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Xhosa translation

Xhosa to English & English to Xhosa Translation

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The Xhosa language


The Xhosa language is recognised as an official language of South Africa and a minority language of Lesotho. Approximately 8 million people speak it, and it is correctly referred to as isiXhos.

Origins and History:

  • Xhosa is classified as a Bantu language and traces its roots back to the early Bantu speakers who settled in southern Africa around 1000 CE. Over time, Xhosa evolved into its own distinct language, absorbing influences from the Khoisan people and, later, European colonisers.
  • The language is rich in ‘click’ consonants, a feature Xhosa shares with other languages of the Bantu family, which it inherited from interactions with the Khoisan-speaking populations. These click sounds are distinctive and are symbolised by the letters C, Q and X in the written language.

Number of Speakers and Where it is an Official Language Status:

  • As of 2023, Xhosa is spoken by over 8 million people, making it one of the most commonly spoken languages in South Africa.
  • It is an official language of South Africa, one of the eleven official languages recognised by the South African constitution.


  • Xhosa is predominantly used in South Africa’s Eastern and Western Cape provinces. In these regions, it’s used in everyday conversation, media, education, and various government and business proceedings.
  • Xhosa is taught in schools in South Africa, especially in areas where Xhosa is the dominant language. It’s also available as a course in several universities globally.
  • In the digital sphere, efforts are underway to integrate Xhosa into language learning apps and machine learning models to aid translation and transcription services.

English Words Used in Xhosa:

  • Due to the influence of English, certain English words have been incorporated into Xhosa. These often relate to modern technology or institutions, for example: Ikompyutha’ (Computer) and Isikolo’ (School)

Here’s an example of a Xhosa text: 

“Enkosi kakhulu” translates to “Thank you very much” in English.

Xhosa Words Absorbed into English:

Some Xhosa words have found their way into English, mainly in South Africa, although a few have gained international recognition:

  • ‘Ubuntu’: a philosophy that encapsulates the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. It’s been widely discussed, particularly in the context of South African society and reconciliation.
  • ‘Indaba’: a conference or consultation used in South Africa in the context of a meeting or a conference.


Xhosa and Zulu speakers can generally understand each other when speaking in their mother tongues. 


Although not the most widely spoken language of South Africa, Xhosa speakers are among the most widely distributed. Like many languages, Xhosa has taken some words from English. Xhosa speakers also use Afrikaans words.


Xhosa is a rich, vibrant language with a long history and an integral role in South African society. Its distinctive clicks and unique vocabulary make it an intriguing subject for linguists and language learners.

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Our translation services - FAQ

Do you use native translators?

Yes, always. All our translators are native speakers and most are still resident in their native country. We pride ourselves on ensuring that all Brightlines’ translators are native. We do not accept applications from non-native candidates or allow them to register on our online recruitment database. All our translators are rigorously tested.

How long will the translations take?

The turnaround for the translation will depend on the word count. As a rough guide, assume that the translators can comfortably process about 2500 words of non-specialised text per day. Proofreading can effectively be completed on a basis of 4000-6000 words a day. Our minimum turnaround time is usually about three days, although it is possible to shorten this if you are in a rush for the final files and we will always be happy to discuss this with you.

What is the variation in your translators’ experience and qualifications? Are they native speakers? Will the cost increase if we use a more experienced translator?

All our translators have to go through a series of tests to make sure they are as good as they say they are, and only if they pass are they allowed to work for Brightlines. There is quite a range of experience and qualifications, but all translators have a minimum of five years’ experience. All translators translate into their mother-tongue without exception and are generally based in-country so they are up-to-date with the local language. We match translators with projects/clients depending on the subject matter, and most of our translators have industry experience in their speciality – there is no better experience than being immersed professionally in the industry they specialise in. Our costs are based on translator experience, speciality (i.e. medical, creative, scientific) and the language choice.

Which languages can you translate into?

We have an extensive database with hundreds of trusted and tested translators covering all commercial languages. If you cannot see the language or dialect you need please ask.

I don’t know the word count; can you base the quote on the number of pages?

Our pricing structure is based on a rate-per-word, but we can estimate from a page count. If we can’t see the source document then we would usually estimate between 300 – 500 words a page depending on the density of the text and the presence of photos and images.

Does the translation need to be proofread?

Brightlines is an ISO 9001:2015 certified company. This means that quality is safeguarded. We adhere to the “four-eyes principle” and translations are always checked by a second professional proofreader (who is not the translator). If the translation is for internal use and reference purposes only (i.e. not to be published, distributed or used in a court of law), or you simply don’t wish to have proofreading, we can remove the proofreading stage.

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