Pronunciation Guide to Sesotho Texts

This guide is not a definitive document but a ‘rough guide’ to a language that has tricky pronunciation issues and is known to few people outside southern Africa. Sesotho home- language speakers themselves do not always agree about spelling or pronunciation, and there are limitations when it comes to singing rather than speaking any language. Bearing this in mind, the following pronunciations of vowels, diphthongs, and consonants are offered in the spirit of helping choirs pronounce what they sing. Comments that help to improve this Guide are welcome via the Contact page on, and corrections to it can easily be made online. Sesotho vowels and consonants are shown on the left; Sesotho examples from the song texts are given in brackets; the International Phonetic Alphabet symbol is shown in the middle; and the sound in an English equivalent (or occasionally other language) or a comment, is given on the right.

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Sesotho Phonetic AlphabetEquivalent sound
aba, ha, tsatsi=aas in French ‘lac’
aalekaagang, thepaa=a:as in ‘last’ or ‘father’
aehae, kae=as in ‘fight’ or ‘lie down’
aimaila, tailoe=as in ‘play’ or ‘may’
aoao, kaofela=as in ‘ah-oh’
auTaung, Mangaung=as in ‘now’ or ‘cow’
bba, Basotho=ɓas in ‘but’
b’eabbreviation=ɓɛas in b-é
chsechaba, chao=t͡ʃas in ‘chair’ or ‘church’
dSesotho ‘l’ – see below=das in ‘do’
ere, hole=ɛas in ‘bed’ or ‘yet’
eaea, moea=ʝɐas in ‘ya’, almost ‘iya
eetjee, lefeela=ɛəas in ‘there’ or ‘where’
eiei, seilatsatsi=ɛɪas in ‘play’ (ay-ee)
eoeo, eona=ɛɒas in ‘Eyore’ (ee-o)
euqeu=ɛuas in ‘euphemism’ (ee-oo’)
fAfrika, kaofela=fas in ‘fool’ or ‘fetch’
gGauteng, Mangaung=ɤas in Dutch ‘gaan’
hha, hare=ɦas in ‘ham’ or ‘happy’
har’ahar[e] a’ elided=ɦa-ɻ-a
hlhle, hlaha=ʎas in Welsh ‘ll
iliba, Morija=ɪas in ‘city’
ielie, tsietsi=ɪɛas in ‘he ends’ (ee-ai)
iipii, tiisa=ɪɪas in ‘hit it’ (i-i)
iuliu, Bosiu=ɪu:as in ‘phew!’ (ee-u)
jje, joale=d͡ʒas in ‘joy’ or ‘jump’
kkae, thaka=kalmost a hard ‘g’
khkhomo, khotso=ɤas in Dutch ‘gaan’ (soft ‘g’)
lsala, joale, pelo=las in ‘left’ (‘1’ before a, e, o)
llifela, lumela=das in ‘do’ (‘d’ before i, u)
lllla, sello=ɫas in ‘ill-lit’ ( as in Al-lah, not as in Welsh ‘ll’)
mMorena, Moshoeshoe=ɱas in ‘empathy’
mmmmè, hammoho=ɱɱas in ‘I’m maybe’ (2 ‘ms’)
‘m‘mè, ‘mutlanyana=ɱɱabbreviation of ‘mm’
mmè=ɱɱɛas in ‘I’m maybe’ (2 ‘ms’)
nnong, haneu=ɴas in ‘noun
nc=prenasalised dental clickas in the sound for ‘tut tut’
nch=prenasalised aspirated dental clickas above but aspirated
ngleng, mong, nong=ɳas in ‘in-go’
nknka, nkutloe=nkas in ‘in-k
nnnna, senna=ɴɴas in ‘in-no’
nyanonyana, senyamafi=ɴʝɐas in ‘on-ya
opotla, koto=ɒas in ‘not’ or ‘pot’
ōrōna, thōla=ɔ:as in ‘or’ or ‘sore’
oaoa, majoana=ɒaas in ‘Iowa’”(oh-wa)
oeutloe, Moshoeshoe=ɒɛas in ‘lowest’ (oh-way)
oeuMosoeu=ɒɛ-uas in ‘Soweto’ (oh-ai-oo)
oitsoile, likhoiting=ɔɪas in ‘coil’ (o-i)
ookoo, moo=u:as in ‘soon’
outloukholo=as in ‘now’ (ah-oo)
plipina, potla=pas in ‘papa’
phliphala, phera=phas in ‘purr’ (slightly aspirated)
qqeu, qojoa=palatal tongue click
qhqho, qhooeng=aspirated palatal tongue click
r=ras in ‘red’ or ‘try’
sse, thusa=sas in ‘see’
shshebile, lipshamathe=ʃas in ‘she’
s’os[e] o’ elided=s-ɒalmost as in ‘Seoul’ (e-o)
tteng, litaba=somewhere between ‘d’ and ‘t’
ththeng, thula=thas in ‘top’ (slightly aspirated)
tjtjee, matjato=t͡ʃas in ‘edge’
tš/tstšohang, tšaba-tšaba=as in ‘its ’ (slightly aspirated)
uutloa, thula=uas in ‘good’
uaua, bua=u:aas in ‘two one’ (oo-wa)
uefue, uena=u:ɛas in ‘wet’ (oo-we)
uopuo, lipuo=u:ɒas in ‘too hot’ (oo-o)
uoakuoane, shapuoa=u:wɒas in ‘do what?’ (oo-owa)
vDavida=vas in ‘voice’
wwa=ɒaas in ‘Iowa’”(oh-wa)
yya, moya=ʝɐas in ‘ya’, almost ‘iya
zEben-Ezer=zas in ‘zoo’