In Sesotho, the accent usually rests on the syllable before the last. For example: rata (to like), Morena (chief), tsamaea(to walk), ntoa (war).
-ng at the end of a word is considered a syllable, so the accent in words ending in -ng falls on the syllable preceding it. For example: moreneng (the chief's place), tsamaeang! (walk!),ntoeng (in/to war), lumelang (hello).

  Sesotho Vowels

  • a
  • → / a as in "father" /
  • eg / ho bala, to read /
  • ē
  • → / as in "sin" /
  • eg / sēfate, tree /
  • è
  • → / as in "there" (the mouth is more widely opened than for ē)/
  • eg / ho èma, to stand /
  • i
  • → / as e in "even"/
  • eg / ho tlisa, to bring /
  • ō
  • → / as in "boo" (closed mouth)/
  • eg / bōsiu, night /
  • ò
  • → / as in "ought" (open mouth)/
  • eg / ho bòna, to see /
  • u
  • → / as "cool"/
  • eg / ho bula, to open /

The syllables: oe, oa, ea eo

o before a or e has the same sound as the English w, forming only one syllable with the following vowel. For example, ho oa (pronounced ho wa), which means to fall; o oele (pronounced o wele), which means she/he has fallen.

e before a and o has the same sound as the English y. for example: nku ea ka (pronounced nku ya ka), which means my sheep; eona(yona), it.

  • oe
  • → / we /
  • oa
  • → / wa /
  • ea
  • → / ya /
  • eo
  • → / yo /

Single Consonants

L before i or u is pronounced as a d. (although before a, e and o, l is pronounced as in English.)

  • Hello
  • Lumela
  • → / doo-may-lah / or → / du-may-lah /
  • Trees
  • Lifate
  • → / di-fa-te /

q is a click sound. eg. Lifaqane, (mass movement of people that occurred as Shaka conquered neighboring communities in order to expand his kingdom.)

  • Quthing
  • → / One of Lesotho's districts - List of Lesotho's districts can be found here /
  • Lifaqane
  • → / /
  • q
  • → / click sound /

Double Consonants

  • ny
  • → / eg. like ni in "onion" / See Food
  • ph
  • → / eg. aspirated p, as in "pair" /
  • qh
  • → / eg. aspirated q (click) /
  • th
  • → / eg. apirated t, as in "tell" /
  • tl
  • → / t and l sounded simutaneously /
  • tj
  • → / eg. like English ch /
  • → / eg. aspirated ts /
  • tlh
  • → / eg. aspirated tl /

Double m and n are written mm or nn in the middle of a word and both are sounded. For example: monna (man); hammoho (together). At the beginning of a word, they are written 'm and 'n, but are pronounced mm, and nn. For example: 'm'e (pronounced mme - mother), 'na (pronounced nna - me).

  • mm
  • → / applies for 'm also /
  • nn
  • → / applies for 'n also /

Sesotho Grammar

Lesson 2: Learn Grammar