Interesting inter-linkages within African languages

03 Aug

By Stephen Twinoburyo, Pretoria.

Last week, South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper carried an interesting debate on the meaning of the Tswana word kgoa, and its various references. Some people argued that it means a tick while others said it is a derogative reference to a white person. This sprung to my mind the interesting inter-linkages in language used by Africans.

In western Uganda where I come from, in Runyankole language, a tick is called ngoha. The pronunciation is not much different from the kgoa above and I suspect that their origin is the same. A white person is called a mzungu, almost similar to a mlungu as refered to by some tribes in South Africa.

My daughter has part ancestry in Venda, a small tribe in northern South Africa. During my numerous visits to the Venda area and from interactions with the people there, I was surprised by the many similarities between Tshivenda and Runyankole. While the Venda refer to a drum as goma, in Runyankole it is engoma. Other similarities respectively are mukekulu and mukeikuru for old lady, mawe and maawe for mother, marume and maruumi for uncle, iwe and iwe for you, mlilo and muriro for fire, ndu and nju for house, kanga and enkanga for a certain type of bird (rare) and very surprisingly eki kitu and eki ekintu (or reversibly kitu eki and ekintu eki) for ‘this thing’. Of course I won’t omit the predominant existence of ‘jjje and shhh’ in the pronunciations.

Despite the fact that I live in Pretoria, Tshivenda is the South African language I have picked up most. I find it surprising that a tribe in western Uganda and another one in northern South Africa have words in common, some of which are non-contemporary. This means that these two tribes were at one time one and if one were to go into research, more similarities would be established. In fact a lot in the behaviours of the two tribes is similar and needless to say, I’ve  found much comfort in many Venda homes.

When my daughter is old enough to put together the two languages, she will find surprising links that bind her parents’ tribes thousands of kilometres apart.


Posted by on August 3, 2010 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs


45 responses to “Interesting inter-linkages within African languages

  1. Abubaker Kintu Basajjabaka

    August 4, 2010 at 05:18

    Surprising but true. I used to come across so many words that were similar. Ngwenya meaning crocodile similar in pronunciation with Ngoina in Lusoga and Gonya in Luganda. Ndlovu: Ndovu and Njovu in Lusoga and Luganda respectively.

    I used to tell people that if you had knowledge of Runyakole, Lusoga, Luganda or any Ntu language from somewhere else, you would understand languages in Southern Africa whether Shona, Ndebele etc. In Venda water is madi same word in Lusoga.

    My biggest worry is how we in Southern Uganda can understand those in Southern Africa but fail to understand people in the northern Uganda. There are times I use Sizulu in Uganda and people understand. When I tell them it is Zulu I’m speaking they can’t believe it.

    In Luganda a tick is Nkwa, which I suppose has the same pronunciation as Kgoa.

    We can go and on, and it would be interesting for us to document these words and see where we stand. We can use a wiki. Get Sotho, Tswana, Zulu and Soga, Ganda, Banyakole to explore the similarities and differences.

    Otherwise this was good!

  2. Simon Kaheru

    August 4, 2010 at 08:38

    Good post. Abu, the challenge you throw down of creating a Wiki should be followed up asap. Begin and let’s all contribute.

  3. Stephen Twinoburyo

    August 4, 2010 at 09:04

    Good observations and great suggestion Abu. I agree with you Simon that we can carry this further. Sometimes great discoveries are started by a simple suggestions like this one. Abu, spearhead it please.


    August 4, 2010 at 09:24

    This is interesting indeed. I have been pondering research in this area and I believe together we can achieve a great deal. The Swana greeting is ligai and the Banyankole and Bahororo greeting is nigaahi. Talking about Bahororo, these are called Abaherero in Namibia and Abahima in Ankole are called Abahimba or Himba in Namibia. The two groups love and keep cows. The Himba and Herero were stampeded out of present day Ntungamo District in Uganda by slave raiders who in 1841 were capturing slaves in Karagwe a Tanzanian District neighbouring Ntungamo. The story is long and language similarities are numerous and together we can compile a small booklete to bring our people together.

  5. Stephen Twinoburyo

    August 4, 2010 at 10:24

    Thank you very much HE Ambassador Kweronda Ruhemba.

    You have mentioned pertinent aspect I had not looked at. While I have always greeted ‘ligai’ in Pretoria (Pretoria being predominantly Tswana/Tshotho speaking), it had never occurred to me to connect it to ‘nigahi’. I am sure that as we go on discussing this issue, many more examples will come up. For instance you have raised the one of Himba. Some people have also mentioned other groups in Zambia. In fact I am told there is a group called the Rwembas (if I have got it correctly) in Zimbabwe that are also connected to the Venda.

    I believe we can embark on the journey to reconnect our routes and make great strides in this re-discovery.

  6. Drew

    August 4, 2010 at 14:39

    As interesting as studying the similarities between these languages is that of cultural similarities

    Examples include;

    -Kwanjula and kuhingira ceremonies. One does not realise how similar Buganda and Bunyoro are until one has attended kwanjulas in both places and realised the only real difference i language. I have watched a kwanjula from Mauritius that was virtually indistinguishable from a Ugandan one.
    -Last funeral rites and burial practices
    -twin birth and naming ceremonies.
    -Animal husbandry practices -cattle keeping
    -The Ssenga institution
    -Sexual practices -kunyaraza/kachabali
    -Creation stories and traditional religions
    -Initiation rites including circumcision and ‘okukyalira ensiko’

  7. Gertrude

    August 4, 2010 at 16:10

    It is indeed amazing how all these languages are related. Sometimes people get surprised if you speak the South African languages but it is due to the way they are almost like languages at home.
    For instance, Gwana in Tswana is omwana in Runyankole Mufazi in Xhosa for omukazi in Runyankole, mutu, tswana for omuntu in Runyankole and most Ugandan languages, Iza in xhosa (Come) is ija in Runyankole Iza hapa in Xhosa means; ija hanu. Mamazaala in Tswana means mazaara(mother of my spouse) in Runyankole
    Mukonyane in Tswana (inlaw) is simila to muko in Luganda or omukwe in Runyankole which has a similar meaning. Metsi, in Tswana(Water) is similar to amaizi in Runyankole, Mazi in Luganda and amanzi in xhosa.Orufu in Runyankole (the funeral) has similar meaning as lusu in in tswana and uswile in tswana is afiire in Runyankole.yalila (has cried) in Tswana is also similar to yarira in Runyankole.It is worth noting that the words in Zulu and Xhosa which are similar to ours are easy to read because like our languages, they follow the same rule whereby the consonants are followed by vowels, while the sotho language may be difficult to read because you may find about 3 vowels following each other in a word.

  8. Alikisi

    August 4, 2010 at 20:30

    I’m from uganda but my work often takes me to Swaziland. I’m always intrigued by the Tswana title for the Queen Mother: “Ndlovu Nkulu” whose Luganda equivalent is “Enjovu Enkulu” or elder elephant.

    • Kamogelo Mokhine

      May 30, 2017 at 13:44

      Hi Alikisi. ‘Ndlovu Nkulu’ is not a seTswana term. Ipresume you meant to write siSwati here instead of Tswana? Because the term is commonly used in the Nguni langaguges (i.e. isiZulu, isiXhosa and isiSwati).

  9. Twino Speaks

    August 5, 2010 at 01:06

    Thank you Gertrude. You have greatly enriched our knowledge of these languages with these new additions.. We are surely learning a lot. You also seem to be well versed with South African languages.

    Thank you too Drew for that splitting analysis and Alikisi for the Swazi connection – you omitted the reed dance.

  10. Alikisi

    August 5, 2010 at 20:38

    Folks, I just realized I made a mistake: the Swazi Queen Mother goes by “Ndlovukazi” (she elephant), again very similar to most northern Bantu languages.

  11. Kweronda

    August 10, 2010 at 16:53

    One day I visited Zambia as a government guest and while there we were taken to visit a co-operative society on the road to Livingstone. Out hosts who happened to be Nyanjas by tibe entertained us with some songs. one of the songs had a phrase which was “Tulime ebyokulya”. In Luganda this means let us grow food crops. By the way history has it that the Bembas of Zambia at one time inhabited Mukono in Uganda. Even their build is like that of Baganda. How about that?

  12. Twino Speaks

    August 11, 2010 at 10:27

    Thank you Ambassador Ruhemba for the new addition. The great discovery continues.

  13. moses nyondo

    August 16, 2010 at 13:52

    m a muganda living deep in free state among the basotho community. i have been lucky to tour almost every country in southern Africa. i have done moderate research to ascertain the similarities among bantu speaking languages. to my amazement languages like kibemba and chechewa of zambia, yao and chechewa from malawi, shona from zimbabwe, siswana from botswana, herero of namibia and all southern african language are similar to luganda in wording, meaning and at times in pronunciation. an example of the tshivenda = abantu abangi, okuyimba, okuseka, okulira, and so many other words. we refer to our king as “omutanda” but in isizulu tanda =love or adored, ngi = i in zulu but a muganda when called he must answer ngi or nze. compare “bakubisa” and bakuyita, what about inkala in sotho, injala in zulu,injaala in shona aand enjala= hunger. last look at this nyundo in shona, nyondo in chechewa and nyondo= hummer. there is alot and some of us in communicating with these people at times i use luganda they correct me as they think am just trying to learn but my pronunciation is poor. research more u will be surprised.
    our ancestors descended from a beautiful mountain,
    diverged in foot prints.
    compare the body parts
    zulu[xhosa] sotho [sipedi, tswana] venda luganda lusoga shona chechewa
    letha tlisa leta leta leta
    lulimi lulimi lulimi lurimi lurimi
    amasho amahlo[ pronounced= amaso amaso amaso
    ingalo omukono omukono
    minwana menwanwa engalo
    inwere moriri enviri
    baningi bangatha bangi bangi
    molomo molomo mumwa or mudomo
    amarama amatama
    enkhotho enkoto
    izolo jjo izulo
    marawo [marakho] matako
    inzuu inkhu enju

  14. Julius Kasigwa

    October 8, 2010 at 19:33

    Well me too (from Bunyoro the furthest Bantu speaking group as one moves towards the North of Uganda) I have found comfort in BLACK South Africa languages during my stay, and just a month stay, am able to follow topic of conservation, only that my friends here have a high pitch and speed of roaring words.

    Am still struggling to stitch which language is which but not surprisingly I can pick many wavelengths only that my medulla scanner has not yet learnt to sort each one of them. I guess I need more careful carefull listening and more time.

    While studying History in senior two we learnt of the Ngoni or nguni (as they write it here) migration and the kingdom in South Africa esp. that of Shaka Zulu. Its only today that I came to ripe big social friendship benefits with some colleagues here and to appreciate the importance of having studied that part of history while in secondary school.

    This morning I was working with some venda and Twsana speaking staff here at Pretoria Zoo – we were working in the animal hospital and feeding some wild African dogs. So I told one local staff, “give enkoko’, (they write is as e nkhu khu for chicken) and they all went in silent shock.

    So I told them that ‘I am also one of you’ only that my great grandfathers had walked furthest Northwards and had come to settle in a place that later came to be baptized Uganda. I told them that the borders were artificially made by colonialists and reminded them that in Kenya the Maasai people (for whom I have special respect) do not really honor those borders when fending for their cattle as their livelihood.
    So, I lectured to them that we are the ngoni like-group or speakers that were not lazy, (b’cos) we moved/migrated up and up and settled far north just below the Albert nile or river Nile. (Some guys did not know where river Nile is – shocking)

    I was hitting them politely in reminder of an earlier encounter while with another Tswana speaking staff (but dressed in Nigerian attire) at a blood donation exercise, where a black medical nurse had referred to us as ‘kwele kwele’ (to mean foreigners) in Twsana saying she could not accept kwele kweles to donate blood. Accordingly one unit of blood could not be donated to a needy sick patient somewhere, simply because i was the one and only one kwele kwele. I was left wondering if my blood could not really transact metabolic business such as oxygen carriage in a South African citizen. (but there were also white SA staff donating blood)

    My Nigerian dressed Tswana (Mr N.) who on the contrary loves Africa without borders was beaten here 6:0. He mentioned something which my curriculum designer in Uganda had enabled me to get some 20 years ago, he said South Africans need to learn the History of Africa in their Education not Europe only
    [Immediately I remembered Mwali Julius Nyerere (RIP) during the Frontline states struggle for SA independence and pressure on the apartheid regime], it was the kwele kweles that impacted in unison to arm, educate, train, house and support Nkoto wa suize and caused the collapse of Apartheid governance in SA].

    Mr. N. shaking is head with his walking stick, was very right but un impressed. A day before I had also watched a TV footage on SABC where viewers were complaining as to why a certain SA government official in Joburg was wasting resources to register migrant Zimbabweans (fellow black Africans (also seen as kwele kweles) yet – on the contrary these are closer to the native black SA people – who share similar language/ or call it vocabulary than us the far North kwele kweles).

    To me what Surprises is not that there is a similar vocabulary among the African people especially the Bantu speaker in view of the history of ngoni migration. What shocks me is the naivety and tendency to forget, and to discriminate amongst our selves. The thunderstorm that our people down here seem very naive about fellow Africa brotherhood and the rabid xenophobia as seen in the past means a volcano can erupt in the future.
    It is possible there is need for surgery to be done in their education curriculum. Rt. Rev. Bishop Desmond Tutu as he retires needs to start another campaign, to educate pan African brotherhood, a tortuous cliff than fighting apartheid. We also seem to have forgotten the brutal history so quickly, or a ‘discrimination gene’ is being passed on among SOME of the black SA people quickly, like a bush fire.

    • sizwe

      November 7, 2012 at 16:53

      wow brother what more can i say you hit the nail on the head we are very ignorant when it comes to our African fellows as if they from another continent whilst we show so much love for Europeans and Americans we need to stop it my fellow south Africans, we are not different from anyone yet we think we are so special that is not true,if i had enough on my pocket i would travel all the African states

  15. Ame

    October 10, 2010 at 21:25

    Hello fellow africans! I just stumbled upon ur topic on the connections of languages i would like to add more to your already eye opening info firstly i am a Motswana from Botswana here we are refered to as the northern Sotho-Tswana speakers the language is similar to southern Sotho-Tswana (spoken in areas of SA & the country of Lesotho which lends its name to Sotho, the north & eastern areas of Namibia & in smaller numbers in of the other neighbouring countries). As for similarities in words you all may know ‘Hakuna Mathatha’ (There is no problem in one of the Kenyan languages) in Tswana its ‘Hagona Mathatha’ not surprisingly we(including you!) are refered to as the Bantu speaking people. These Bantu people as per history books originate from the Cameroon highlands ( i don’t know how true that is) then went eastwards across to East Africa then south wards to the southern tip of Africa spliting into groups along the way & have lived in the present day countries you know . Other than Bantu peoples Africa is said to be made up of 3 other groups, the Kordofan,Nilo-kordofan, & San. indeed our African history is great & worth researching We need to know who we are & how we relate!

  16. Stephen Kaduuli

    November 21, 2010 at 00:17

    Bantu Linguistic Connexions
    There are many cultural and linguistic similarities among the Bantu people of Africa to which scant attention is paid. In this mini piece, I explore a few linguistic similarities between the Ndebele, Xhosa and the Zulu of Southern Africa and the Lusoga speaking Basoga from the Busoga region of Uganda in East Africa.
    In Xhosa and in Lusoga, the word lila means cry. To play is ukudlala in Xhosa and okuzaana in Lusoga. Ukubona is to see in Xhosa which rhymes with okubona in Lusoga. Umntwana (plural: abantwana)is a child in Xhosa and omwana (plural: abaana)in Lusoga. So when a child plays, it is umntwana uyadlala and omwana azaana. Indoda (plural: amadoda)refers to a man in Xhosa who is called Omusadha (plural: abasadha)in Lusoga. So to say that the man sees the child, it is indoda iyambona umntwana in Xhosa and omusadha abona omwana. Notice the similarity between iyambona and abona. In Xhosa, Zonke zinto ezilungile zivela kuThixo means all good things come from God which in Lusoga is, ebintu ebirungi byona byona biva wa Mukama (Katonda or Kibumba). In Ndebele, Xhosa and Zulu, ingalo means arm or forearm whereas in Lusoga engalo means fingers or the hand.

    • Maceni Mungoma

      December 2, 2010 at 20:16

      What is shocking me the most is the expression of suprise about the similarity of Bantu languages.Shows you the extent to which we Africans have internalised our colonial identities.

  17. Robert Edward Johnson

    November 30, 2010 at 20:53

    I stumbled onto your page via google looking up words that were in a newspaper a woman was reading on the airplane from DFW to ATL last night. Looking at her, I’d guessed Tutsi, but discovered here the language was probably Runyankole, but since that’s from Western Uganda which borders Rwanda, I guess I wasn’t too far off. I thought I’d mention that the word Bantu ITSELF is shared by the languages in the linguistic group Bantu, and means “cow” or “cattle.”

  18. Zulu, swazi speaker

    December 31, 2010 at 15:26

    Zulu and swazi are almost identical accept for substitutions of letters like z to t, p to b, t to dz ect.

    English – zulu – swahili

    Chicken – Nkukhu – kuku
    Father – Baba – baba
    You – Wena – wewe
    Him/her – Yena – yeye
    Sister – Dade(wethu) – dada
    Sleep – Lala – lala
    Mother – Mama – mama
    And, with – Na – na
    White man – Mlungu – mzungu
    Yours – Yakho – yako
    Their yours – Zakho – zako
    I – Ngi – ni
    Night – Ubusuku – usiku
    Arrive – fika – fika
    To – Ku – ku
    Bring – Letha – leta
    To die – Kufa – kufa
    To eat – Kudla – kula
    Chest – Sifuba – kifuwa
    To be – Kuba – kuwa
    To have – Kuba na – kuwa na
    Farm, Cultivate – Lima – lima
    Person – Muntu – mtu
    Trees – Mithi – miti
    Blanket – Ngubo – nguo
    Face – Bhuso – uso
    Child – Mtwana – mwana
    Student – Mfundi – mwanafunzi
    Yours – Wakho – wako
    His/hers – Kwakhe – wake
    Ours – Kwethu – wetu
    Yours – Kwenu – wenu
    Theirs – Kwabo – wao
    Theres no … – Akuna – hakuna
    Me – Mina – mimi
    You guys – Nina – ninyi
    Parent – Mzali – mzazi
    Arm – Mkhono – mikono
    Door – Mnyango – milango
    Years – Umnyaka – imiaka
    Yours (pl) – Yenu – yenu
    Ours – Yethu – yetu
    Mine – Yami – yangu
    Theirs – Yabo – yao
    Yours – Wakho – wako
    Its – kwayo – wao
    His/hers – Wakhe – wake
    Ours – Wethu – wethu
    Stink, smell – Nuka – nuka
    Oil, fat – Mafutha – mafuta
    Water – Manzi – maji
    Intestines – Mathumbu -matombo
    Snake – Nyoka – nyoka
    You have – Una – una
    It has – Lina – lina
    They have – Zina – zina
    Meat – Nyama – nyama
    Rain – Mvula – mvua
    Mosquito – Mbuzlwane – mbu
    Goat – Mbuzi – mbuzi
    Pepper – Pelepele – pilipili
    2 – Bili – bili
    3 – Thatu – tatu
    4 – Gune – nne
    5 – Hlanu – tanu
    10 – Shumi – kumi
    Pig – Ngulube – nguruwe
    Elephant – Ndlovu – ndovu
    Buffelo – Nyathi – nyati

    • Tompson

      August 27, 2016 at 19:08

      I think Swahili is more like the shona langauge from Zimbabwe. Almost the words in Swahili general mean the same in Shona.

    • merro

      January 15, 2017 at 15:52

      these words, especially the swahili ones have the same meaning and sound as shona ones, even the spelling. I have also found similarities with some Lingala words. In my family lineage one of my ancestors was called Makumbi a name i later found to be prevalent in Uganda(Although i don’t know if it has the same meaning).

      English – zulu – swahili -shona

      Chicken – Nkukhu – kuku – huku
      Father – Baba – baba – baba
      You – Wena – wewe – iwe
      Him/her – Yena – yeye – iye
      Sister – Dade(wethu) – dada -hanzvadzi sikana
      Sleep – Lala – lala – rara
      Mother – Mama – mama – mai
      And, with – Na – na -ne
      White man – Mlungu – mzungu – murungu/mukiwa
      Yours – Yakho – yako – yako
      Their yours – Zakho – zako – zvavo
      I – Ngi – ni – ini
      Night – Ubusuku – usiku – usiku
      Arrive – fika – fika – svika
      To – Ku – ku – ku
      Bring – Letha – leta – unza
      To die – Kufa – kufa – kufa
      To eat – Kudla – kula – kudya
      Chest – Sifuba – kifuwa – chipfuwa
      To be – Kuba – kuwa – kuva
      To have – Kuba na – kuwa na – kuva ne
      Farm, Cultivate – Lima – lima – rima
      Person – Muntu – mtu – munhu
      Trees – Mithi – miti – miti
      Blanket – Ngubo – nguo – gudza
      Face – Bhuso – uso – uso/chiso
      Child – Mtwana – mwana – mwana
      Student – Mfundi – mwanafunzi – mufundi/mudzidzi
      Yours – Wakho – wako -wako/chako
      His/hers – Kwakhe – wake – wake
      Ours – Kwethu – wetu – wedu
      Yours – Kwenu – wenu – wenyu
      Theirs – Kwabo – wao -wavo
      Theres no … – Akuna – hakuna – hakuna
      Me – Mina – mimi – ini
      You guys – Nina – ninyi – imi
      Parent – Mzali – mzazi -muzvari/mubereki
      Arm – Mkhono – mikono – ruoko
      Door – Mnyango – milango – musuwo
      Years – Umnyaka – imiaka – mwaka/makore
      Yours (pl) – Yenu – yenu – yenyu/wenyu
      Ours – Yethu – yetu – yedu/wedu
      Mine – Yami – yangu – yangu/wangu
      Theirs – Yabo – yao – yavo/zvavo
      Yours – Wakho – wako – wako/zvako
      Its – kwayo – wao –
      His/hers – Wakhe – wake -wake
      Ours – Wethu – wethu – wedu
      Stink, smell – Nuka – nuka – nhuwa/nuwa
      Oil, fat – Mafutha – mafuta – mafuta
      Water – Manzi – maji – mvura
      Intestines – Mathumbu -matombo – matumbu
      Snake – Nyoka – nyoka – nyoka
      You have – Una – una – une
      It has – Lina – lina – ine
      They have – Zina – zina – vane
      Meat – Nyama – nyama – nyama
      Rain – Mvula – mvua – mvura
      Mosquito – Mbuzlwane – mbu – umhutu
      Goat – Mbuzi – mbuzi – mbudzi
      Pepper – Pelepele – pilipili – mhiripiri
      2 – Bili – bili – mbiri
      3 – Thatu – tatu -tatu/nhatu
      4 – Gune – nne – ina
      5 – Hlanu – tanu – shanu
      10 – Shumi – kumi – chumi
      Pig – Ngulube – nguruwe – nguruve
      Elephant – Ndlovu – ndovu -nzou
      Buffelo – Nyathi – nyati -nyati
      Cow – – mombe/ng’ombe

      • Daphne

        February 20, 2018 at 09:01


      • Mashudu

        March 9, 2018 at 02:18

        English – zulu – swahili -shona- Venda

        Chicken – Nkukhu – kuku – huku-Khuhu
        Father – Baba – baba – baba-baba
        You – Wena – wewe – iwe-iwe
        Him/her – Yena – yeye – iye-ene
        Sister – Dade(wethu) – dada -hanzvadzi sikana-khaladzi
        Sleep – Lala – lala – rara-lala
        Mother – Mama – mama – mai-mma
        And, with – Na – na -ne-na
        White man – Mlungu – mzungu – murungu/mukiwa-mukhuwa
        Yours – Yakho – yako – yako-yanu
        Their yours – Zakho – zako – zvavo-yanu
        I – Ngi – ni – ini-nne
        Night – Ubusuku – usiku – usiku-vhusiku
        Arrive – fika – fika – svika-swika
        To – Ku – ku – ku-?
        Bring – Letha – leta – unza-disa
        To die – Kufa – kufa – kufa-ufa
        To eat – Kudla – kula – kudya-ula
        Chest – Sifuba – kifuwa – chipfuwa-khana
        To be – Kuba – kuwa – kuva-uvha
        To have – Kuba na – kuwa na – kuva ne-uvha na
        Farm, Cultivate – Lima – lima – rima-lima
        Person – Muntu – mtu – munhu-muthu
        Trees – Mithi – miti – miti-miri
        Blanket – Ngubo – nguo – gudza-nguvho (ngubo)
        Face – Bhuso – uso – uso/chiso-khofheni
        Child – Mtwana – mwana – mwana-nwana
        Student – Mfundi – mwanafunzi – mufundi/mudzidzi-mugudi
        Yours – Wakho – wako -wako/chako-wanu
        His/hers – Kwakhe – wake – wake-tshawe (chawe)
        Ours – Kwethu – wetu – wedu-zwashu
        Yours – Kwenu – wenu – wenyu-tshanu (chanu)
        Theirs – Kwabo – wao -wavo-zwavho (zwabo)
        Theres no … – Akuna – hakuna – hakuna-ahuna
        Me – Mina – mimi – ini-nne
        You guys – Nina – ninyi – imi-vhoinwi (boinwi)
        Parent – Mzali – mzazi -muzvari/mubereki-vhabebi (babebi)
        Arm – Mkhono – mikono – ruoko- tshanda (chanda)
        Door – Mnyango – milango – musuwo-munango
        Years – Umnyaka – imiaka – mwaka/makore-minwaha
        Yours (pl) – Yenu – yenu – yenyu/wenyu-yanu
        Ours – Yethu – yetu – yedu/wedu-yashu
        Mine – Yami – yangu – yangu/wangu-yanga
        Theirs – Yabo – yao – yavo/zvavo-yavho (yabo)
        Yours – Wakho – wako – wako/zvako-yanu
        Its – kwayo – wao –ndiya
        His/hers – Wakhe – wake -wake-yawe
        Ours – Wethu – wethu – wedu-yashu
        Stink, smell – Nuka – nuka – nhuwa/nuwa-nukha
        Oil, fat – Mafutha – mafuta – mafuta-mapfura
        Water – Manzi – maji – mvura-madi
        Intestines – Mathumbu -matombo – matumbu-mala
        Snake – Nyoka – nyoka – nyoka-nowa
        You have – Una – una – nina
        It has – Lina – lina – ine-ina
        They have – Zina – zina – vane-vhana (bana)
        Meat – Nyama – nyama – nyama- nama
        Rain – Mvula – mvua – mvura-mvula
        Mosquito – Mbuzlwane – mbu – umhutu-lunyunyu
        Goat – Mbuzi – mbuzi – mbudzi-mbudzi
        Pepper – Pelepele – pilipili – mhiripiri-phiriphiri
        2 – Bili – bili – mbiri-mbili
        3 – Thatu – tatu -tatu/nhatu-raru
        4 – Gune – nne – ina-ina
        5 – Hlanu – tanu – shanu-thanu
        10 – Shumi – kumi – chumi-fumi
        Pig – Ngulube – nguruwe – nguruve-nguluvhe (ngulube)
        Elephant – Ndlovu – ndovu -nzou-ndou
        Buffelo – Nyathi – nyati -nyati-nari
        Cow – – mombe/ng’ombe-kholomo

  19. Zulu, swazi speaker

    December 31, 2010 at 15:37

    All the south african languages have lots of similarities. Sothos, tswanes and pedis can understand each other, zulus, swazis, xhosas, ndebeles can understand each other. A zulu can make out alot of Tsonga, a sotho can make out alot of venda.

  20. Mundu Umwe

    January 23, 2011 at 01:59

    Dear friends, the similarity here goes well beyond SA as most Bantu inland tribes Kenya and even Tanzania and the Coastal Minji Kenda of Kenya share very similar words.

    Swahili Kikuyu
    Mtu Mundu
    Ndhovu Njogu
    Waji Mae
    Moto Mwaki
    Kumi Ikumi
    Mbuzi Mburi
    Tatu Ithatu
    Yetu Shiitu (ours)
    Zao Shiao (theirs)
    Mwaka Mwaka

    ad on and on

    see I dont even have to give the English words you can all follow

  21. Msizi

    March 28, 2011 at 13:26

    I have always been fascinated by the similarities in languages and culture between all South African tribes. There are in actual fact only four South African languages which is 1. the Nguni langauges (isiZulu isiXhosa, isiNdebele, and SiSwati.Then you have 2. the Sotho languages (South SeSotho, Setswana and Northern Sotho, 3. Tshivenda and XiTsonga( often referred to as Shangaan). I got even more fascinated by this when I realised that the Zulu people often refer themselves as Nina Bas” Embo which means “you (people) from Embo”. I am now currently researtching about a documentary film on the history of the Nguni people from the Great Lakes to Southern African. I am also interested in the similarities between South African languages and those in Central and West Africa. Does anyone know of any similarities, especially between South African languages and Swahili?

    • George

      October 17, 2017 at 21:11

      Hi Msizi, I have done a General linguistic course at varsity which opened my eyes to the fact that Swahili is the mother language for all the Bantu people hence almost all African Bantu languages including isiZulu have a Swahili influence. I am of Tsonga origin myself, but to enlighten you, Yes, Tsonga are often referred to Shangaans, however this is not correct. Shangaans form part of the VaTsonga community, others include Vacopi, Vatshwa/VaHlengwe,etc, many of whom have their origin Mozambique. It would be nice to see the results of your reseach and good luck mfowethu.

  22. Rob Wissing

    November 4, 2011 at 05:09

    As an old South African mzungu/lekgowa/umlungu etc (hehehe!! I heard one theory that it derives from white sea creatures), I have long been exposed to this great language family. As a teacher and traveller and felllow African, I thought I would share my experiences with you. One of the problems South Africans, especially black South Africans have with the word BANTU was that it was politically misused by the apartheid regime to designate RACIALLY segregated people by ‘colour’. They get angry even when they hear the word, although originally the word was coined and still means “PEOPLE” and simply describes a family of languages spoken across Africa. Yet now with the shameful xenophobia against other black Africans that is a cancer in the ‘new ‘ South Africabalck South Africans are guity oif the same thing! Let us ALL see our common origins and celebrate our diversity at the same time. Many South Africans are ignorant and dismissive of other Africans and their history and this shames me and should shame them. As a child I spoke Luvenda and later studied Zulu and Northern Sotho and very quickly saw the relationship. It all boils down to having a positive attitude and an open mind.

    It shouldn’t surprise anyone that ALL languages are more or less mixtures based on one original recipe. Nguni speakers in South Africa (Zulu, Swati, Ndebele and Xhosa) speak Bantu languages, yes, but their languages contain huge numbers of click sounds and words which are not Bantu in origin. These derive from intermarriage and long contact between the indigenous San (Batwa or Bushmen) and Khoi (so-called Hottentots) who were already in Southern Africa BEFORE the gradual arrival of the Bantu-speakers from the north some 1500 years ago. For example, in the Nguni and Sotho languages, although ‘dog’ and ‘chicken’ and ‘goat’ and ‘iron’ are old ‘Bantu’ words, the words for ‘sheep’ and ‘cattle’ are NOT. They, like the Xhosa word for God, Thixo, are Khoi in origin. Many black South Africans sneer at this because of their older negative attitudes to these older inhabitants, but it is true. The Herero of Namibia, although sharing many ancient cultural similarities like the cattle culture with say the Zulu and the Ganda of Uganda, have NO clicks. The inredible parallels between these three languages alone from such widely distant parts of Africa is proof of how quickly people moved and got separated, thius developing their own languages over the centuries when their ancestors would have spoken one basic language.

    We could go on and on, but let’s keep the ball rolling and educate our brothers and sisters about pejudice racial, linguistic, whatever.

  23. Miguel

    January 22, 2013 at 00:32

    I am a Mozambican. Once I was conducting a Bible study with an old Mozambican man using a Tsonga (Shangaan) book. I was with a newly arrived friend from Rwanda. I gave him the same Tsonga book we were using, so that he would follow us in the reading. Surprisingly my Rwandan friend discovered that there were a lot of Tsonga (Shangaan) words similar to his Kirwanda language- his language. And even now everyday, when he hears people speaking in the market and other places he slowly comes to see that there are a lot of similarities between Tsonga and Kirwanda. But if you see the distance from Rwanda to Mozambique south where Tsonga is spoken it is really a very long way. What amazed him is that when he was coming down south to Maputo (south in Mozambique) he had to pass through Northern Mozambique Provinces and he heard the Northern languages, for example Makua, from which he could not pick a word – but here down south in the Tsonga region he would find so many similarities with his Kirwandan language.

    Years ago I was reading an “Awake” Magazine and I was surprised to see the first words in the article I was reading: “NAKUFOOO!” (I’m dying!). It was a cry from a child in NIGERIA being bathed by his mother. “NAKUFOOO!” is a cry that can be understood by any Tsonga (Shangaan, Ronga, Tswa) speaker. In Tsonga “to die = KU FA”. “I am dying = “NA FA (NDZA FA). Someone crying would say: “NAFOOO!” in Tsonga. From NIGERIA to south Mozambique it is a very long way indeed – but see this similarity!

    No surprise, we are banthu spread all over Sub-Suharian Africa.

    Miguel in Mozambique – Tsonga (Ronga-Shangaan) speaker.

    • Madlome Khesani

      June 16, 2016 at 10:01

      Miguel Obrigado ndza khensa ku twa leswi. i am also Tsonga from Zimbabwe. i will be happy to have a short list of similarities between Kirwanda /kinyarwanda and Xitsonga langauges. i like comparative linguistics so much. mina ndzi Cawuke( Muhlengwe)

      • George

        October 17, 2017 at 21:38

        Ahee Mhlengwe, I am also MuTsonga in South Africa Limpop Province, ndzi Muhlengwe na mina

    • Daphne

      February 20, 2018 at 09:00

      Nakufa is also Swahili for “I am dying”!

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  25. Achi

    February 11, 2014 at 22:47

    Hi Bantu peole. I’m Maragoli from Kenya and we share almost all words: Ndlovu=Enzogu, House: Inyumba or Inzu, people=vandu, snake=inzoka, person=mundu, i love you=ndakuyanza. We had some missionaries at our church from Zimbabwe and they were surprised at how much similar Swahili and Shona is

    • Miguel

      February 12, 2014 at 09:46

      NDLOVU =ndlopfu (Mozambique in ronga, tsonga…)
      INYUMBA = nyumba (Mozambique in bitonga, chope…)
      INZU = yindlu (Mozambique in ronga, tsonga…)
      MUNDU = munhu (Mozambique in ronga, tsonga..)
      VANDU = vanhu (Mozambique ronga, tsonga..)
      NDAKUYANZA = ndza ku randza or na ku randza (Mozambique in ronga, tsonga…)
      INZOKA – nyoka (Mozambique in ronga, tsonga….)

  26. Pekwa

    November 15, 2016 at 14:49

    We are all Bantu people. Let me give you a few words in three Zambian languages of the order Lozi, Nyanja and Bemba. Water- mezi, manzi, amenshi Fire- mulilo, mulilo, umulilo Eyes- meeto, menso, amenso Person- mutu, muntu, umuntu White person- mukuwa, muzungu, umusungu Chicken- kuhu, nkukhu, inkuku You- wena, iwe, iwe Night- busihu, usiku, ubushiku Eat- kuca, kudya, ukulya Child- mwanana, mwana, umwana Ours- yaluma, yatu, yesu Oil/fat- mafula, mafuta, mamafuta Meat- nama, nyama, inyama. Those are just three of the ten major languages and 73 dialects of Zambia. That is why you can Zambians speaking more than three languages on top of english. Interestingly some languages dont have one or more of the following sounds: r, s, th, z, hard b, v, r, q, x

    • Mashudu

      March 9, 2018 at 02:29

      I should say i have found close similarities with one of your 3 languages with Tshivenda.

      White person-Mukhuwa
      Night-vhusiku (busiku)

  27. Mashilo Magongoa

    November 20, 2016 at 18:04

    My People! You’ve just touched on a topic I enjoy most. My Situation is a bit complicated. I am a Northern (South African) Ndebele, but my mother tongue is Sepedi part of the Sotho Group! I used to be quite excited when I heard a language called Lozi/Rozwi/Rotse, I could understand everything, despite the fact that they speak funny! But then due to neighbouring tribes we assimilate certain words, for example Sepedi has more words in common with Chivenda. While Sesotho has picked up more words from Zulu and Xhosa. And then it gets even more exciting when you hear that there’s a language called Angoni somewhere in Zambia, that is mutually intelligible to the Nguni Languages of South Africa. And now remember that I said I was Northern Ndebele, a language that is almost dead. This language is in the Northern Part of South African, but has so many similarities with isiXhosa from the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. But then what is even more interesting is the use of ti- instead of izi-, which then brings it closer to Swazi, which is even closer to Zulu. Then there’s an almost extinct language in Lesotho (Where we were made to believe only Sesotho is being Spoken) called Sephuti. And finally, there’s a language called Swahili, which also has many words similar to some of the Nguni Languages in South Africa. I got quite excited when I heard someone say “pfuma apa” that sounded like isiXhosa’s “phuma apha” which means “get out of here”. Maybe then there’s some truth to the hypothesis that we are all from the lakes up North and we made our way down South!

  28. Daphne

    February 20, 2018 at 08:55

    Fantastic Twino! This interests me very much and i has that kind of experience in Tanzania when I met Bahaya of Northern Tanzania and it was as if they spoke Rutoro! The Kisii of Western Kenya also speak like Batooro and other Westerners and eat the same food.

    I was planning to start learning Zulu assuming it is easier because it comprises common Bantu verbs and nouns. Venda is actually closer to all the languages of Western Uganda.

    I want to share this on WhatsApp but not tech savvy.

    • Twino Speaks

      February 22, 2018 at 08:51

      Thanks Daphine for the input. You can copy the link and share.

    • Mashudu

      March 9, 2018 at 02:37

      I would love to know more about Uganda languages since im a Venda. I want to learn the similarities since im busy doing a research about the link between Vhavenda and Uganda because im suspecting that they might have one origin. What i know is that Bantus are the true Israelites from the 12 tribes of Jacob and the Bantu migration or expansion was part of prophecy in Deuteronomy 28.

      My Facebook page is Mashudu Yosefa and WhatsApp number is +27820873752. We can exchange a lot of information and connect since the prophecy said so in Ezekiel 37 and Isaiah 14

  29. Ndwandwe

    March 30, 2018 at 21:30

    My take is that firstly people move around and need to trade and communicate. We also know very well of the migrations that happened. The Tsonga and Hlubi migrated south from Kenya area around 1000 and 1400 respectively. The Nguni migrated North all the way up to Uganda after King Zwide’s defeat. The similarities are therefore bound to exist.

  30. sam

    April 3, 2018 at 02:14

    maybe we used to live together one time coz its still the same similarities with kikuyu ,kamba, meru, chagga, maragoli western kenya,.its just mind blowing that bantu almost speak the same language


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