Xitsonga is also known as Tsonga, Thonga, Tonga, Gwamba, Shangaan or Shangana

The Vatsonga people came to South Africa long after most other African people. They settled in the Limpopo River valley. Xitsonga is spoken in Southern Mozambique, the Limpopo Province of the Republic of South Africa and South Eastern Zimbabwe. 

The name Thonga has its origins in Zulu and the name can be traced back to the early twentieth century. The Shangaan is also sometimes used by some speakers of the language, yet others totally reject it. The name Shangaan can be traced to the Zulu chief Soshangane who subjugated many clans in the nineteenth century, but communities who stem from clans that were never subjugated do not accept this name. Linguistically the languages are similar but culturally there is a difference between the vaTsonga and maShangana people and the xiTsonga and xiShangana languages. On this site the language name used in the South African constitution is used.

There has been some influence from the Nguni language on Xitsonga - especially as a result of Mfecane disturbances from Nguni tribes.

Family: Bantu (or rather Ntu) Language Family
Group: South Eastern Bantu (or rather Ntu)
No Subgroup

VARIETIES: A number of varieties including Xinhlanganu and Xinkuna (Apart from only in South Africa the language is divided into: Ronga, Tonga [i.e. Tsonga-Shangaan] and Tswa)

Around 1 756 105 people in South Africa use it as their home language.



General words & phrases
Example of texts
Academic research
Unesco Language Survey

Internet Links
Batho Portal: Xitsonga - introduction to the culture and people

Munghana Lonene Munghana Lonene FM 
Xitsonga Radio Station


J. Olivier (2009)