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The name “Tsonga” includes Tsonga, Tswa, and Ronga. The 6 main dialects identified by HP Junod are: N’walungu (Luleke, Valoyi), Hlave, Nkuna, Gwamba, Nhlanganu, Djonga, Machabe, and Bila.[clarification needed] The “Tsonga” people are grandchildren of “Gwambe na Dzhavana”.[who?]

 Geographic distribution

Tsonga is spoken by about 1,972,000[3] people in South Africa’s Limpopo province as well as Gauteng Province and Mpumalanga Province, as well as 1.5 million people in Mozambique, and 25,000 people in Swaziland. There are also 100,000 speakers inZimbabwe.

In South Africa most of Vatsonga were concentrated in places like e.g. Nkowankowa, Giyani, Malamulele, N’wamitwa, Muhlava, Hlanganani (Elim) in Limpopo and Bushbuckridge (ka Mpisana) and others in Mpumalanga. There are also large numbers in the Northwest, KwaZulu-Natal (Tembe) and Gauteng provinces. Basically they can be found anywhere in the old Transvaal.

 Official status

Tsonga is an official language in South Africa. It has been suggested to be made official in Zimbabwe according to the new constitution. All Tswa-Ronga languages are recognised in Mozambique. It is not official in Swaziland.


The following excerpts from an article from  Fana, ,  is one of the best to shed more light on this. Very enlightenigng.

There is still a huge amount of confusion with regards to differentiating who or what is Shangaan or Tsonga. Before we can understand Tsonga history, it is fair to clarify how Shangaans became Tsonga. The term Shangaan is used interchangeably with Tsonga; however the meaning is one but only to those of the Tsonga tribe.

Who is Tsonga then?

The Tsonga tribe originates from East Africa; we are a tribe without a king. We moved down to the south of Africa, namely Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. We grew our tribe through assimilating other tribes such as Vakalanga (Valoyi), Ndlovu and the Shangaans to name a few. Today, all Tsonga tribes share one identity even though origins differ. The issue is with the term or category, even though linguistics groups us as one. Tribal divisions make other Tsonga groups reject the title Shangaan or Tsonga. This is an issue of identity, even though our origins, culture and languages are similar. The Shangaan tribe is accused of wanting to yet again attempt to rule the whole Tsonga tribe by replacing its existence. The Shangaan tribe shadows other Tsonga tribes; also the other Tsonga tribes such as Vandzawu and VaTshwa refuse the term Tsonga.
The core of this discussion is origin and context of the tribe and term Shangaan. (Read more on his website given above)


Being a Mutsonga myself, I have tried to contribute by compiling this list which is non-exhaustive in an effort to assist the understanding and learning of the Tsonga language. Not enough documentary and work is being done to preserve this language. I will definitely welcome feedback and more information to expand this topic and effort.


  • Good Morning  = “ Avuxeni “  –  also generally used as an equivalent of “Hello” anytime of the day mainly when  you have not seen or spoken to the person before.
  • Good day ( midday) – “Inhlekanhi”
  • Good afternoon – “Indzengha” ( some translations confuses the Good afternoon and Good day for  “inhlekanhi”
  • Good evening – “ Riperile ” or “ imadyambu”
  • Good night –  Vusiku lebyinene or  Etlela kahle ( sleep well)

 Time of the Day

  •  Dawn – Mahlambandlopfu
  • Morning  – Mixo  or mpudzu
  • Day  – Siku
  • Night  – Vusiko
  • Black –  Ntima
  • White –  Basa
  • Grey – ?
  • Blue – Wasi
  • Green – Rihlaza
  • Yellow – Xitshopana
  • Gold – Nsuku
  • Orange – Lamula
  • Red – Tshwuka
  • Maroon – ?
  • Brown – Ribungwa
  • Pink -?

Geographic Directions

  • North  – N’walungu
  • South – Dzonga
  • West – Vupeladyambu
  • East – Vuxa (Vuxeni)

Days of the week

  • Sunday – Sonto
  • Monday – Musumbunuko
  • Tuesday – raVumbirhi
  • Wednesday – raVunharu
  • Thursday – raVumune
  • Friday – raVunthlanu
  • Saturday – Mugqibela

Months of the year

  • January – Sunguti (Beginning/Genesis). Symbolic start of the cycle.
  • February – Nyenyanyana (Baby birds). Many young chicks are observed to hatch during this month.
  • March –           Nyenyankulu (Grown-up / bigger birds). Birds have matured to near adult or adult stage.
  • April – Dzivamisoko (Setting up traps). “Misoko” are “birds traps”.  Herdboys usually set these traps this month to catch the matured birds – birds hunting season.
  • May – Mudyaxihi ( “eat per your choice “ – Cornucopia – Abundance of food and crops). People are spoilt for choice owing to the available varieties of food crops which are being harvested from the fields.
  • June – Khotavuxika (Start of the cold season). This is the beginning of the cold season.
  • July -Mawuwani (Light breeze). The  cold days become a little windy giving a “woo” sound mainly from the many artefacts that the Tsonga people used to keep.
  • August – Mhawuri (Gale winds). The winds are much stronger .
  • September – Ndzhati ( from Ndlati , meaning Lightning). This is the time when rain is often accompanied by thunder and lightning. Superstition has it that an animal falls from the sky signifying the advert of rain.
  • October – Nhlangula (An edible plant bears fruit). Many trees, in particular the ‘nhlangula’  tree  has ripened and bears its fruit.
  • November – Hukuri (Chicken egg-laying period ). Month during which  many chicken are seen laying and hatch their many eggs.
  • December – N’wendzamhala (Ending). Everything comes to an end; with impala breeding in large numbers, hunting season begins.

Numbers  1- 100, 1000, 1 million,

  • One                 N’we
  • Two                 Mbirhi
  • Three               Nharhu
  • Four                 Mune
  • Five                  Ntlhanu
  • Six                    Ntsevu
  • Seven               Nkombo
  • Eight                Nhungu
  • Nine                 Nkaye
  • Ten                  Khume
  • Eleven            Khumen’we
  • Twelve            Khumembirhi
  • Thirteen          Khumenharhu
  • Fourteen          Khumemune
  • Fifteen            Khumentlhanu
  • Sixteen            Khumentsevu
  • Seventeen       Khumekombo
  • Eighteen          Khumenhungu
  • Nineteen         Khumenkaye
  • Twenty            Makumembirhi
  • Twenty one     Makumembirhin’we
  • Twenty two     Makumembirhimbirhi
  • Twenty three   Makumembirhinharhu
  • Twenty four     Makumembirhimune
  • Twenty five     makumenharhuntlhanu
  • Twenty six       makumembirhitsevu
  • Twenty seven  makumembirhinkombo
  • Twenty eight   makumembirhinhungu
  • Twenty nine    makumembirhikaye
  • Thirty               makumenharhu
  • Thirty one        makumenharhun’we
  • Thirty two        makumenharhumbirhi
  • Thirty three     makumenharhunharhu
  • Thirty four       makumenharhumune
  • Thirty five        makumemunentlhanu
  • Thirty six         makumenharhutsevu
  • Thirty seven    makumenharhunkombo
  • Thirty eight     makumenharhunhungu
  • Thirty nine       makumenharhukaye
  • Forty                makumemune
  • Forty one         makumemunen’we
  • Forty two         makumemunembirhi
  • Forty three      makumemunenharhu
  • Forty four        makumemunemune
  • Forty five         makumemunentlhanu
  • Forty six           makumemunetsevu
  • Forty seven      makumemunenkombo
  • Forty eight       makumemunenhungu
  • Forty nine        makumemunekaye
  • Fifty                 makumentlhanu
  • Fifty one          makumemunen’we
  • Fifty two          makumemunembirhi
  • Fifty three       makumemunenharhu
  • Fifty four         makumemunemune
  • Fifty five          makumemunentlhanu
  • Fifty six            makumemunetsevu
  • Fifty seven       makumemunenkombo
  • Fifty eight        makumemunenhungu
  • Fifty nine         makumemunekaye
  • Sixty                 makumetsevu
  • Sixty one          makumetsevun’we
  • Sixty two          makumetsevumbirhi
  • Sixty three       makumetsevunharhu
  • Sixty four         makumetsevumune
  • Sixty five          makumetsevu nthlanu
  • Sixty six           makumetsevutsevu
  • Sixty seven      makumetsevunkombo
  • Sixty eight       makumetsevunhungu
  • Sixty nine         makumetsevukaye
  • Seventy            makumenkombo
  • Seventy one     makumenkombon’we
  • Seventy two     makumenkombombirhi
  • Seventy three  makumenkombonharhu
  • Seventy four    makumenkombomune
  • Seventy five     makumenkombo nthlanu
  • Seventy six      makumenkombotsevu
  • Seventy sevenmakumenkombonkombo
  • Seventy eight  makumenkombonhungu
  • Seventy nine    makumenkombokaye
  • Eighty              makumenhungu
  • Eighty one       makumenhungun’we
  • Eighty two       makumenhungumbirhi
  • Eighty three    makumenhungunharhu
  • Eighty four      makumenhungumune
  • Eighty five       makumenhungu nthlanu
  • Eighty six         makumenhungutsevu
  • Eighty seven    makumenhungunkombo
  • Eighty eight     makumenhungunhungu
  • Eighty nine      makumenhungukaye
  • Ninety              makumekaye
  • Ninety one       makumekayen’we
  • Ninety two       makumekayembirhi
  • Ninety three    makumekayenharhu
  • Ninety four      makumekayemune
  • Ninety five       makumekaye nthlanu
  • Ninety six        makumekayetsevu
  • Ninety seven   makumekayenkombo
  • Ninety eight    makumekayenhungu
  • Ninety nine      makumekayekaye
  • One hundred   dzana

Tsonga Useful phrases

  • My name is … –  Vito ra mina  i…
  • I love you – Ndza ku rhandza
  • You are beautiful – U sasekile
  • My lover – murhandziwa

Seasons of the year

  • Spring – Ximun’wana
  • Summer – Ximumu
  • Autumn – Xixikana
  • Winter – Xixika
Domestic animals

  • Dog – Mbyana
  • Cat  – Ximanga
  • Pig – Nguluve /Honci
  • Donkey – Mbhongholo
  • Horse – Hanci
  • Goat – Mbuti
  • Cattle – Homu
  • Duck – Sekwa
  • Chicken – Huku
  • Dove – Tuva
  • Sheep – Nyimpfu
  • Turkey – Galankulu


Wild animals

  • Lion – Nghala
  • Elephant – Ndlopfu
  • Tiger – Yinghwe
  • Rhino – “Mhungubye”
  • Buffalo – Nyarhi

Other wild animails

  • Impala – Mhala
  • Hare – Mpfundla
  • Warthog – Nguluve-Nhova
  • Zebra –  Mangwa
  • Giraffe – Nhutlwa
  • Babboon – Mfenhe
  • Monkey – Rintoho
  • Hyena – Mhisi
  • Jackal – Mhungbye
  • Wildbeast – Homgonyi





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