A Closer Look at the Nguni Language Family

Travel around the world with us each Tuesday as we explore a different language every week!


Classification: Niger-Congo, Bantu

Official In: South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe

Also Spoken In: parts of Subsaharan AfricaNiger-Congo_map

Linguistic Quirks:

  • Includes the Xhosa, Zulu, Swazi, Hlubi, Phuthi, and Ndebele languages
  • the title “Ngun” comes from the Nguni cattle, a species unique to southern Africa
  • Because of the closeness of these languages, many scholars and linguists have suggested creating one unified dialect, though this has yet to occur.
  • Within the Bantu languages, there are as many as 535 different languages, most of which are tonal.
  • The Xhosa language functions primarily off of a series of click consonants, though it is written using a Latin alphabet.

Noteable Nguni family speaker:

  • Nelson Mandela, (Nguni language spoken: Xhosa) anti-apartheid activist and former South African president

Want to learn?
Check out some of these awesome resources to figure out if a Nguni language is a good fit for you:

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