South Africa Languages

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Description[edit | edit source]

South Africa has 11 official languages:

  1. Ndebele
  2. Northern Sotho
  3. Sotho
  4. SiSwati
  5. Tsonga
  6. Tswana
  7. Venda
  8. Xhosa
  9. Zulu
  10. Afrikaans
  11. South African English

Unofficial languages include SiPhuthi, SiHlubi, SiBhaca, SiLala, SiNhlangwini ("IsiZansi"), SiNrebele (SiSumayela), IsiMpondro, Khoekhoegowab, !Orakobab, Xirikobab, N|uuki, !Xunthali, Khwedam, KheLobedu, SePulana, HiPai, SeKutswe, SeṰokwa, SiThonga, SiLaNgomane, SheKgalagari, XiRonga and others. [1]

Word List(s)[edit | edit source]

Alphabet and Pronunciation[edit | edit source]

Ndebele Alphabet[edit | edit source]

Letter Pronunciation
A a in father
E e in bed
I ee in see
O o in bone
U oo in soon
c click as in a clucking sound
q click as in the sound of the pop heard when uncorking a bottle
x click made by placing touching the gums with the tongue and the back of the tongue touching the soft palate

Venda Alphabet[edit | edit source]

The letters C, J, and Q are used when writing foreign words and names.

letter(s) value(s) in IPA notes
a [a]
b [b]
bv [b̪v]
bw [bɣw] or [bj] Varies by dialect
d [d]
dz [d͡z]
dzh [d͡ʒ] Like the English "j"
dzw [d͡zw]
e [ɛ], [e]
f [f]
fh [ɸ]
g [ɡ]
h [ɦ], [h] Pronounced h] before e.
hw [ɣw]
i [i]
k [kˀ]
kh [kʰ]
khw [kʰw]
l [ɭ]
m [m], [m̩] M is syllabic, [m̩], when the next syllable begins with m.
n [n], [n̩] N is syllabic, when the next syllable begins with n.
ng [ŋɡ]
ny [ɲ]
nz [nd͡z]
ṅw [ŋw]
o [ɔ], [o]
p [pˀ]
ph [pʰ]
pf [p̪f]
pfh [p̪fʰ]
r [ɾ]
s [s]
sh [ʃ]
sw [ʂ]
t [tˀ]
th [tʰ]
ts [t͡s]
tsh [t͡ʃʰ]
tsw [t͡sw]
ty [c]
ṱh [t̪h]
u [u]
v [v]
vh [β]
w [w]
x [x] Like the ch in Scottish 'loch.'
y [j]
z [z]
zh [ʒ]
zw [ʐ]

Northern Sotho Alphabet[edit | edit source]

Letter Pronunciation
a similar to "i" in kite
e similar to "ee" in feet
ê similar to "a" in care or "e" in bed
i similar to "i" in pick
o similar to "o" in tool
ô similar to "oo" in door
š similar to "sh"
u similar to "u" in put

Sotho (Sesotho) Alphabet[edit | edit source]

Letter Pronunciation
a "a" as in far
b "b" as in able
d "d" as in doll
e "e" as in we or "ai" as in heir
f "f" as in after
g guttural like in loch
h "h" as in hand
i "i" as in it
j "ch" as in chunk
k "ck" as in back
l "l" as in lay
m "m" as in him
n "n" as in hand
o "o" as in fort
o "au" as in cause
p "p" as in lip
r "r" as in red
s "ss" as in dress
t "t" as in tin
u "u" as in bull
bj "b" in bed + "y" in you
fj "f" in far + "y" in you
hl "Ll in Welsh Llewellyn
kg "c" in cat + guttural as in loch
ng "ng" in linger
ny "ny" in Kenya
nq nasal click
pj "p" in cup + "y" in you
sj "sh" in shoot
tj "ch" in chunk
tl "tl" in little
ts "ts" in sits
kh "ki" in kindle
ph "p" in pull
pjh "p" in cup + "y" in you + a
qh an aspirated click
th "t" in till
tjh "ch" in chunk
tlh "t" in cat + "Ll" in Welsh Llewellyn
tsh "ch" in change
y "y" in you
w "w" in water

Tswana (Setswana) Alphabet[edit | edit source]

Letter Pronunciation
a as in 'car'
e as in 'let'
g an 'h' sound deep in your throat, like the end of "loch"
i as in 'meet'
kg k + an 'h' sound deep in your throat
kh k + some air
o as in 'go'
ph p + some air
th t + some air (NOT like English "th")
ny think of isolating the 'ny' in 'canyon'
tl think of isolating the 'tl' in 'Atlanta'
tlh 'tl' + some air
ts hink of isolating the 'ts' in 'itself'
tsh 'ts' + some air
nts n + 'ts' sound
u as in 'school'

Xhosa Alphabet[edit | edit source]

Letter Pronunciation
a ah
e egg
i ink
o or
u goo
ng linger
ny Kenya
ts sits
tsh chair

Zulu Alphabet[edit | edit source]

Letter Pronunciation
A as in father
B as in bay
C as in chay
D as in day
E as in elephant
F as in fine
G as in gold
I 'ee' as in meat
J as in job
K as in kitchen
L as in life
M as in man
N as in nice
O as in olive
P as in pool
Q as in kiss
R as in rice
S as in smile
T as in time
U 'oo' as in mood
V f as in free
W as in wind
X as in wax
Y as in year
Z as in Zulu

Afrikaans Alphabet[edit | edit source]

Letter IPA English Approximation Example Word
a ʌ, a, ɑː plus, jump, awesome kap
aa ɑː awesome daad
aai aːɪ why laai
ai thai baie
au ou goat auditorium
b b, p (final position) bat, mapp bevat
ch x loch chemie
c s (before e, i, and y), k sun, kick Celsius
d d, t (final position) dark, hat daar
dj c no English approximation djihad
e ɛ, iˑǝ, ə, æ bed, erie, about, cat bed
ê ɛː (final position), æ hair, cat
ee iˑe eerie een
eeu iːu east + took leeu
ei əi play seil
ey əi play ceylon
eu øː few euforie
f f fox familie
g x, g, ç loch, golf, hue geld
gh g, k (final position) golf, kick gholf
h h high hoe
i i, ə see, about idee
ie i see dankie
j j yes ja
k k kick kat
l l let lughawe
m m mall maak
n n, ŋ (before c, k, q, and x) nice, sing van
ng ŋ sing vang
ns the n is silent, and the previous vowel is nasalized no English approximation Afrikaans
o ɔ, oˑǝ bog, wisdom obligasie
ô ɔ cause môre
oe u loot voet
oei uiː phooey koei
oi oj row + yes boikot
oo uˑo loot soom
ooi ɔiː oil strooi
ou ɔʊ tow mou
p p map paar
r ɾ rolled r rooi
s s sun sein
sj ʃ shin sjoe
t t top taal
tj tʃ (initial position), kj top + shin, kick + yes tjek
u ɵ urn uit
uu y breed duur
û œː no English approximation brûe
ui œy play lui
uy œy urn + east ly
v f fox voël
w v, w (after consonant) visit, winter water
y əi play ys
z z zulu zirkonium

Language Aids and Dictionaries[edit | edit source]


Northern Sotho

Sotho, Sesotho, Basotho or Southern Sotho

SiSwati, Swazi or Swati

Tswana or Setswana

Venda or Tshivenda

Xhosa or isiXhosa

Zulu or Isizulu


Additional Resources[edit | edit source]

Ndebele or IsiNdebele[edit | edit source]

  • Pelling, JN, Literature Bureau. A practical Ndebele dictionary. Ardbennie, Harare : Longman Zimbabwe, 2001. Available on WorldCat
  • . Oxford first bilingual dictionary : IsiNdebele + English.. Cape Town, South Africa : Oxford University Press Southern Africa, 2009. Available on WorldCat

Northern Sotho[edit | edit source]

  • Kirelt, TJ. The new English-Northern Sotho dictionary : English-Northern Sotho, Northern Sotho-English. King William's Town [South Africa] : Educum, 1991, ©1967.. Available on WorldCat
  • Louwrens, LJ. Dictionary of Northern Sotho grammatical terms. Cape Town : Nasou ; London : Global, 2004. Available on WorldCat
  • Kriel,T J; Prinsloo,D J;Sathekge, P . Popular Northern Sotho dictionary : Northern Sotho-English, English-Northern Sotho. Cape Town : Pharos, 2007.. Available on WorldCat
  • Matiki, Alfred J I. Language planning and social change : a study of linguistic exclusion and the legislative process in Malawi. 2001. Available on WorldCat
  • Grobler,G M. English, Northern Sotho, Afrikaans. Parklands [South Africa] : Ad Donker Publisher, 1991.. Available on WorldCat
  • Learner's English-North Sotho dictionary. Alberton : Librarius, 1985. Available on WorldCat
  • Orr, Gregory John, Carol Myers-Scotton. Learning Chicheŵa : a Peace Corps language course. East Lansing, Mich., U.S.A. : The Center, [©1980]. Available on WorldCat

Sotho[edit | edit source]

  • Hartshorne, K B. Dictionary of basic English--Southern Sotho. Johannesburg : Educum Publishers, [1985], ©1983. Available on WorldCat
  • Paroz, R A; Dieterlen, H ; Mabille, A. Southern Sotho-English dictionary. Morija, Lesotho : Morija Sesuto Book Depot, 1950, on WorldCat
  • Learner's english-southern sotho dictionary. Librarius, 1985. on WorldCat
  • Beachst, P -D; Gowlett,D F . Southern Sotho dictionary = Suid-Sotho woordeboek. Goodwood : Audiovista Productions, [1980]. Available on WorldCat

SiSwati[edit | edit source]

  • Rycroft, D K. Concise siSwati dictionary : siSwati-English/English-siSwati. Pretoria : J.L. van Schaik, 1995. Available on WorldCat
  • Oxford first bilingual dictionary : Siswati + English. Cape Town, South Africa : Oxford University Press Southern Africa, 2009.. Available on WorldCat
  • Whelton,M J SiSwati-English dictionary ECenturion [South Africa] : RedOystor Media (Pty) Ltd in partnership with Print Hub (Pty) Ltd - Swaziland, [2016] ©2016. Available on WorldCat

Tswana[edit | edit source]

  • Parker, Philip M. Webster's Tswana - English thesaurus dictionary. San Diego, CA. : ICON Group International, Inc., [2008] ©2008. Available on WorldCat
  • Le Roux, J C. The concise trilingual pocket dictionary : English, Tswana, Afrikaans = Die kort drietalige sakwoordeboek : Afrikaans, Tswana, English EJeppestown : Ad Donker, 1996, ©1991. Available on WorldCat
  • Learner's English-Tswana dictionary.Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa : Librarius, 1986. Available on WorldCat

Venda[edit | edit source]

  • van Warmelo, Nicolaas J. Venda dictionary : Tshivenda-English Pretoria : Van Schaik, 1989. Available on WorldCat
  • Van Warmelo, N J. Venda dictionary Pretoria : Van Schaik, 1989 Available on WorldCat
  • Wentzel, P J; Muloiwa, T W Venda : Afrikaans-English. Improved trilingual dictionary. University of South Afrika, 1982. Available on WorldCat

Xhosa[edit | edit source]

  • Nabe, H L; Dreyer, P W; Kakana, G L. Xhosa dictionary : English, Xhosa, Afrikaans : xhosa, English, Afrikaans Johannesburg : Educum, 1991, ©1976. Available on WorldCat
  • Nabe, H. Xhosa dictionary. Cape Town : Oxford University Press, 2012. Available on WorldCat
  • Fischer, A. English-Xhosa dictionary. Educum, 1991. Available on WorldCat

Zulu[edit | edit source]

  • Dent, G R; Sibusiso Nyembezi, C L Scholar's Zulu dictionary : English-Zulu, Zulu-English. Pietermaritzburg : Shuter and Shooter, 2009. Available on WorldCat
  • Dent, G R; Sibusiso Nyembezi, C L Compact Zulu dictionary : English-Zulu, Zulu-English Pietermaritzburg : Shuter & Shooter, 1995. Available on WorldCat
  • Mawadza, Aquilina; Ndebele, Hloniphani Zulu dictionary & phrasebook : Zulu-English, English-Zulu New York : Hippocrene Books, Inc., [2017] Available on WorldCat

Afrikaans[edit | edit source]

  • Nabe, H L; Dreyer, P W; Kakana, G L. Xhosa dictionary : English, Xhosa, Afrikaans : xhosa, English, Afrikaans Johannesburg : Educum, 1991, ©1976. Available on WorldCat
  • Church dictionary. [Place of publication not identified] : K.A.S., 1970. Available on WorldCat
  • Oxford first bilingual dictionary : Afrikaans + English. Cape Town, South Africa : Oxford University Press Southern Africa, 2007. Available on WorldCat

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia Contributors,"Languages of South Africa," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia,, accessed 13 November 2019.