Setswana is also known as Tswana and in some old texts as Sechuana

The language, Tswana, is spoken widely in Southern Africa. Mainly in Botswana and in South Africa in the Northern Cape, the central and western Free State and in the North-West Province. There are also few speakers in Namibia.

Setswana was the first Sotho language written to have a written form. In 1806 Heinrich Lictenstein wrote Upon the Language of the Beetjuana. While in 1815, John Cambell wrote Bootchuana words and was followed by Burchell who wrote about Botswana in 1824. Dr Robert Moffat from the London Missionary Society arrived among the Batlhaping in Kudumane in 1818, and he built the first school for Botswana. In 1825, he realised that he must use and write Setswana in his teachings. He finished translating The Gospel according to Luke in 1830, The New Testament in 1840 and the Old Testament in 1857. 

The first Motswana (speaker of Setswana) who contributed to the history of written Setswana is Sol D T. Plaatje, who, with the help of Professor Jones wrote Tones of Secwana Nouns in 1929. The New Testament and the Psalms were translated in 1963 in the 1910 authography and the whole Bible was translated into Setswana 1970.

(Some information adapted from RM Malimabe, in UNESCO:2000)

Family: Bantu (or rather Ntu) Language Family
Group: South Eastern Bantu (or rather Ntu)
Subgroup: Sotho

VARIETIES: Related varieties include Sekgalagadi in Botswana and Shilozi in Namibia and Zambia.

Around 3 301 774 people in South Africa use it as their home language.



General words & phrases
Example of texts
Academic research
Unesco Language Survey


Tsenang: Setswana Multimedia Language Program

The concise trilingual pocket dictionary: English Tswana Afrikaans

The concise trilingual pocket dictionary: English Tswana Afrikaans 

The concise multilingual dictionary

The concise multilingual dictionary: Afrikaans, Tswana, Southern Sotho, Northern Sotho, Zulu, Xhosa and English.

Internet Links
Language Introductions
Wikipedia: Tswana language (Short language introduction) - Setswana

Word lists
Government of Botswana: Setswana (Information on the language and some sound files)
Mater Spei College: English-Setswana word list (Few words with sound files)
Travlang: Tswana (Tswana words for travelers) Tswana-English dictionary
Wordgumbo - Tswana word list (English>Tswana)

Academic articles
Voice assimilation in (Tswana) Afrikaans: a phonetic solution for a phonological problem (D. Wissing & J. Roux, 1995)
Word-final devoicing by Tswana and Afrikaans speakers of English: second language interference or a universal tendency? (A.J. van Rooy, 1995)

General information on Botswana/the Batswana people

Tswana religion (Overview of traditional religions)
The Tswana (Short introduction on the Batswana people)
A note on place names, historical terms (B. Bennett, 2003)
Botswana History Pages (N. Parsons, 1999 - Includes short section on language)
Botswana's ethnic structure (W. van Binsbergen, 2002)
Tswana Wikipedia (Still under construction)


UNESCO. World Languages Survey Report - Prepared by the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology. September 2000

J. Olivier (2009)