The official languages of Lesotho shall be Sesotho and English and, accordingly, no instrument or transaction shall be invalid by reason only that it is expressed or conducted in one of those languages.
Sotho is the first language of more than 90 percent of the population and is "used widely as a medium of communication" in day-to-day speech. English is reserved for official interactions, such as "government and administration", although the use of Sotho in politics, religion, and the mass media is growing.
Primary education of children takes place in Sotho for the first four years, but English becomes the medium of instruction in the fifth year of primary school. Competence in English is "particularly important ... for educational, political, social and economic transactions in the subcontinent" and facilitates obtaining employment within Lesotho and abroad. Although "efforts are made to ensure that Basotho children" learn to read, speak and write English, many Basotho complete only "basic primary education [and] remain monolingual in Sesotho".
Minority and immigrant languages
A minority of Basotho, estimated to number 248,000 as of 1993[update], speak Zulu, one of the eleven official languages of South Africa.Phuthi, a Nguni language closely related to Swazi, an official language of South Africa and Swaziland, is spoken by 43,000 Basotho (as of 2002[update]).Xhosa, another Nguni language and official language of South Africa, is spoken by 18,000 people in Lesotho. Speakers of these minority languages typically also speak Sotho.
Webb, Victor N., ed. (1995). Empowerment through language: a survey of the language situation in Lesotho and selected papers presented at the Second International LiCCA Conference, the LiCCA (Lesotho) report. LiCCA Research and Development Programme.