Xhosa Language Course

Eden Language Academy offers Xhosa language courses on both basic and intermediate levels.

The Xhosa Language

The Xhosa language is one of the 12 official languages of South Africa. There are two main groups of Bantu languages in South Africa; the Sotho languages and Nguni languages.  Xhosa belongs to the latter, and so does Zulu, Swati and Ndebele.  Xhosa is South Africa’s second most common home language (spoken by 16% of South Africans).  Zulu is the most spoken language (22,7%) and is closely related and mutually intelligible with Xhosa.

Like most Bantu languages Xhosa is a tonal language. This means that the same sequence of consonants and vowels can have different meanings when said with a rising or falling, or, high or low intonation. Xhosa is written using a Latin alphabet. One of the most distinctive features of the language is the prominence of click consonants;  the word “Xhosa” begins with a click. Three letters are used to indicate the basic clicks: c for dental clicks, x for lateral clicks, and q for post-alveolar clicks. Tones are not indicated in the written form.

Xhosa is an agglutinative tonal language and part of the Bantu family of languages. This means that it is a language that uses agglutination extensively: most words are formed by joining morphemes (smallest meaningful unit in a language) together. 

While the Xhosas call their language “isiXhosa”, it is usually referred to as “Xhosa” in English.  Xhosa has some mutual intelligibility with Zulu, especially Zulu spoken in urban areas.  Xhosa and Zulu share 80% of one another’s vocabulary.  Many Xhosa speakers, particularly those living in urban areas, also speak Zulu and/ or Afrikaans and/or English.

There are a variety of Xhosa dialects due to its origins in a large and diversified group with many chiefs and clans.  Like all languages, everyday colloquial Xhosa differs from that found in grammar books.  Similarly, language usage differs not only from region to region, but also from generation to generation. You will encounter these differences when conversing with Xhosa speakers.

Basic Xhosa Course Outline & Learning Outcomes

Module 1: Pronunciation

  • Sounds, syllables and words
  • Clicks, vowels and double vowels
  • Culture and Ethics:
    • The beauty and musicality of tonal languages

Module 2: Conversation        

  • Greetings and courtesies
  • Types of greetings and cultural norms
  • Culture and Ethics:
    • The importance of greetings
    • Greeting protocol when dealing with younger/older persons
    • Forms of address, family structure, good manners and social norms

Module 3: Word formation

  • The locatives “e-” and “kwa-”
  • Place names and addresses
  • Personal pronouns
  • Culture and Ethics:
    • The origin of place names
    • The importance of clans and clan origin

Module 4: Action words

  • Verbs, adverbs and emotions
  • Vocabulary: medical verbs
  • Present tense
  • Infix “ya”
  • The negative
  • Culture and Ethics:
    • Expressing emotion in different cultures

Module 5: Nouns

  • Nouns and their noun classes
  • Singular and plural forms of the noun
  • The 5 senses, words on parts of the body
  • Vocabulary: nouns pertaining to the learner’s working environment
  • Finance vocabulary
  • Articles and literal meanings
  • Culture & Ethics:
    • The history of conflict handling
    • Diplomacy
    • Cultural descriptions of everyday objects

Module 6: Sentences

  • Conjunctions
  • Formative “na”
  • Adjectives
  • Culture and Ethics:
    • Group interaction and socialization
    • Food and eating culture

Module 7: Questions

  • Question words, how to formulate questions
  • Weather related words and sentences
  • Prepositions
  • Culture and Ethics:
    • The origin of an indaba
    • Courtesies relating to discussions and questions

Module 8: Numbers

  • Money
  • Commands and quantities
  • Speaking on the telephone
  • Culture and Ethics:
    • The origin of the lobola and marriage customs

Module 9: Time

  • Days of the week
  • Seasons & months of the year
  • Numbers
  • Colours
  • Culture and Ethics:
    • The influence of Sangomas

Module 10: Final summative oral assessment and review

Language Course Assessments

If you’re interested in obtaining a certificate of competence upon completion of your language course, you will need to do the formative and summative assessments included in our language courses. The pass rate for these assessments is 50%, with the exception of 60% for HPCSA members.

Formative assessments:

The formative assessments do not count towards your grade, they are merely there to help with your learning process and to monitor your progress. The formative assessments can be found at the end of each module in the learner manual.

Formative assessments in practice:


Delegates will do the formative assessments at home after each class. Upon return to the next class, the memo with the answers will be made available for delegates to grade their assessments.

Distance learning:

Delegates will do the formative assessments at their own pace from home. The memos with the answers will be sent to delegates so that they can grade their assessments.

Summative assessments:

The summative assessments count towards your grade and are there to measure your competence. There are two different types of summative assessments: a written and an oral assessment, each counting 50%.

Written summative assessments in practice:

The written summative assessments are done after each module. There are about 8 of them each consisting of 10 questions.


Delegates will do the written summative assessments in class. It is closed book and invigilated by the course facilitator. These assessments are graded by an assessor and moderated both internally and externally.

Distance learning:

Delegates will do the written summative assessments verbally via a video-calling session with a language facilitator. As your course fee only includes 3 contact sessions of 30 minutes each, you will need to do 3 verbal summative assessments at a time. You are however at liberty to decide when you would like to schedule these assessments.

Oral summative assessments in practice:

The oral summative assessment is done right at the end of the course. Delegates are asked to prepare a +- 3-minute-long conversational speech (on their topic of choice) which includes open and closed ended questions for the course facilitator.


Delegates will do the oral summative assessments in private with the course facilitator.

Distance Learning:

Delegates will do the oral summative assessment during a final video-calling session with a language facilitator.