tri-click.

While this complicated language will be foreign to most, its true beauty can be appreciated with a little effort. The words have a melodic flow when spoken fluently. Listeners are encouraged to pay attention to the intricacies in tone as well as the nasalisation.

In this language, the words for father - ntate - and mother - mme - are also used to address elders as a sign of respect for them. Children are encouraged to have good manners, be polite and always be eager to learn about and demonstrate their values. The overall attitude that this culture has toward the growing youth is “Lefura la ngwana ke ho rungwa”, which, when translated, means “children benefit from serving their elders.”

Useful Southern Sesotho Words / Phrases

Kamore ea ka e kae?Where is my room?
Bichi e kae?Where is the beach?
Bara e kae?Where is the bar?

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 Hotel, Bed and Breakfast or Guest House the service staff will speak to you in English.

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