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|12 million (2006–2011)|
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The Xitsonga language was studied in great detail by the Swiss missionary,
My conclusion is then that the Thonga language was already-spoken by the primitive occupants of the country more than 500 years ago and that, together with a certain number of customs, it formed the great bond which bound the Thonga clans together in past centuries.
Further studies were carried out by Junod and other Swiss missionaries such as Henri Berthoud and Ernest Creux, who began to unify the language in order to have a standard way of writing and reading. "Shigwamba" was a term used by the missionaries in order to group the language under a unified identity, however the name was unfamiliar to many of the Tsonga people and had to be replaced with "Thonga/Tsonga". Harries makes reference to this:
As the term Gwamba was unknown outside the Spelonken, Henri Berthoud recommended that the mission abandon the term and replace it with the widely accepted genericism, Tonga/Thonga.
Swiss missionaries engaged with the Tsonga people and used their assistance to translate the Bible from English and Sesotho into the Tsonga language. Paul Berthoud published the first book in 1883 which came as a result of the help he received from the translations by Mpapele (Mbizana) or Mandlati (Zambiki). The two men were active in teaching and translating the language to the missionaries since none of the missionaries were familiar with it and had to dedicate a lot of their time to learn. The language of the Tsonga people and the dialects were put into print and the first books were published. The language was later on finally registered as “Xitsonga” within the Constitution of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996) and it was declared an official language. The standardization of the Xitsonga language as a result made it possible for the Tsonga people to develop a common way of speaking and writing.
Xitsonga Famous Surnames
1. Maceve 2. Maluleke 3. Mathevula 4. Ngoveni 5. Baloyi 6. Mbiza