28 February 2004

Music: Sesotho and Setswana sound files

Sesotho and Setswana traditional music. Sound samples accompany the tracks, so you can read about the piece of music and listen to it. And the musicians use traditional instruments such as the lesiba. Very nice idea and a high quality web-page all in all.

Is Sesotho "quaint?"

It is strange to see or hear others referring to your mother tongue in an offish manner, as something distant and as something most probably quaint and little-known. Kind of like saying "Timbuktu" when you want to indicate that something is far. Henry, in answer to what he calls an annoying question, says

"One of the things I find most annoying about telling people I study linguistics is that one of their first questions is usually some variation on 'What other languages do you know?' Answer: none. English and nothing else. Oh, sure, as much French as I can recall (very little), as much Latin as I can manage (often less), bits and pieces of random languages like Hebrew and Sesotho. Now, out of fairness, a lot of linguists work in other languages; but the work I do (or, well, intend to do) is more theoretical and, until we have a perfect understanding of English, English will do nicely for study."
So, yes, I guess Sesotho is quaint and can safely be used to indicate "difficult to learn" or "little-known." According to FAO, the population of Lesotho in 1999 was 2 108 000, which translates into that many Sesotho speakers. Ethnologue tells us that the number of South Africans who speak Sesotho was 2 704 000 in 1995. That's a grand total of 4 812 000. Add a few linguists around the world who speak some Sesotho and the grand total does not budge. The ethnologue entry for Swahili is
1,000 in South Africa (1987 Schreck and Barrett); 92,000 to 97,000 in Kenya (1980): 5,000,000 first language speakers in all countries (1989 Holm); 30,000,000 second language speakers in all countries (1989 Holm). Chatsworth, an urban area close to Durban on the Natal coast. Also in Uganda, Tanzania, Mayotte, Rwanda, Burundi, UAE, and USA. Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, G, Swahili (G.40). Zanzibaris brought from Zanzibar and northern Mozambique from 1873 to 1878. Coastal. Market gardeners. Muslim. Braille Scripture in progress. Bible 1891-1952. NT 1879-1989. Bible portions 1868-1968.
Case closed. We are quaint and little-known. Which is precisely why we're interesting.... But that's another story.

26 February 2004

Liphahlo (Clothes)

How do we say "Pants, Panties, Shoes, Shirt" and so on in Sesotho? Use our quiz to learn or to test yourself.

Absent a while

I haven't really been absent, just away from blogging. I have been working on the template, which as you have probably noticed is new and spick and span. ;-)

Blogging will resume as of tonight, 26 Hlakola 2004.

Kea leboha

22 February 2004

ESLweb Sesotho Proverbs

I'd like to thank Bofelo for posting the proverb lekanyane ho phela le liretse. We need more. Lots more. I do not run the website in question, but I visit it regularly to see if there are any new Sesotho proverbs posted. Thank you, and keep it up!

21 February 2004


Some useful Sesotho phrases

Li and Lu pronounced Di and Du

E-Ea (said like a sigh)


Hello (to one person)

Hello (to more than one person)

How are you?
U phela joang?

I am well thank you.
Ke phela hantle, Kea leboha

Thank you
Kea leboha



Read on

19 February 2004

13 February 2004

Thutiso ea Sesotho Sa Leboa (Northern Sesotho Quiz)

Here is a fun Sesotho Sa Leboa quiz. Northern Sesotho (spoken in the north of South Africa) and Southern Sesotho (spoken in Lesotho and the Orange Free State) are basically the same language. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. They have differences, to be sure, but these are largely negligible and don't hinder a normal conversational exchange. And then each one writes certain sounds differently. If you run into words you don't know, use the online dictionary. Have fun.

11 February 2004

Daily African Proverbs

On the week of 29 June 2003, Sesotho proverbs were shown on African Proverbs, Stories and Sayings, Daily African Proverbs:

'Khomo, Molimo o nko e metsi.'
'The cow: God with a wet nose.'
Expl: The importance of a cow to a Mosotho is seen to be like the importance of God to the people, because God gives people life. For their livelihood, the Basotho depend on the many uses of cattle.

'Khotso, pula, nala.'
'Peace, rain, prosperity.'
Expl: When there is peace and rain people live happier because they will not be fighting; they will plough their fields and will have food.

'Ho tsoala ke ho epa thaba.'
'To give birth is to dig a mountain.'
Expl: Children are wealth to a family.
Tlala e lala tlas'a sesiu.'
'Famine sleeps under the grain basket.'
Expl: One never knows what tomorrow will bring.

'Seso se monate ha se ngoauoa ke mong a sona.'
'A sore is soothing when it is the owner who scratches it.'
Expl: Men love in themselves what they hate in others
Khotso, Pula, Nala is the national motto and figures on the Coat of Arms. Without rain in Lesotho we're as good as dead, whereas when there's rain we're all rolling on the floor from overeating all that abundant food, hence there's no fighting.

09 February 2004

Lesotho quiz

This quiz on Lesotho isn't about language but about the country and its people. How much do you know about Lesotho?

08 February 2004

Friends of Lesotho

Friends of Lesotho has some audio in Sesotho, with translations that are approximate since they deliberately follow the original word order. Crank up your volume and go practise a few useful Sesotho expressions.

02 February 2004

Music and Dance (Mmino le Motjeko)

Music and dance have always been an inextricable part of Basotho life. Many of their rituals and social activities were accompanied by song and dance. Three dances; the Mokorotlo, the Mohobelo and the Mokhibo were performed regularly. On special occasions, to honour their chief, the men performed the Mokorotlo. This entailed a rhythmical backward and forward swinging action accompanied by the stamping of feet. The lead singer sang in a high-pitched voice while the others accompanied him in a deep throaty refrain. From time to time, one dancer would break away from the group and dance in front of the chief, miming a battle attack.

Read on

Litumeliso (Greetings)

The folks at Malealea Lodge have a greetings page that will teach you a few of the essential useful phrases. Check it out. The first piece of advice they give you is that "LI & LU pronounced DI & DU;" keep that in mind.

01 February 2004

Sotho Mural Art (Litema)

Image of sotho mural art. The action, of covering a wall with earth or cow dung or a mixture of the two, is ho lila, and remember that in Southern Sesotho "LI" is pronounced /di/ and "LU" is pronounced /du/. The wall patterns themselves are called litema.