Xhosa

Xhosa is an important language in the Southern part of Africa. It is spoken by about eight million people in the Republic of South Africa, a little under a fifth of the total population, where it is one of the official languages. The language is written using the Latin alphabet, in a system devised by missionaries in the early 1800s. It is a member of the Bantu language family, but with a difference. Some of the sounds used to speak the language are click sounds, very roughly like the “tsk, tsk!” exclamation once common in British and American use. It is called a click language. Linguists think Xhosa acquired its system of clicks through long association with the languages of the Khoisan peoples, whose languages feature an elaborate system of clicking sounds. It’s a concept unfamiliar to the Indoeuropean language family (which includes most languages in Europe and India, such as English, Russian and Hindi) but click languages work as well as any other language sound system.

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