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Languages Spoken in Botswana

Languages Spoken in Botswana

Key Takeaways:

Official LanguageSetswana (also known as Tswana)
Other Major LanguagesKalanga, Sekgalagadi, English
Percentage Speaking SetswanaApproximately 78%
Role of EnglishUsed in official capacities, business, and education


Botswana, a nation in Southern Africa, boasts a rich tapestry of culture and history, with its languages playing a significant role in its identity. While Setswana is predominantly spoken, a myriad of other languages enriches the linguistic landscape.

The Predominance of Setswana

Setswana, often simply referred to as Tswana, is the lingua franca and the most spoken language in Botswana. Almost 78% of the population converse in this language daily, making it a crucial aspect of the nation’s identity.

Features of Setswana:

  1. Part of the Bantu group of languages.
  2. Close linguistic ties to neighboring countries, especially South Africa.
  3. Rich in proverbs, idioms, and traditional songs.

Other Notable Languages

Besides Setswana, several other languages make up the colorful linguistic tapestry of Botswana.


Kalanga is the second most spoken language in Botswana.

Key Aspects:

  • Primarily spoken in the North-East District.
  • Shares some vocabulary and structures with Setswana.


Sekgalagadi is another significant language spoken by a portion of the Botswana population.

Noteworthy Features:

  • Contains elements from both Setswana and Kalanga.
  • Mostly used in the western parts of Botswana.


While not indigenous to Botswana, English has carved out its niche.

Role of English in Botswana:

  • Official Capacity: All government documents and proceedings are in English.
  • Education: English is the medium of instruction from primary school.
  • Business: Internationally oriented businesses conduct their operations in English.

The Distribution of Languages

To get a clear picture of how languages are distributed, consider the table below.

LanguagePercentage of Population Speaking
SetswanaApprox. 78%
KalangaApprox. 9%
SekgalagadiApprox. 3%
EnglishApprox. 2.5% (but understood by much more)
OthersApprox. 7.5%

Preserving Botswana’s Linguistic Heritage

In the age of globalization, there’s been a concerted effort to preserve local languages. Here’s how Botswana is working towards this goal:

  • Education: Incorporating indigenous languages into the curriculum.
  • Media: Radios and televisions broadcast in various languages, ensuring wider reach.
  • Cultural Events: Organizing festivals and events that celebrate local languages.


Botswana’s linguistic landscape is as diverse as its beautiful terrains. From the arid Kalahari Desert to the lush Okavango Delta, languages like Setswana, Kalanga, and Sekgalagadi resonate with the nation’s heartbeat. As globalization inches forward, Botswana continues to find ways to keep its linguistic heritage thriving.