Discrepancies in Sesotho orthography; challenges in cross border collaborations (South Africa and Lesotho)

Bert van Pinxteren Announcement
South Africa
Subject Fields
African History / Studies, Linguistics, Teaching and Learning

This presentation will highlight challenges emanating from the cross-border project between Lesotho and South African scholars who teach Sesotho language in higher institutions. This project's main objective was to produce Sesotho material that will be used for teaching and learning in higher institutions. There were numerous challenges in this project that emanated from the discrepancies in orthography and lack of standardization and harmonization of certain words/letters/ etc. The lack of standardization and unified orthographies made sharing scholarly publications written in Sesotho from Lesotho and South Africa difficult.  Sesotho is the official language in Lesotho and one of the official languages of South Africa. In the 1960s, SA chose to use a scientifically researched orthography, while Lesotho opted to continue with the one introduced by the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society in their quest to translate the Bible into Sesotho in the 19th century.  Both Sesotho speakers from Lesotho and South Africa understand each other. However, the problem comes when writing. They write Sesotho differently, hence it is difficult for academics from either one of these countries to share their knowledge or at least use each other’s literary works. The study will focus on the review document that was used for this project. Interviews with both academics and students will be shared.  The study proposes reconciliation of two orthographies to be merged to avoid further confusion.


What’s the purpose of language policies? Are they intended for economic development, for political rule, or for productive schooling? Which one comes first; and need things evolve in a specific order? Can a weak economy support adequate schooling? Must all citizens of the same nation-state speak the same language (in all domains of interaction)? Is a nation-state necessarily united demographically by use of one and the same language by all the citizens? Is the Western monolingual model what African States should follow? Is language the only or primary reason why formal education has been failing most pupils and students in Africa? What is the role of population structure in setting up adequate language policies? What is the role of linguistic-typology considerations in designing language policies? I intend to address these questions and more (from the audience) in this lecture.

Contact Information

This webinar takes place on zoom, on Monday 29 May, from 4 to 5:30 pm Amsterdam time (starting time is 10 am New York time). It is part of a webinar series sponsored by the Edinburgh Circle on the Promotion of African Languages. Contact the secretary, Bert van Pinxteren, via the contact email below in case of further questions.

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