30 March 2004


What is a thokolosi? The spelling may vary from thokolosi to tikoloshi, depending on which southern African language you're used to speaking. The thokolosi has already made the headlines and been falsely considered an international star. But what is it?

29 March 2004

Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa

Who was Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa? I still remember and often hum a tune my mum used to hum all the time, that went Qeu, majoana qeu qeu!

More Info:
Puo ea Tona-Kholo
About Timothy Mahlaba
A Joyful Noise.

26 March 2004

Why Dumela and Lumela?

The development of Sepedi as a written language extends over a period of 100 years, from 1870 to 1967 when the current orthography was finalised. The missionaries, who were to put Sepedi to writing, were members of the Berlin Missionary Society who arrived in South Africa in 1859. To fulfil their mission, they had to devise a writing system for Sepedi, because the translation of the Bible was their ultimate aim.

In the development of Sepedi as a written language a clear distinction must be drawn between the period before October 1929 and the period thereafter. The period before October 1929 may be characterised as one of multiformity. Everyone wrote Sepedi as he thought best, since there was no co-ordinating body to control the development of the written form of Sepedi. The era after October 1929 is marked by the achievement of uniformity and standardisation. During this period an effort was made to create a uniform orthography for the written Sotho languages. At this point in time there were three written Sotho languages, namely, Sesotho (Southern Sotho), Setswana and Sepedi (Northern Sotho).
In the beginning even in each one of these written languages no uniformity in writing was adhered to. A uniform orthography for the three Sotho languages was still a dream to be realised.

In 1947 a last step to fulfil this ideal was taken when the Somersethouse Conference was held in Pretoria. An attempt was made to get the co-operation of the Administration of Lesotho, but in vain. Even though the Sesotho orthography which had been in use since 1906 was being revised at that stage, the Administration of Lesotho did not wish to co-operate, and an orthography for Sesotho in the Union of South Africa was developed. In the end some changes had to be made to this orthography, and the dream of a uniform orthography for the Sotho languages did not come true.
In 1947 a uniform orthography for Sepedi and Setswana was brought into use. In 1972 a revised Sepedi orthography was published, and the main task of the Sepedi Language Committee thereafter was to concentrate on spelling. That was also the duty of the Sepedi Language Board which was to take the place of the Sepedi Language Committee during the seventies. This board, before being dissolved in 1994, decided on the official name, Sepedi, instead of Northern Sotho. [From the JOURNAL FOR LANGUAGE TEACHING, Vol. 33 No. 4, December 1999]

24 March 2004

Google ka Sesotho

Want your Google page in Sesotho? Done. It's a nice idea, although the Sesotho used could use a little brushing up. Who cares.....we got Google in Sesotho. That's what counts.

Gauteng Province

'The province's name means "place of gold", and only the Sotho name is used, despite the many other languages spoken in the province.' Read on to discover why.

22 March 2004

Sesotho in the No 15 bus in the Strand

I will miss London sorely for it is so full of South Africans that I was seldom homesick. Just last week on the No 15 bus in the Strand, I sat behind three young people talking animatedly in Sesotho. I could not resist intervening to ask, in Sesotho, where they were from. "South Africa," one replied. "Yes I know, but where?" "Rustenburg!"

20 March 2004

English by Force?

When I was growing up in Lesotho English was the language to speak. An English speaker was on a higher rung of the social ladder than a non-English or a Sesotho speaker. That was wrong. The intrinsic value of each language and each culture is finally being recognised, thank God. I don't know if school kids who are "caught" speaking a language other than English are still punished, but they shouldn't be.

Many parents feel that they are doing the best for their children by insisting that they speak English all the time, but bonds and a sense of belonging are formed through the cultural links of folk tales. The Nguni and Sotho languages are rich in metaphor and symbolism and children will benefit from understanding concepts in their home language. Whatever your home language, teach your child to value all languages and celebrate the diversity of our multilingual society.

19 March 2004

Repeat Post: Quiz



Number of tries:  Number of Correct: 


I've added links to Quizzes (Lithutiso). They're part of the useful set of English/Sesotho vocabulary quizzes. Try them all.

16 March 2004

Mini History of Sesotho

Sesotho, or Southern Sotho, is spoken in Lesotho, the Free State and southern Gauteng. Also spoken in the vicinity of Pretoria and Brits. Sesotho was one of the first African languages to be reduced to writing, and it has an extensive literature. According to scholars the written form was originally based on the Tlokwa dialect. Today the written language is mostly based on the Kwena and Fokeng dialects. Although there are variations. It's a tonal language and very different to [sic] Western languages. The Sesotho language is governed by the noun, which is split into various classes. It is known as an agglutinating language (a combination of simple word elements to express a specific meaning), with many suffixes and prefixes used in sentence construction causing sound changes. Sesotho was transmuted into writing by the missionaries Casalis and Arbousset of the Paris Evangelical Mission who arrived at Thaba Bosiu in 1833.
Around 3 104 147 people use it as their home language in South Africa. Yet it is also the official language of the Kingdom of Lesotho. (From go24.co.za)
Studying and mastering Sesotho noun classes is the second-best way of learning it quickly and for keeps. Of course there are other parameters such as pronunciation and vocabulary, but Sesotho will generally surrender to someone who has a good knowledge of its noun classes and their respective prefix systems.

Sefate seo se na le lilemo tse tharo. Se nosetsoa hantle.

Lintja tseo li na le lilemo tse tharo. Li fepuoa hantle.

Bana bao ba na le lilemo tse tharo. Ba holisoa hantle.

Motho eo o na le lilemo tse tharo. O fepuoa hantle.

So what's the best way, then? Find yourself a good Mosotho boyfriend or girlfriend. Settle for a good friend if that's all you can afford to have. And then communicate. Ask silly questions and try to converse the best way you can. And this goes not only for Sesotho but for languages in general.

14 March 2004

Addressing people

Mofumahali (Mrs, madam) and Monghali (Mr, sir) are used with the name, as in "Mofumahali Likeleli Mosuoe" or "Monghali Tim Roberts." The short, written forms are Mof. and Mong. respectively.

12 March 2004

Greetings from Malealea

Not satisfied with providing accomodation and pony trekking services, The folks at Malealea Lodge in fact do a number of other things, like put up a web page of useful expressions. They also have a hand in the relative success of the band that is said to "turn junk into funk." Have a look at the Malealea Lodge useful expression page.

07 March 2004

Lumela Something!

Lumela 'Mè, Lumela Ntate, Lumela Ausi, Lumela Abuti, Lumela Ngoan'eso, Lumela Mosali, Lumela 'Manyeeo, Lumela Monna. That's Sesotho in all its greeting splendour. The basic tenet to remember here is, "Do not greet anyone in Sesotho (especially in Lesotho) without identifying or qualifying them. Do not just say Lumela." Say, instead:

Lumela 'Mè to a lady, older than you or in your age group.
Lumela Ntate to a gentleman, older than you or in your age group.
Lumela Ausi to a lady, a lass, a girl, older or younger than you, but not usually in your age group.
Lumela Abuti to a man, a lad, a boy, older or younger than you, but not usually in your age group.
Lumela Ngoan'eso to a man, a woman, a girl, a boy, in your age group.
Lumela Mosali to a woman, a lass, a girl in your age group or younger, but not older than you.
Lumela 'Manyeeo to a woman, a lass, a girl in your age group or younger, but not older than you.
Lumela Monna to a man, a lad, a boy in your age group or younger, but not older than you.
'Mè of course means mother, Ntate means father, Ausi means sister, Abuti means brother, Ngoan'eso means brother or sister (sibling), Mosali means woman, 'Manyeeo literally means "mother of whatshisname," and Monna means man. You may also attach the name of the person being greeted (Lumela Ausi Kananelo, Lumela Ntate Masilo) for the first four, but not for the last four (Ngoan'eso, Mosali, 'Manyeeo, Monna). And please do remember that in Sesotho "Li" is pronounced /di/ and "Lu" is pronounced /du/. South African Southern Sesotho writes them the way they sound, ie with a "d" (Dumela); but where's the fun in that? Sesotho was first written in Lesotho by French Missionaries, who left us the legacy of "L" pronounced like "D" in these two instances. For argument's sake, I find it equally inappropriate to represent the sound "T" with "ght" as in "thought," but heck, it hasn't killed anyone yet.

03 March 2004

Online Sesotho/English Dictionary

Remember that you've got an online Sesotho/English dictionary just begging to be used. But remember, also, that it is in Northern Sesotho, as spoken in the north of South-Africa, not Southern Sesotho, as spoken in Lesotho and in the Orange Free State, one of South Africa's southern provinces.

01 March 2004

Sesotho-English Quizzes

Test your Sesotho (Lekanya Sekhooa sa hao) with this ESL vocabulary quiz. Once you're on the site, find out how you can contribute vocabulary for the same or a similar quiz.