August 1, 2013

Trying to Learn Setswana in Botswana

Botswana has two official languages, English and Setswana. Setswana is also one of the many official languages of South Africa, and is spoken in parts of Zimbabwe and Namibia. In total, approximately 4.5 million people in Southern Africa speak the language.

Republic of Botswana flag

Republic of Botswana flag

When we were traveling in Botswana we did our best to learn as many common phrases as possible. I wish I could say we picked it right up, but that wasn’t the case. I couldn’t even master “Ke bua Setswana go le gonnye,” which means, “I speak a little Setswana.” The pronunciation is somewhat difficult, but we gave it our best. If nothing else, we gave the locals a good laugh.

Setswana is a beautiful language. If you’d like to hear Setswana spoken, visit

English/Setswana: Translation of Common Phrases

Hello, Sir/Madam – Dumela, rra/mma
How are you? – O kae?
I am fine – Ke teng.
What is your name? – Leina la gago ke mang?
My name is… – Leina la me ke…

Where are you from? – O tswakae?
Please – Tswee-tswee
Thank you, Sir/Madam – Ke a leboga, rra/mma 

I’m hungry – Ke tshwerwe ke tlala

I’m thirsty – Ke tshwerwe ke lenyora

I like – Ke rata
I don’t like – Ga ke rate
Where is the hospital? – Kokelwana e ko kae?
I need help, please – Ke kopa thuso, tswee-tswee

May I help you? – A nka go thusa?

Goodbye – Tsamaya sentle