Tswana (Setswana), is a Bantu language. 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, but 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, Sotho (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? (Replace tsogile with tlhotse for afternoon greetings.)
Informal inquiry after health:
Le kae? - How are you? 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? Go jwang?- How's it?
Other useful phrases:
Ke a leboga, rra/mma. - Thank you, Sir/Madam (formal) Ke itumetse, rra/mma." - Thanks, Sir/Madam (informal) Ke bidiwa _______. - I am called _____. 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 - The food is good! 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? Farewells:
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)
Image: Provinces of South Africa in which Tswana is spoken as a home language by a significant proportion of the population Pronunciation tips: The g is pronounced as /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 /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