Available on the Vanderbijlpark Campus


Sesotho, or Southern Sotho, is a Bantu language that originated in the Bantu-Nguni era, with dialects originating from Sotho, Pedi and Tswana, but these are all considered to be separate languages.

Sesotho is primarily spoken by the Basotho in Lesotho. The Basotho made their way down south as various tribes settled in different parts of the country. Some groups settled in the west, whereas others settled in the east and further south. Today Sesotho is one of South Africa’s 11 official languages and spoken by about five million people in Lesotho, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zambia.

Sesotho was one of the first African languages to be reduced to writing, and it has an extensive literature. The first written form of Southern Sotho was devised by Thomas Arbousset, Eugene Casalis and Constant Gosselin, French missionaries of the Paris Evangelical Mission, who arrived in Lesotho in 1833. The first grammar book, Etudes sur la Langue Sechuana by Casalis, was published in 1841.

Describing the language is not easy, as it has nine vowels, which are collapsed into five letters each. Compared to other languages of this nature, this is quite a large number. The language consists of 35 consonants, which include two semi-vowels for non-homogenous doubled eloquent and a tri-click.

Why study Sesotho?

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Nelson Mandela

  • Multilingualism opens doors.
  • It improves brain power.
  • It opens up your travel opportunities.
  • It expands your employment opportunities.

Course information

The Sesotho programme offered  to undergraduate students at the NWU consists of the academic and practical study of Sesotho for non-mother-tongue speakers and mother-tongue speakers. For postgraduate studies, the NWU offers the programme Comparative African Languages and Literatures. The modules offered in the Sesotho programme involve the study of linguistic function in relation to the grammatical, literary and business spheres. The modules for the BA Honours degree involve South African and African comparative literatures, contemporary African literary trends, an overview of developments in African literatures, and African linguistics.

Possible career opportunities

  • Teaching
  • Creative writing
  • Academia & research
  • Editing
  • Language practice
  • Motivational speaking
  • Broadcasting & advertising
  • Translating & interpreting
  • Journalism
  • Entrepreneurship & business
  • Some of the challenges of Sesotho include the National Language Plan, the marketing of linguistic human rights, language as an economic resource, the economy of language and the National Curriculum Statement.

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