Tsonga language

Native toMozambique, South Africa, Eswatini, Zimbabwe
RegionLimpopo, Mpumalanga, Gaza Province, Maputo Province, Maputo City
Native speakers
12 million (2006–2011)[1]
3.4 million L2 speakers in South Africa (2002)[2]
Latin (Tsonga alphabet)
Tsonga Braille
Signed Tsonga
Official status
Official language in
 South Africa
 Zimbabwe (as 'Shangani')
Language codes
ISO 639-3tso
S.53 (S.52)[4]
99-AUT-dc incl. varieties 99-AUT-dca...
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South Africa 2011 Tsonga speakers proportion map.svg

Tsonga (ɔː-/) or Xitsonga (Tsonga: Xitsonga) is a southern African Bantu language spoken by the Tsonga people. It is mutually intelligible with Tswa and Ronga, and the name "Tsonga" is often used as a cover term for all three, also sometimes referred to as Tswa-Ronga. The Xitsonga language has been standardized for both academic and home use, making it the base language for the Tsonga people. Like with many other languages, there are various dialects within the Tsonga language group.


The Xitsonga language was studied in great detail by the Swiss missionary, Henri-Alexandre Junod between the year 1890 and 1920, who made the conclusion that the Xitsonga language (which he called the "Thonga language" at the time) began to develop in Mozambique even before the 1400s. In his own words, Junod states the following:[5]

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:[6]

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. Baloyi 2. Chauke 3. Chavalala 4. Mabunda 5. Maluleke 6. Makamu 7. Mathevula 8. Ngoveni 9. Nkuna 10. Shibambu (Xivambu) 11. Shikweni 12. Rikhotso 13. Zitha

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Tsonga
asturianu: Idioma tsonga
azərbaycanca: Tsonqa dili
Bân-lâm-gú: Tsonga-gí
български: Цонга
brezhoneg: Tsongeg
català: Tsonga
chiShona: Tsonga
Deutsch: Xitsonga
español: Idioma tsonga
Esperanto: Conga lingvo
euskara: Tsongera
Fiji Hindi: Tsonga bhasa
føroyskt: Tsonga mál
français: Tsonga (langue)
한국어: 총가어
hrvatski: Tsonga jezik
Bahasa Indonesia: Bahasa Tsonga
isiXhosa: IsiTsonga
isiZulu: IsiTsonga
íslenska: Tsonga
italiano: Lingua tsonga
Kiswahili: Kitsonga
македонски: Цонга (јазик)
მარგალური: ტსონგა (ნინა)
Nederlands: Tsonga
日本語: ツォンガ語
norsk: Tsonga
norsk nynorsk: Tsonga
Novial: Tsongum
Piemontèis: Lenga Tsonga
português: Língua tsonga
русский: Тсонга (язык)
Sesotho: Setsonga
Sesotho sa Leboa: Setsonga
Simple English: Tsonga language
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Tsonga jezik
svenska: Tsonga
Tagalog: Wikang Tsonga
Tshivenda: XiTsonga
Türkçe: Tsongaca
українська: Тсонга (мова)
Tiếng Việt: Tiếng Tsonga
Xitsonga: Xitsonga
Yorùbá: Èdè Tsonga
中文: 聪加语