How to Say ‘How Are You’ In Sotho, Xhosa, Zulu and Other South African Languages

South Africa is one of those countries with very rich cultural and ethnic diversity. This explains why it is nicknamed the Rainbow Nation. The country’s populace is a mixture of people from diverse tribes and races who make up its population of over 60 million. More so, the country boasts of having vast native languages with 10 of them being declared as official languages alongside English which is the standard language used in parliament.

How To Say “How Are You” In Different South African Languages

Exchanging pleasantries via greeting is not just a norm for the English language in South Africa as the other official languages of the nation also have their own unique expressions used to convey salutation. Below are examples:

1. “How Are You” In isiZulu

This is the popular Zulu language and about 10 million locals speak the language. This makes it the native language of approximately 22.7% of South Africans and it is understood by over 50% of the people in the country. So, whenever you are in South Africa and want to extend pleasantries, the following Zulu expressions will come in handy:

  • Hello! – Sawubona! (to one person) / Sanibona! (to many people)
  • How are you? – Unjani?
  • I’m fine, thank you. – Ngikhona, ngiyabonga.
  • Nice to meet you – Ngiyajabula ukukwazi!
  • You’re welcome – Kulungil

2. “How Are You” In isiXhosa

Just after Zulu is Xhosa, a language that is spoken by approximately 16% of South Africa’s population. It is also the native language of about 8.3 million South Africans whose origins are traceable to the Eastern Cape region. To converse with someone in Xhosa, here are a few words and their meanings for you:

  • Hello! – Molo (to one person) / Molweni (to many people). In Xhosa, you can also use Molo to mean ‘how are you doing?’
  • How are you? – Unjani? (to one person) / Kunjani? (to many person)
  • I’m fine, thank you – Ndiphilile, Ndiyabulela
  • Nice to meet you – Ndiyavuya ukukwazi
  • You’re welcome – Wamkelekile


3. “How Are You” In Afrikaans

Another popular language in South Africa is Afrikaans. It is so popular that it is even taught in schools, and possesses a very rich heritage. With about 13 million people speaking this language, it is believed to be the world’s youngest and fast-growing language behind the likes of Dutch, Malay, Khoi Khoi, and other native languages. To converse with someone in Afrikaans, here are a few choice words and their meanings:

  • Hi! How are you? – Hallo! Hoe gaan dit?
  • If you have met before, you can say: How are you again? – Hoe gaan dit met u/jou?
  • I’m fine, thanks – Goed, dankie
  • Nice to meet you –Aangename kennis
  • You’re welcome – Jy’s welkom

4. “How Are You” In Sepedi

Sepedi also ranks as one of the highly spoken languages in South Africa with over 4.6 million speakers, commonly found in Mpumalanga, Gauteng, and the Limpopo provinces. Beyond the shores of South Africa, this language is also common to some people in Botswana. It is generally referred to as Northern Sotho and is the language of the Pedi people (Mpumalanga and Limpopo locals). Here are a few expressions to help you communicate in it:

  • Hello – Dumela (to one person) / Dumelang (to many people)
  • How are you – O kae? (to one) / Le Kae? (to many people) – informal
  • How are you – Thobela; is a formal way of greeting someone
  • I’m fine, thank you – Ke gona, Ke a leboga

5. “How Are You” In Setswana

This language was chosen as an official language in the post-apartheid constitution. It is estimated that over 4 million people speak the language, and it is indigenous to a part of the Botswana people and Northwestern South Africa. The Setswana language is also closely related to two other languages – Northern and Southern Sotho. Here is how to say “how are you?” and a few other possible responses in Setswana.

  • Hello – Dumela
  • How are you – O tsogile jang? Le kae? (to one person) / Le tsogile jang? (to many people)
  • I’m fine, thank you – Ke tsogile sentle / Re teng, Ke a leboga
  • Nice to meet you – Ke itumelela go goitsi
  • You’re welcome – O amogelesegile

6. “How Are You” In Sesotho

This language originated from several separate languages, which are Tswana, Pedi, and Suto. As of now, it has found a place among 3.8 million speakers, and beyond South Africa, it is spoken in Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia. It is also known as Souto, Suthe, and Sisutho. The language is believed to have originated from the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, hence the name Southern Sotho. Here is how to say “how are you?” and a few other possible responses in Sesotho:

  • Hello – Dumela (to one person) / Dumelang (to many people)
  • How are you – O kae?
  • I’m fine, thank you– Ke teng, Ke a leboha
  • Nice to meet you – Ke thabela ho u tseba
  • You’re welcome – O amohetswe

7. “How Are You” In Tsonga

This language is prevalent in the Shangaan-Tsonga culture of South Africa and has about 2.3 million speakers. It is also common in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, the Niger, and Congo regions. Here is how to say “how are you?” and a few other possible responses in Tsonga:

  • Hello – Avuxeni
  • How are you – Ku njhani?
  • I’m fine, Thank you – Ndzi kona, Ndzi khense ngopfu

8. “How Are You” In siSwati

siSwati is spoken by an estimated 1.3 million people, with many schools teaching it to their students (some as mandatory, others as optional). It can also be referred to as Sewati, or Swazi and its historical background can be traced to the Bantu language, spoken by the Nguni group whose roots go down to Swaziland. Here is how to say “how are you?” and a few other possible responses in Swati:

  • Hello – Sawubona
  • How are you – Unjani?
  • I’m fine, thank you– Ngikhona, Ngiyabonga

9. “How Are You” In Tshivenda

It would interest you to know that those that speak Venda have a royal family line. It is also known as Luvenda or Tshivenda and has more than 1.2 million speakers. This language is one of the many Bantu languages and can be found in the Niger and Congo region. More so, Venda natives have more cultural relations with the Shona group of Zimbabwe than any other South African group. Here is how to say “how are you?” and a few other possible responses in Tshivenda:

  • Hello – Ndaa/Aa
  • How are you – Vho vuwa hani?
  • I’m fine, thanks – Ne ndo takala vhukuma

10. “How Are You” In isiNdebele

isiNdebele is also a Bantu language spoken by the AmaNdebeles and record about 1 million speakers who live mainly in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng. Here is how to say “how are you?” and a few other possible responses in Ndebele:

  • Hello – Lotjhani / Salibonani
  • How are you – Unjani (to one person) / Linjani (to many people)
  • I’m fine, thank you – Ngikhona / Sikhona, Ngiyabonga
  • Nice to meet you – Kuhle ukukubona
  • You’re welcome – KulungileSharp Fede – South African township greeting meaning “Hello, how are you?”

All these put together, should give you a nice footing in when you want to express courtesy to a South African fellow

The South African Languages Population Distribution

How are you
image source

There are approximately 35 indigenous languages in South Africa, however, 10 have been dubbed as official languages and they are:

  1.  isiZulu. (22.7%)
  2. Isixhosa. (16%)
  3.  Afrikaans. (13.5%)
  4. Sepedi(9.1%)
  5.  Setswana (8%)
  6. Sesotho. (7.6%)
  7.  xiTsonga. (4.5%)
  8. 9. siSwati. (2.5%)
  9. 10. Tshivenda. (2.4%)
  10. 11. isiNdebele. (2.1%)
Tyna G
Tyna G
A digital nomad with a never-ending curiosity and passion for discovering new places, cultures and creative outlets - this author has been writing her way around the globe for many years. Everything from entertainment to biographies, reviews to travel tips, you’ll always find stunning high quality content coming from her


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