The Click Language – IsiXhosa

IsiXhosa is one of 11 official languages in South Africa along with Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Sotho, Northern Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana and Venda.
It is spoken by about 8 million South Africans and originated in the Eastern Cape of southern Africa. The first verse of the national anthem is Xhosa followed by Zulu, Afrikaans then ending off with an English verse.


Click below to hear (and try to sing along to) the full South African National Anthem

Xhosa: the notorious ‘click’ language

Xhosa is notorious for its clicking sounds pronounced on specific consonants including ‘c’, ‘x’ and ‘q’.

The ‘C’ sound made by the front of the tongue behind the upper front teeth – dental clicks
The ‘X’ sound made by the back of the tongue near the molars – lateral clicks
And the ‘Q’ sound made by the middle of the tongue on the palette – post-alveolar clicks

Basic sounds and greetings demonstrated in the video below:

The Click song

Commonly known as Qongqothwane  to the Xhosa people who sing it at weddings to bring good fortune and was popularized by singer Miriam Makeba. The click song – appropriately nicknamed by European Colonials who could not pronounce the title of the song.

Click the video below to hear Miriam Makeba’s version of The Click Song (Qongqothwane)

Featured image by xhosaculture

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Our Correspondent
Cult South Africa correspondent
Shakeela - Cape Town

Born in Johannesburg, lived in East London, grew up in Port Elizabeth and living in Cape Town for ten years now, I love to think of myself as an all round South African! I received my BA Degree in Motion Picture in 2010 ...

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Continent: Africa
Capital: Pretoria
Population: 49,000,000
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