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sakhile dube, zulu language, click sounds

Sakhile Dube of "Safari and Surf" in South Africa.

Two years ago, Sakhile Dube of "Safari and Surf" in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province, created a mesmerizing video where he explains and teaches the click sounds found in the languages of the Nguni people.

You may have heard these sounds before in the film “The Gods Must Be Crazy” or in “The Click Song,” made famous by singer Miriam Makeba.

Dube explained to Stray Along The Way that all four of the Nguni people, the Xhosa in the Eastern Cape, Zulu in KwaZulu-Natal province, Ndebele in Mpumalanga and Swazi in Eswatini, use click sounds in their language.


The click sounds may seem rather different to English speakers, but according to The Week we use them as well, just as expressive sounds instead of as word pronunciations. Like when you might make a clicking sound to tell a horse to move or gesture for someone in the right direction.

These click sounds have been incorporated into the Nguni people’s languages as a way of expressing politeness.

In Nguni cultures, certain people aren’t allowed to use the names of others. So they use a phrase that describes them while incorporating clicks to replace certain sounds. This practice grew to create a broader sense of polite speech where clicks were incorporated into the language as a form of respect for people, even if they were allowed to say their names.

In the video below, Dube explains how the clicks are incorporated into speech and it’s beautiful to see how effortlessly he weaves together so many different types of sounds. Commenters on the video also noted that he has a beautiful, deep voice that would be great on the radio.






Photo by Stormseeker on Unsplash

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