South Africa has eleven official languages and Xhosa happens to be one of them. It is believed that 18 percent of the country’s population converse in this language. Xhosa was used in the movie ‘The Gods Must be Crazy.’ The language has a considerable amount of tongue clicking sounds. The former South African president has been known to address crowds in Xhosa from time to time. Miriam Makeba had famous hit songs that had Xhosa in them. Xhosa is believed to have come from the Khoisan. In Khoisan Xhosa translates to ‘angry men’. AmaXhosa are the speakers while isiXhosa is the language. Since Zulu and Xhosa are Bantu languages it is easy for the two classes to communicate and understand one another.
There are a number of dialects in Xhosa although some of them are still under review. As much as the language is unusual, there is charm in how it sounds. A lot of people struggling with learning Xhosa since its consonants are not common. The language is also heavily populated. To successfully speak the language you have to make aggressive sounds. The language has some ejectives, implosives, fifteen clicks and some English sounds.
The greatest challenge for learners is familiarizing themselves with the clicks. There are dental clicks that require you to press your tongue against your teeth thus producing a ‘tut-tut’ sound. To produce a sound similar to the one a cork makes when it pops out of a bottle you need to make the alveolar clicks by pressing the tongue against your palate. The final click is the lateral click where you press your tongue against the side of your mouth as if you are beckoning a horse. Learning Xhosa can be quite the challenge but once you get the grasp of things it becomes a rewarding experience. The next time you are in South Africa you can strike a conversation with the speakers by asking them, ‘Uvelaphi?’ this means ‘where are you from?’ or ‘Uhlalaphi?’ (‘Where do you live’?). If you want to ask the price of something it is ‘Yimalini lento?’ In case the seller quotes a steep price you can tell them ‘Ixabisa kakhulu’ (it is very expensive).