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Xhosa, isiXhosa, or Kosa?

In Xhosa, nouns have noun stems that mostly serve a grammatical function, and language names always begin with the stem "isi-". For example, English is "isiNgesi," Afrikaans is "isiBhulu", and Xhosa is "isiXhosa." In the case of languages, for example, the stem enables distinction between a language (isiXhosa) and a people (amaXhosa). For this reason, many people refer to the language as "isiXhosa."

As far as pronunciation goes, the "clicks" that are used in Xhosa do not exist in most languages, and many people find it difficult to pronounce the word "Xhosa" correctly. While we encourage you to learn to pronounce the clicks, you should also expect to hear people pronounce it as "Kosa" instead.

A word of caution: historically European settlers used the derogatory term "Kaffir" to refer to black people in South Africa. This word is very, very, offensive. Unfortunately, there are still resources that refer to the Xhosa language in this way, and while this may have been acceptable 50 years ago, it is by no means acceptable now.

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