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Zulu translation

Zulu to English & English to Zulu Translation

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The Zulu Language

Zulu is one of South Africa’s eleven official languages. It is spoken by around 10 million people worldwide, most of whom reside in South Africa.

Origins and History:

  • Zulu is actually called isiZulu but is known as Zulu in English.
  • Its Historical roots can be traced back to the Bantu-speaking populations that migrated to southern Africa from West Africa around 2000-1000 BC. 
  • The Zulu language is believed to have evolved from the Nguni group of languages, which are part of the more prominent Bantu language family.
  • It developed as a distinct language in the 19th century when the Zulu people emerged as a powerful nation under King Shaka.
  • Shaka Zulu, the legendary Zulu king, played a significant role in standardising and expanding the Zulu language.
  • Over time, the Zulu language has absorbed influences from other languages, including English and Afrikaans. This has given it rich linguistic diversity and flexibility.

Number of Speakers:

  • Zulu is the most widely spoken ‘home’ language in South Africa and, indeed, one of South Africa’s official languages.
  • It is estimated that there are over 12 million native speakers of Zulu, making it one of the most significant languages in the country.
  • Apart from South Africa, Zulu is also spoken by other communities such as; Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.

Official Language Status:

  • Zulu is recognised as one of the eleven official languages of South Africa.
  • It holds the status of being a national language along with English and nine other indigenous languages.
  • There are two main types of Zulu, Standard and Urban. Standard Zulu is taught in schools and is considered a purist language. The more modern Urban Zulu is spoken in cities and by the younger generation.


  • Zulu is used in various contexts in South Africa, from everyday conversation to media and education. Radio and TV broadcasts in Zulu are standard, and many schools teach it, especially in KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Zulu culture is rich in oral traditions, and the language is central to storytelling, praise poetry, and music. The Zulu language also plays an essential role in ceremonies and social gatherings.

Zulo Words In English and English words in Zulu:

  • Some Zulu words have found their way into the English language, primarily through the context of South Africa. A few examples include: “Impala” (a type of antelope), “Indaba” (a conference or gathering) and “Safari” (an expedition or journey commonly associated with wildlife)
  • Similarly, Zulu has absorbed numerous English words; Some examples include: “Kodak” (camera), “Kwik” (quick) and “Tsipi” (chip)

Just like various other South African languages, the Zulu language includes a number of ‘click’ sounds, some of which are difficult for English speakers to master. The Zulu language is written using the Latin alphabet.

In conclusion, the Zulu language is vibrant, deeply entwined with the history and culture of the Zulu people. It plays an integral role in South Africa, shaping the nation’s linguistic landscape and contributing to its diverse cultural heritage.

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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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If you need Zulu translations, get in touch with our team, or get a quick quote.