‘Spelling error’ on new South African bank notes finally put to rest

 ·16 Aug 2023

The Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB) has resolved that the Xitsonga spelling on the new R100 bank note is indeed correct and that the spelling on the old notes was the mistake.

According to SABC News, PANSALB has concluded its consultation with the Xitsonga-speaking community in Malamulele and Giyani communities in Limpopo, putting to rest the spelling debacle.

Xitsonga-speaking South Africans flagged an apparent spelling error in the South African Reserve Bank’s newest banknotes in May 2023.

On the R100 note, the Xitsonga translation of “Reserve Bank” was changed, with the second ‘N’ in Bangi Nkulu dropped. The word now reads as Bangi Kulu.

Some Xitsonga speakers said that this is incorrect and the previous version of “Bangi Nkulu” was the accepted form.

The Pan South African Language Board, responsible for the translation, disagreed, saying the extra ‘N’ was incorrect on the old notes – explaining that the ‘N’ is only used when referring to a person and not an institution.

Dr Arnold Mushwana, chair of the Xitsonga National Language Body, reiterated that the current notes are correct, and the old notes were misspelt.

“There was an error on the old banknotes; currently, the new ones are correctly written,” Mushwana said.

Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago also said that the new print of South African banknotes does not contain a spelling error but has corrected an error that existed before.

SABC News reported that a former language lecturer from the University of South Africa, Paul Nkuna attended the final consultations in Giyani and confirmed Mushwana and Kganyago’s conclusion that the new spelling without an N is the correct one.

Nkuna noted that the contention surrounding the right spelling of the Xitsonga translation of “Reserve Bank” among mother-tongue speakers was a result of interactions with missionaries years ago.

“It is the one without an N that is correct. The reason the N entered in many ways in our language as it has been was developed by missionaries.

“It was through white people the word Khonkela, and the Khensa entered, but we don’t have this N, and we have the problem of this N in many words.”

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