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Xhosa, South Africa

Ulwimi Lwethu, Lifa Lethu – Our Language, Our Heritage

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Language Overview

Xhosa, also known as isiXhosa, is a Nguni Bantu language. It’s spoken by the Xhosa people, primarily in South Africa’s Eastern and Western Cape. It has about 19 million speakers. Xhosa is known for its distinctive click sounds, inherited from Khoisan languages.
Market Insights
In Xhosa-speaking regions, radio and television are popular, often featuring local dramas and music. Younger audiences are increasingly consuming digital content, including social media and online streaming.
Cultural Context
Xhosa culture values respect and age-based hierarchy, reflected in its language use. Taboos include direct confrontation and discussing sensitive topics openly. It has a rich oral tradition and storytelling is highly valued.
Writing System and Typography
Xhosa uses the Latin alphabet, with additional characters for clicks. Text flows left to right. Typography needs to accommodate these unique characters, especially in digital formats.
Phonetics and Phonology
Xhosa’s phonology is notable for its click consonants, which can be challenging for non-native speakers. It has a complex system of vowel and consonant sounds.
Grammatical Structure
Xhosa typically follows the SVO (Subject-Verb-Object) sentence structure. It features noun classes and a rich system of verb conjugation.
Media and Text Layout
Translation into Xhosa often results in text expansion, around 10-15%. Subtitling needs careful attention to timing due to the length of words. The recommended character count per line is about 35-40.
Localization Challenges
Translating humor and idioms can be challenging, requiring cultural adaptation. There are notable examples of content being modified to fit local context.
Technical Considerations
Encoding in Xhosa requires support for its unique characters. Digital platforms must ensure proper rendering of clicks and diacritics.
Other information
Xhosa has a strong tradition of music and poetry, playing a significant role in cultural expression.
Our Human Voices
  • XZFE01Tandokazi
  • XZFE02Leia
  • XZFE03Dari
  • XZM01Teni
  • XZFE04Siry
  • XZM02Gery
  • XHOSAM01Balen

Additional Language Information
Additional Country Information
External Language Documentation
Open Language Archives