Languages of Lesotho
|Languages of Lesotho|
|Official languages||Sotho and English|
|Minority languages||Zulu, Phuthi, Xhosa|
|Main immigrant languages||Afrikaans|
National and official languages
Sotho (Sesotho or Southern Sotho), a Southern Bantu language, is the national language of Lesotho, and is spoken by most Basotho. It was recognized as the national language by the National and Official Languages Bill, ratified by the National Assembly of Lesotho on 12 September 1966, which also established Sotho and English as the country's two official languages. The country's language policy promotes bilingualism, and Chapter 1 of the Constitution of Lesotho states:
The official languages of Lesotho shall be Sesotho and English and, accordingly, no instrument or transaction shall be invalid by reason only that it is expressed or conducted in one of those languages.— The Constitution of Lesotho, 1993
Sotho is the first language of more than 90 percent of the population and is "used widely as a medium of communication" in day-to-day speech. English is reserved for official interactions, such as "government and administration", although the use of Sotho in politics, religion, and the mass media is growing.
Primary education of children takes place in Sotho for the first four years, but English becomes the medium of instruction in the fifth year of primary school. Competence in English is "particularly important ... for educational, political, social and economic transactions in the subcontinent" and facilitates obtaining employment within Lesotho and abroad. Although "efforts are made to ensure that Basotho children" learn to read, speak and write English, many Basotho complete only "basic primary education [and] remain monolingual in Sesotho".
Minority and immigrant languages
A minority of Basotho, estimated to number 248,000 as of 1993, speak Zulu, one of the eleven official languages of South Africa. Phuthi, a Nguni language closely related to Swazi, an official language of South Africa and Swaziland, is spoken by 43,000 Basotho (as of 2002). Xhosa, another Nguni language and official language of South Africa, is spoken by 18,000 people in Lesotho. Speakers of these minority languages typically also speak Sotho.
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