Tswana language

Tswana (Setswana), is a Bantu language written in the Latin Alphabet. Tswana is the national and majority language of Botswana, whose people are the Batswana (singular Motswana). Although Setswana is the official language of Botswana, the majority of Setswana speakers are actually in the country of South Africa. There are also speakers in Zimbabwe and Namibia. Internationally there are about 4 million speakers. Before South Africa became a multi-racial democracy, the bantustan of Bophuthatswana was set up to cover the Tswana speakers of South Africa.

Tswana is a Bantu language, belonging to the Niger-Congo language family. It is most closely related to two other languages in the Sotho language group, Sesotho (Southern Sotho) and Northern Sotho (Sesotho sa Leboa). It has also been known as Beetjuans, Chuana (hence Bechuanaland), Coana, Cuana, and Sechuana.

Some simple Tswana phrases

  • Dumela, rra/mma - Hello, Sir/Madam.
  • O tsogile jang? - Are you well? (How did you wake?)

Formal inquiry after health:

  • O tsogile jang? - How are you? (literally, 'how did you awake?').
  • Ke tsogile sentle, rra/mma. Wena, o tsogile jang? - I'm well, Sir/Madam. How are you?, OR I'm good/okay. How are you?

(Replace tsogile with tlhotse for afternoon greetings.)

Informal inquiry after health:

  • Le kae? - How are you? (literally translated 'Le kae?' also means 'Where are you?' when referring to more than one person)
  • Re teng, rra/mma - We're well, Sir/Madam. (Ke teng, rra/mma for I am well.)

Casual slang:

  • O a re eng? (pronounced 'wah-reng') -- How's it going?

Other useful phrases:

  • Ke a leboga, rra/mma. - Thank you, Sir/Madam (formal)
  • ''Ke itumetse, rra/mma." and "tanki" (slang) - Thanks, Sir/Madam (informal)
  • Leina la me ke _______. - My name is _____.
  • Leina la gago ke mang? - What is your name? (formal)
  • O mang? - What's your name? (informal)
  • Ke tshwerwe ke tlala. - I'm hungry (literally, 'I'm held by hunger')
  • Ke tshwerwe ke lenyora. - I'm thirsty (literally, 'I'm held by thirst')
  • Ke rata ___. - I like ___.
  • Ga ke rate___. - I don't like ___.
  • Ke batla ___. - I want ___.
  • Ga ke batle ____ - I do not want ____
  • Dijo tse di monate - This food is good!
  • Lekgolo - One Hundred
  • A re tsamaye! - Let's go!
  • Kokelwana e ko kae? - Where is the clinic?
  • Ke nako mang? - What time is it?
  • Ke kopa thuso, tswee-tswee. - I need help, please.
  • A nka go thusa? - May I help you?
  • A o ya ko ____? - Are you going to _____?
  • ____ ke eng ka Setswana? - What is _____ in Setswana?


  • Robala sentle - Sleep well
  • Boroko! - Good night
  • Tsamaya sentle - Go well (said to the person/group leaving)
  • Sala sentle - Stay well (said to the person/group staying)


  • Morogo - Vegetables
  • Motogo - Porridge
  • Nama - Meat
  • Dinawa - Beans

Pronunciation tips:

  • The g is pronounced as voiceless velar fricative /x/. This is reflected in the pronunciation of Botswana's capital, Gaborone.
  • The th is pronounced as an aspirated plosive, /tʰ/
    • The same aspiration rule is true for all other consonants used in combination with h (e.g., ph, sh, tlh, etc.)
  • The combination tl is pronounced as a voiceless alveolar lateral affricate /tɬ/.

Tswana has six vowel sounds: /ə/, /ɛ/, /e/, /ɪ/, /o/ and /u/, represented by the letters a, e, e, i, o and u respectively.


As opposed to the Ndebele languages spoken in Zimbabwe and South Africa, there are no significant differences between standard Tswana as spoken in South Africa and standard Tswana as spoken in Botswana.

External links


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