SOAS University of London

African Languages, Cultures and Literatures Section

Languages of Africa at SOAS: Zulu

Zulu is one of the eleven official languages of South Africa, and the language with the largest number of mother-tongue speakers, estimated to be more than 10 million. It is a Bantu language and closely related to Ndebele (South Africa and Zimbabwe), Swati (spoken in Swaziland and adjacent areas in South Africa), and Xhosa. One of the language’s most noticeable phonetic features are click consonants, which came into Zulu through contact with neighbouring (Khoisan) languages. Zulu is spoken mainly in KwaZulu-Natal, but it is also a lingua franca of the Gauteng province, one of the most densely populated industrial areas in South Africa. In recent years, Zulu has become an important South African language and is often heard on television and on the radio, in meetings and functions, as well as in music and public places. Other urban dialects of young people borrow abundantly from Zulu vocabulary and structure.

If you would like to learn Zulu then please contact the relevant programme convenor for your degree (see the Degree Programmes links below) in the Africa Section of the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics or visit for a short introduction to the language.

Degree Programmes

Degree Module Options

Please Note: Not all modules and programmes are available every year

Other Resources