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What Language Do They Speak in Lesotho?

What language do they speak in Lesotho

Lesotho, known as the Kingdom in the Sky due to its high altitude, harbors a rich linguistic tradition reflecting a unique cultural identity. Nestled within the heart of South Africa, this mountainous enclave boasts a linguistic landscape as diverse as its topography. Let’s unravel the linguistic threads that weave the social fabric of this African kingdom.

Key Takeaways

Official LanguageSesotho
Other LanguagesEnglish, Zulu, Xhosa, and Afrikaans
Language FamilyBantu languages (Sesotho)
Writing SystemLatin Alphabet
Language StatusSesotho and English are used in official settings, with Sesotho being more prevalent in daily communication

Official Language: Sesotho

The official language of Lesotho is Sesotho, also referred to as Southern Sotho. This language is a central part of the nation’s identity, being a primary mode of communication for the majority of the population.

Sesotho at a Glance

Language FamilyBantu
Number of SpeakersApprox. 5.6 million in Lesotho
Writing SystemLatin Alphabet
DialectsPhuthi, Taung, Kwena, among others

Sesotho is part of the Bantu language family, which encompasses a wide array of languages spoken across sub-Saharan Africa. The Bantu languages share a common ancestor and have numerous linguistic similarities.

Importance of Sesotho

Sesotho serves as a crucial marker of identity for the people of Lesotho, also known as Basotho. It acts as a unifying factor among the diverse communities residing in the country. The language’s significance extends beyond mere communication; it’s a vessel that carries the rich cultural heritage and historical narratives of the nation.

Other Languages Spoken

Besides Sesotho, several other languages are spoken in Lesotho which reflect the country’s historical and social interactions with neighboring communities.

  • English: It’s an official language and is often used in government and educational settings.
  • Zulu: A significant number of people in Lesotho speak Zulu, especially those living near the border with South Africa.
  • Xhosa: Similar to Zulu, Xhosa is spoken by a portion of the population, reflecting the historical interactions between these communities.
  • Afrikaans: Due to its proximity to South Africa, some people in Lesotho speak Afrikaans, though it’s less common.

Language in Education and Official Settings

In Lesotho, the linguistic landscape significantly influences the educational sector and official settings. Here’s how:

Language Policy in Education

StageLanguage of Instruction
Primary EducationSesotho and English
Secondary and Higher EducationMostly English

Language in Government and Administration

English and Sesotho enjoy a dual status as official languages in Lesotho. However, Sesotho is more prevalent in daily communications, while English is often reserved for formal settings like government offices and official documentation.


Lesotho’s linguistic profile is a fascinating blend of indigenous tradition and external influences. The predominance of Sesotho, alongside the presence of other languages like English, Zulu, Xhosa, and Afrikaans, paints a vibrant linguistic picture that mirrors the country’s rich cultural and historical tapestry.

The language of Lesotho is not just a medium of communication but a bridge to the nation’s soul, linking its present to a profound historical and cultural heritage. So, next time you find yourself amidst the majestic mountains of Lesotho, remember, you’re not just stepping onto a land of visual beauty but a realm of linguistic richness too.