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b2ap3_thumbnail_Blog_39.jpgBackground and status

At 4% of the population (about 2.3 million), Xitsonga speakers make up the eighth largest language group in South Africa. In South Africa most of the speakers of this language are situated in Limpopo, which borders Mozambique. (The speakers of this language are often referred to as Shangaans, but the Tsongas in South Africa argue this to be incorrect, claiming the term should only be used for the Tsonga people living in Mozambique.)

Growth and use

The development of Xitsonga in education has proven to be difficult. While the language is taught as a subject at both primary and secondary level, it is only used as a medium of instruction in grades 1 to 3. As with Tshivenda, the linguistic distance from the other languages and the relatively small number of speakers pose considerable problems for the development of Xitsonga. Increasingly young Xitsonga speakers are compelled to find work in the towns and cities, where they invariably end up using one or more of the stronger South African languages. Many Xitsonga speakers feel the language is under attack. Writes Xitsonga journalist, Ntsako Shivambu: “ . . . To make it worse, it is in a state of collapse and we haven’t been able to find new writers in the language. The youth do not see future opportunities for the language. How they can use Xitsonga as a language of business when, in many people’s minds, it doesn’t offer any opportunities in the business world? How do we change the thinking of our kids to love and appreciate their language with the same zeal and courage as the youth of 1976? The only option that is available to us is to make sure that proficiency in Xitsonga is taken seriously. The only writers we have write for school curricula, the only books are those prescribed at school. With the dawn of technology we need blogs in Xitsonga to encourage the culture of reading in the language and to help our children to use the language correctly. ” (Mail and Guardian, 14 Jun 2013)

The Language Inc. Team


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