Sesotho is the language spoken by the Basotho people of South Africa and Lesotho . It is part of the Ntu (Bantu) language family. 8% of the population speak Sesotho as their home language.



Good day

Dumela (greeting one person) and Dumelang (more than one person)



How are you?

Okae? (singular) and Lekae? (plural)

I'm fine, and you?

Ke teng, wena o kae?

Goodbye (to person staying)

Sala hantle

Goodbye (to person leaving)

Tsamaya hantle

Brief Background & Ancestry

The majority of Sesotho speakers reside in the Free State Province and Gauteng Province (77.5%). Sesotho describes the language and not the people who are known as the Basotho. The Basotho are also known as the Southern Sotho. Chief Moshoeshoe I is the reputed founder of the Sotho nation (including Sepedi and SeTswana speakers) in the mid to late 1700's. The Chief united many Nguni and Sotho clans after the devastating wars of Difaqane (Shaka's programme of expansion and nation building) into what is now known as the Kingdom of Lesotho , including the Free State and southern Gauteng regions. In 1884, Lesotho became a British protectorate and became an independent country in 1966. The arrival of missionaries, Boer settlers and the incorporation into the monetary economy impacted on the Basotho social life and worldview. Most converted to Christianity and developed a strong literary tradition. Democracy was established with difficulty in Lesotho , with the first elected leader being eventually removed by coup in 1986. From 1990, a new period of elective government began.

Customs and Practices

SothoAccording to one Sotho legend, the first human being emerged from a sea of reeds in a place called Ntswanatsasi. There is a rich tradition of folktales and praise poems (called diboko).

The supreme-being that the Sotho people believe in is called Modimo who is approached through the spirits on one's ancestors. Sotho's believed that the evils in our world were the result of malevolent actions by sorcerers and witches. Neglecting one's ancestral spirits can bring misfortune and sickness.

Christian beliefs have impacted on ancient traditions and the Independent African churches have grown in popularity, due to the combination of traditional African beliefs and Christian doctrine.

If a child is born and is the father's firstborn child, a bucket of water would be poured on him if the child was a girl. On the contrary, he would be beaten with a stick if the child was a boy. Mother and child remain secluded for a period ranging from ten days to two or three months after birth.

Boys and girls go through a right of passage that includes seclusion and circumcision for the boys.

There is great value placed on respect for one's elders. Someone addressing an elder should attach a prefix: ntate (father) or mme (mother) at the end as a mark of respect. A visitor can expect hospitality and generosity that would need to be reciprocated in the future.

Marriages were arranged (though most matches are now freely chosen) with the payment of a bride price (bohadi). Clan names are often that of animals and adopt the lineage on the father's side.