Monday, August 1, 2016

Country Profile: The Languages of Lesotho

Last week we looked at the many fascinating languages spoken in Namibia, a large country located in southern Africa. Today we'll be exploring the linguistic diversity of the nearby country of Lesotho, a small country completely surrounded by South Africa.

The Official Languages

Katse Dam in Lesotho is the second largest dam in Africa.
Lesotho has two official languages: Sotho and English. Sotho, also known as Sesotho or Southern Sotho, is the country's most spoken language, with over 1.7 million native speakers. This Bantu language is the primary language of most of Lesotho's population, and is widely used for everyday communication, as well as being used as an administrative language.

English, the other official language, is primarily used in government. According to the Ethnologue, it is used as a second language by about 500,000 people in Lesotho, but is not often used as a native language.

Other Languages

The second most widely spoken language in Lesotho is Zulu, another Bantu language. In addition to being the native language of nearly 250,000 people in Lesotho, Zulu is also one of South Africa's 11 official languages.

Unlike Namibia, which was home to a quite large number of languages, Lesotho's entry in the Ethnologue only lists five languages. The final two languages are Phuthi and Xhosa, which are both Bantu languages, just like Zulu and Sotho.

Phuthi is the native language of over 40,000 people in Lesotho. It is closely related to Swazi, an official language in both South Africa and Swaziland. Xhosa, on the other hand, is the native language of about 18,000 people in Lesotho. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's also an official language in neighboring South Africa.