Tsonga – Interesting Language and People

Xitsonga or Tsonga is an African language that is spoken by the Tsonga people. Tsonga people are also known as the Shangaans. According to the Tsongas, this is incorrect, as they believe that the Shangaans are those that live in Mozambique and not in South Africa. Most Xitsonga speakers live in Giyani, which is located in the Limpopo Province. Approximately 1,646,000 people in the Limpopo Province are Xitsonga speaking.

Vatsonga have been traced back by historians, to 500 – 1400 AD. They originated from the eastern part of Mozambique in the past two thousand years, long before the arrival of the Portuguese. Furthermore, the Vatsongas can be divided into three sections, according to the geography of their locations. There is the Southern Tsongas, Inland/Central Tsongas and the Northern Tsongas. You can also distinguish the Tsongas by their surnames, as each region has surnames unique to them, which identifies where they originate from.

Tsongas have always formed close knit tribes of descendency to avoid conflict, as this peaceful nation tries to steer clear of battles and war at all cost. The arrival of the Ngoni into Mozambique, brought along with them, unrest and wars, and therefore, the Tsonga people decided to move to South Africa.

Family values and the guidance of their children is very important to the Tsonga. They firmly believe in passing down the structures and good behavior that was passed down to them by their ancestors. Tsonga people often use stories of taboos to instill discipline in their children, by reminding them that if they do certain things misfortune will befall them.

Together with being a peace loving culture, the Tsonga are wise people, with proverbs of their own. A few animal proverbs, that we could learn from:

He caught the buffalo by it’s horns. – He is in serious trouble.
The elephant was killed by the ant. – The important thing is not the size, but the strength.
An elephant does not die of one broken rib. – A strong man does not loose heart because of a single misfortune.

If there is anything we should take away with us, to learn from the Tsongas, is that peace, love and family should be incorporated into our values.

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