Sesotho

SeSotho Language

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SeSotho is the language of the Basotho. Basotho are the people of Lesotho. This in itself is a language lesson. Note the root word sotho. In SeSotho, most words are modified by prefixes. For example, the people of Lesotho are called Basotho but the singular of Basotho is Mosotho.

This page can only give a brief introduction to the language. Please read through some of the contrasts with English, then listen to the samples below:

  • Verbs can be turned into nouns by the prefix mo or ba. Ruta (to teach) becomes moruti (teacher). Tsamae (travel) becomes motsamai (traveler). Ba is the plural of mo. The accent is usually placed on the next to the last syllable.
  • Non-human objects are pluralized by the prefix li. Pere (horse) becomes lipere (horses). The li is pronounced as de. An L followed by a I or a U is pronounced as a D, but when followed by any other letter is pronounced as a normal L. Lumela (hello) is pronounced du-may-la.
  • There is no such sound as the English th. A SeSotho th is an English t. A t without the h is heavily aspirated. The same is true of ph. Lesotho is pronounced Lis-su-tu, as in listen -soup – two. Just forget about that h.Q’s, few as they are, have a click sound.

Click to play. The word order of the translation matches the SeSotho word order.

Lumela ntate, u phela joang?

Hello sir, you live how? How are you?

Ke phela hantle.

I live well.

U tsoa kae?

You from where? Where are you from?

Ke tsoa Maseru.

I’m from Maseru.

Ke ea Qacha’s Nek.

I’m going to Qacha’s Nek.

Lebitso la hao u mang?

Name of yours is what? What is your name?

Bua butle. Ha ke utlosese.

Speak slowly. Not I understand.

Ke kopa metsi a batang.

I want water which is cold. I’d like some cold water.

Ke bokae?

It is how much? How much does it cost?

Ke lisente tse hlano.

It is cents which are five. It’s five cents.

Kea leboha.

I give thanks. Thank you.

Tsamaea hantle

Go well. Goodbye.


Language Guides:

Colin Hoag’s Peace Corps SeSotho Training Manualpdf

Anne Schoeneborn’s THE SESOTHO BOOK: A Language Manual Developed By a Peace Corps Volunteer During Her Service in Lesotho (pdf)