The official language of Botswana is English which is influenced by British colonial rule from 1885-1966. The majority of written communication, as well as formal business and political dialogue, is expressed in English. Although English is the official language of the country, Setswana, or Tswana, is the most spoken language in Botswana. The Setswana language has official status in Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. This language is a part of the Bantu family which also contains other languages that are used in the nation.

Although English is the official language of Botswana, many of the population speak it as a second language. Setswana, or Tswana, is spoken by roughly 77% of the population (1.73 million people) but many people will also understand English. The Tswana ethnic group makes up 79% of the country's population, but English remains the language of most of the business, education, industrial, and political activity in Botswana.

"Du-me-la" means good morning/afternoon/evening and can be used at any time of the day as a greeting. To greet a group of people, use "du-me-lang". "Go-Si-a-me", means goodbye and thank-you in Setswana is pronounced "ke a le-bo-ga". Asking someone if they speak English is pronounced "o bu-a sek-ho-wa?" The Setswana language is mostly a spoken dialect, and locals appreciate the effort to communicate in the local language.

Minority languages in Botswana include Kalanga, Kgalagadi, Shona, Mbukushu, and Ndebele. 2.8% of citizens speak English as their first language, and a small number of residents also speak Afrikaans. Botswana is also home to native and tribal languages. Over 90% of the population draws from the Bantu family of dialects for their native language. The nation is home to 31 living languages (26 are indigenous and five non-indigenous), four institutional languages, nine languages that are developing, 14 are still robust and surviving well, three are in danger of dying, and one is officially dying.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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