The people that live in Lesotho are called Basotho in the same way that people from North Carolina are called North Carolinians. One Basotho is called a Mosotho. Lesotho and the Basotho nation were founded by King Moshoeshoe I. The language spoken by the Basotho here in Lesotho and around much of Southern Africa is called Sesotho. So, the Basotho in Lesotho speak Sesotho. (Say that 5 times fast)
Sesotho is a wonderful language! It is extremely fast and requires a quick tongue, which I have not yet acquired! Several people here have told me that it is an easy language, which at this point I have to disagree with! It has really been a struggle to get the pronunciation of words down, but I think that I am starting to get the hang of it thanks to Me Matsepo. She has been giving me daily Sesotho lessons.
To give you a little taste of Sesotho, try to say this word: Utloa. Go ahead, I’ll wait….. Although I didn’t hear what you said to be sure, chances are you didn’t say that right! Utloa is the word for “hear.” I cannot attempt to spell this word phonically for you because the “tl” sound does not appear anywhere in English. There are 3 sounds that are particularly difficult to say; tl, hl, and q. Hl and tl are similar sounds. Try pronouncing the two letters together, even though that seems impossible. Now try this word: Labohlano. You still probably didn’t say it right! Labohlano means Friday. Now the q sound is completely different. The q sound is like a cluck with the tongue. It requires you to stop mid word, make the sound, and then continue with the rest of the word. Try this one: Moqebelo. Moqebelo means Saturday.
There are also a whole slew of sounds that are not difficult to pronounce, but require you to trick your brain into saying the right thing. Sounds like: lu, li, kh, ts, oa, and oe. I’ll just give one of these as an example. Lu and li look like they would sound like “loo” and “lee,” but in fact make the sounds “doo” and “dee” This is why the word for hello is spelled lumela but pronounced “doo-mel-ah.” The word for Tuesday is spelled Labobeli and pronounced “la-bow-bay-dee.” As I said, they are not hard to pronounce, but tricky for my brain to process!
As you can see, it is a difficult language. But it is so incredibly beautiful as well. With each day I get better and better. It will be an ongoing battle, but one that I look forward to. Here in Maseru, it is pretty easy to get by with English. Mantsonyane will be a different story. The people in the rural areas of Lesotho speak Sesotho almost exclusively. Sala Hantle!