Soga language

Soga, or Lusoga, is a Bantu language spoken in Uganda. It is the native language of the Soga people or Basoga of the Busoga region of Eastern Uganda. With over three million speakers, it is one of the major languages of Uganda, after English, Swahili, and Luganda. However, it is largely restricted to the Busoga region, which is mainly within the natural boundaries of Lake Victoria to the south, Lake Kyoga to the north, the Nile river to the west and the Mpologoma (Lion) river to the east of Namutumba district. It is tonal.

Native toUganda
RegionMainly in Busoga region
Native speakers
3.1 million (2014 census)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Major language of Uganda, official status unclear/pending...
Regulated byLusoga Language Authority (LULA) (Uganda)
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
xog – Soga
lke – Kenyi

History and developmentEdit

The Soga language is very similar to neighbouring Bantu languages such as Luganda and Gwere. It is believed that the people in southern Busoga originally came from Buganda and in the early 14th Century overwhelmed the original inhabitants, the Nilotic Luo who came from the north, and the Teso who came from the north-east.

The written form of Soga is only as recent as the arrival of the Arab and European traders and missionaries. It first appeared in print in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Soga is used in some primary schools in Busoga as pupils begin to learn English, an official language of Uganda. It is also taught in secondary schools and is offered as a course subject in tertiary institutions such as Busoga University, Kyambogo University and Makerere University.


Linguistically, the Soga are part of the Bantu peoples. Soga has several dialects dating to the intermingling of people during the early migration period of the 17th and 18th centuries. There were so many dialects that it was difficult to reach agreement on the correct way to spell or pronounce certain words. For instance, in the north of Busoga, there is an 'H' in many words which does not appear in dialects of southern Busoga. Thus Busoga was divided into two dialect zones. Across the northern zone, the dialects Lulamogi and Lupakoyo were spoken. Lupakoyo closely resembled Nyoro. It had a close belt of Runyoro associated dialects running east from Bunyoro, across the northern region of Buganda, across northern Busoga and through Bugwere, which is east of Busoga. In the southern part of Busoga a dialect known as Lutenga was traditionally spoken which resembled Luganda. Related dialects were also spoken in the Ssese Islands, Buvuma Island and eastern Buganda.

But with the established of the Lusoga Language Authority (LULA), Busoga Kingdom has promoted a standardised Lusoga language. It has done research on the Lusoga language and published literature in Lusoga. Its publications can be found at the Busoga Cultural Centre Offices library located in the Nile garden in Jinja, Uganda. Others are available in bookshops throughout Busoga and in major bookstores in Kampala and other parts of the country. Some of the more accomplished Lusoga publications include a Lusoga Bible, grammar books, riddles, proverbs, several story books and dictionaries e.g. Eibwanio - Lusoga/English dictionary. A limited online version is available at Lusoga - English Dictionary.

Some useful basic grammar and vocabularyEdit

In common with other tonal Bantu languages, Lusoga has a noun class system in which prefixes on nouns mark membership of one of the noun genders. Pronouns, adjectives, and verbs reflect the noun gender of the nominal they refer to. Some examples of noun classes:

Possessive PrefixesEdit

In the Bantu languages around the Lake Victoria region in Uganda, nouns are reflected mainly by changing prefixes: human beings are indicated by the prefix Ba- (plural), and Mu- (singular), and the name of the country Bu-.

  • mu - person (singular), e.g. musoga = native of Busoga land
  • bu - land, e.g. Busoga = land of the Soga
  • lu - language, e.g. Lusoga = language of the Soga
  • ba - people, e.g. Basoga = the Soga people
  • ki - customs or traditions, e.g. kisoga = describes religious tradition or culture common to the Soga people.

Self Standing pronounsEdit

  • Nze – me
  • Iwe/Imwe – you

Always attached to a verbEdit

  • N – I
  • O – You (singular)
  • A – He/She
  • Tu – We/Us
  • Mu – You (plural)
  • Ba – They


  • Wano – Here
  • Kino – This (thing)
  • Ono – This (person)
  • Oyo – That (person)
  • Bino – These (things)
  • Biri - Those(things)


  • Ani – Who?
  • Ki – What?
  • Lwaki - Why?
  • Tya – How?


Greeting in Soga is accomplished just as it is in the western countries. However, it assumes a more personal nature and just as in the West, its form depends on the time of the day and the elapsed time since the last contact with the greeter.

The following dialogue illustrates the basic form to greet a peer or an elder in a respectful manner:

Person A:
Wasuzotya (osiibyotya) ssebo (nnyabo)? – How did you sleep (How was your day) sir(madam)?
Person B:
Bulungi, wasuzotya (osiibyotya) ssebo (nnyabo)? – Well, how did you sleep (how was your day) sir (madam)?
Person A:
Bulungi ssebo (nnyabo) – Well, sir (madam)

The personal nature of the greetings ensues when the individual being greeted chooses to answer the question instead of merely responding with good or fine. It is somewhat like being asked "How do you do?" and you respond "How do you do?" However, in Soga, the individual being greeted is free to actually delve into the fine details.

Additionally, simply drop the sir/madam to achieve the same effect as in English. The above dialog only addresses greeting one person because some words change into multiple others e.g. "Wasuzotya" is the combination of a singular prefix (Wa - you), word (sula - sleep), and singular postfix (otya - How did) spoken as one with a plural form that subsequently becomes "Mwasuze mutya" which is composed of two distinct words emerging from two different plural prefixes, a word, and the plural form of the postfix. It is sometimes impossible to not separate the plural form.


  • Nze Kateme – I am Kateme

Some common VerbsEdit

When conjugating the verb, remove ‘oku’ and replace it with the required pronoun i.e. n, o, a, tu, mu, ba.

  • Example:
    • okukola – to work/to do,
      • nkola – I work/do,
      • okola – you work/do,
      • akola – he/she works/does,
      • tukola – we work/do,
      • mukola – you work/do (plural),
      • bakola – they work/do.
  • Okukola – to work/to do
  • Okusoma – to read/to study
  • Okunhwa – to drink
  • Okulya – to eat (Be careful, the above example does not work all the time with all forms of all words, as some verbs are irregular e.g. the singular from here is Ndya. However it is a start)
  • Okutambula – to walk
  • Okuvuga – to drive/to ride
  • Okusobola – to be able to
  • Okutwala - to carry/to take
  • Okuseka - to laugh


1 - 10 11 - 19 20 - 29 30 - 39 40 - 49
1 – Ndala 11 – Ikumi na ndhala 20 – Abiri 30 – Asatu 40 – Anha
2 – Ibiri 12 – Ikumi na ibiri 21 – Abiri na ndhala 31 – Asatu na ndhala 41 – Ana na ndhala
3 – Isatu 13 – Ikumi na isatu 22 – Abiri na ibiri
4 – Inha 14 – Ikumi na inha
5 – Itaanu 15 – Ikumi na itaanu
6 – Mukaaga 16 – Ikumi na mukaaga
7 – Musanvu
8 – Munaana
9 – Mwenda
10 – Ikumi

As long as you learn to count from 1 to 10 and 20, 30, 40, the rest will be easy. It is just a matter of joining one number to the other.

50 - 99 100 - 500 500 - 900 1,000 - 5,000 5,000 - 10,000
50 – Ataanho 100 – Kikumi 600 - Lukaaga 1,000 - Lukumi 6,000 - kakaaga
60 – Nkaaga 200 – Bibiri 700 - Lusanvu 2,000 - Nkumi ibiri 7,000 - kasanvu
70 – Nsanvu 300 - Bisatu 800 - Lunaana 3,000 - Nkuni isatu 8,000 - kanaanha
80 – Kinaanha 400 - Bina 900 - Lwenda 4,000 - Nkumi ina 9,000 - kenda
90 – Kyenda 500 - Bitaanu 5,000 - Nkumi itaanu 10,000 - Mutwaalo

Telling the TimeEdit

Telling the time in Soga is different from the way it is told in English because hours of darkness correspond to PM to include early morning hours. You wake up at 10:15 am while a Musoga waking up at the same time refers to the same time as "essawa erii ikumi na ibiri munkyo (the time is 4:15 in the morning)." Essentially, the number representing the current time is simply skewed behind by six. Time is said using the word ‘essaawa’, e.g., essaawa ndala – 7 o’clock.


  • Food – Emmere
  • Sugar – Sukaali
  • Coffee – Kaawa
  • Milk – Amata
  • Chicken – Enkoko
  • Teaspoon – Kajiiko
  • Plate – Sowaan
  • Saucepan – Sefuliya
  • Cup – Kyikopo

General phrases & vocabularyEdit

  • Ssente imeka – How much (price)
  • (Bed)room – ekisenge
  • Table – Meza
  • House – Enhumba
  • Kitchen – Eifumbiro
  • Door – Olwiigi
  • Chair – Entebe
  • Wait! – Linda!
  • Journey/trip – Olugendo
  • Get out – Fuluma
  • Tomorrow – Idho
  • Yesterday - Idho
  • Slow – Mpola
  • Quick – Mangu
  • Mr – Mwami
  • Miss – Mukyala
  • My friend! – Mukwano gwange!
  • My friends! – Banange!(commonly used as an exclamation)
  • Under - Wansi/Ghansi
  • Aunt - Senga
  • Person - Omuntu
  • Man - Omusaadha
  • Woman - Omukazi
  • Child - Omwaana
  • White man/person - Omuzungu
  • Lamp - Eitaala
  • Moon/Month - Omwezi
  • Inlaw - Mukoirime

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Soga at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
    Kenyi at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  2. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  • Fallers, Margaret Chave (1960) The Eastern Lacustrine Bantu (Ganda and Soga). Ethnographic survey of Africa: East central Africa, Vol 11. London: International African Institute.
  • Van der Wal, Jenneke (2004) Lusoga Phonology. MA Thesis, Leiden University.
  • Cohen, David William (1970). A survey of interlacustrine chronology. The Journal of African History, 1970, 11, 2, 177-202.
  • Cohen, David William (1986). Towards a reconstructed past : Historical texts from Busoga, Uganda. Fontes historiae africanae. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Fallers, Lloyd A. (1965) Bantu Bureaucracy - A Century of Political evolution among the Basoga of Uganda. Phoenix Books, The University of Chicago.

External linksEdit

Eibwanio:Lusoga English Dictionary

  • [1] Downloadable Lusoga Language and Literature resources by Cornelius Wambi Gulere