Welcome to the first of Bangula’s language blogs, exploring South Africa’s diverse range of official languages and their current state of development.
Each blog will also be released in a translated version as we hope to encourage the use South Africa’s official languages.
Venda, also known as Tshivenḓa or Luvenḓa, is a Bantu language and an official language of South Africa. It is mainly spoken by the Venda people in the northern part of South Africa’s Limpopo Province, as well as by some Lemba people in Zimbabwe. The Venda language is related to Kalanga (Western Shona, which is different from Shona, the official language of Zimbabwe). Kalanga is spoken in Botswana and Zimbabwe.
According to the 2011 census, Venda speakers are concentrated in the following areas: Makhado Local Municipality, with 350,000 people; Thulamela Local Municipality, with 370,000 people; Musina Local Municipality, with 35,000 people; and Mutale Local Municipality, with 89,000 people. The total number of speakers in the Vhembe district currently stands at 844,000. In Gauteng province, there are 275,000 Venda speakers. Just under 10,000 Venda people are spread across South Africa, which means the total number of Venda speakers in South Africa is 1.2 million people or just 2.2% of South Africa’s population. Venda speakers form the second smallest minority language in South Africa, after the Ndebele language (isiNdebele), which numbers 1.1 million speakers.
It is generally regarded as a language isolated among S-group languages. While the Nguni group, for example, has four languages (isiZulu, isiXhosa, siSwati and isiNdebele), the Venda group has only one – Tshivenda. It is the tongue the Venda people, who are culturally closer to the Shona people of Zimbabwe than to any other South African group. It shares features with Shona and Sesotho sa Leboa (also known as Sepedi or Northern Sotho), with some influence from Nguni languages. The Tshipani variety of the language is used as the standard. The language consists of eight dialects, namely: Tshiphani, Tshironga, Tshilembetu, Tshiniya, Tshimbedzi, Tshimanda, Tshilafuri and Tshiniya.
The Venda language (TshiVenda or LuVenda) emerged as a distinct dialect in the 16th century. In the 20th century, the TshiVenda vocabulary was similar to SeSotho (South Sotho), but the grammar shares similarities with Shona dialects, which are spoken in Zimbabwe.
Alternate and historical names: Venda, Chivenda
Location: Limpopo province.
Language maps: Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland, Zimbabwe
Language status: 1 (National). Statutory national language (1996, SA Constitution)
Classification: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, S, Venda (S.21)
Language development: Literacy rate in L2: Fairly low.
Writing: Braille script [Brai]. Latin script [Latn], primary usage.
Zwivhuya Matidza, Bangula Language Manager and passionate Tshivenda speaker