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Sesotho Language Manual

Sesotho Language Manual

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This comprehensive Sesotho language manual was developed by a Peace Corps Volunteer during her service in Lesotho.
This comprehensive Sesotho language manual was developed by a Peace Corps Volunteer during her service in Lesotho.

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Published by: Anne Emilie Schoeneborn on Oct 31, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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In Sesotho, the accent usually rests on the syllable before the last. For example: rata (to like),
morena (chief), tsamaea (to walk), ntoa (war).

-ng at the end of a word is considered a syllable, so the accent in words ending in -ng falls on the
syllable preceding it. For example: moreneng (the chief's place), tsamaeang! (walk! pl.), ntoeng
(in/to war), lumelang (hello, pl.).


(only those sounds which may present difficulty are listed here)

1. Vowels

a as in “father”

ho bala, to read

ē as i in “sin”


, tree

è as in “there” (the mouth

ho èma, to stand

is more widely opened than for ē)
i as e in “even”

ho tlisa, to bring

ō as in “boo” (closed sound)

bōsiu, night

ò as in “ought” (open sound)

ho bona, to see

u as “cool”

ho bula, to open

2. The syllables oe, oa, ea and eo

o before a or e has the same sound as the English w, forming only one syllable with the
following vowel. For example, ho oa (pronounced ho wa), to fall; o oele (pronounced o wele),
he/she has fallen.

e before a and o has the same sound as the English y. For example: nku ea ka (pronounced nku
ya ka), my sheep; eona (yona), it.

3. Single Consonants

l before i or u is pronounced as a d lumela (pronounced dumela), hello
lifate (pronounced difate), trees

(although before a,e and o, l is

ho lata, to fetch

pronounced as in English)

q is a click sound

lifaqane, the mass movement of people that
occurred as Shaka conquered neighboring
communities in order to expand his kingdom

1 These symbols showing the pronunciation are only used in the text in the cases of è and ò and only when there
are two words with the same spelling, but with different pronunciations.


4. Double Consonants

hl – h and l sounded simultaneously ho hlaba, to slaughter
in the back of mouth
kh – no English equivalent

khomo, cow

ny – like ni in “onion”

ho nyala, to marry

ph – aspirated2

p, as in “pair”

ho pheha, to cook

qh – aspirated q (click); click is

leqheku, old person

followed by k sound
th – aspirated t, as in “tell”

thaba, mountain

tj – like English ch

tjena, like this
tl – t and l sounded simultaneously ho tlama, to tie
in the back of mouth
– aspirated ts

hoaba, to fear

tlh – an aspirated tl

tlhompho, respect

Double m and n are written mm or nn in the middle of a word and both are sounded. For
example: monna, man; hammoho, together. At the beginning of a word, they are written 'm and
'n, but are pronounced mm, nn. For example: 'mè (pronounced mmè), mother.

2 When a consonant is aspirated, it is accompanied by the release of a strong burst of air.



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