Languages of Eswatini

Eswatini is home to several languages. Native languages are Swazi, Zulu, Tsonga, Afrikaans, and English. Recent immigrant languages include Chichewa and Southern Sotho.[1]

Languages of Eswatini
OfficialSwazi, English
MinorityAfrikaans, Tsonga, Zulu
ImmigrantMaore, Nyanja, Sotho
SourceSimons et al. 2018

National and official languages

Swazi, a Southern Bantu language, is the national language of Eswatini,[2][3] and is spoken by approximately 95 percent of Swazis.[4] Swazi and English are the country's two official languages,[5] and proceedings of the Parliament of Eswatini take place in both languages.[6]

Swazi language education is present in all national schools, and literacy in Swati—defined as the ability to read and write the language—is very high in Eswatini.[2] Swazi is also used in mass media.[2]

English is the medium of instruction,[7] and is taught in all public and private schools.[1] Competency in English is a prerequisite for admission into most post-secondary institutions.[7]

Minority and immigrant languages

A minority of Swazi people, estimated to number 76,000 as of 1993, speak Zulu, one of the eleven official languages of South Africa. Tsonga, a Tswa–Ronga language and also an official language of South Africa, is spoken by 19,000 Swazis (as of 1993). Afrikaans, another official language of South Africa and descended from Dutch, is spoken by 13,000 people in Eswatini.[1]

Chewa, an official language of Malawi, and Sotho (Sesotho or Southern Sotho), spoken mainly in Lesotho and the South African province of Free State, are immigrant languages with 5,700 and 4,700 speakers respectively. Shimaore is also an immigrant language and is spoken by 600 inhabitants.[1]

Prior to Eswatini's independence in 1968, French was taught in the colony's three white-only high schools.[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Simons et al. 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Austin 2008, p. 108.
  3. ^ Dalby 1998, p. 596.
  4. ^ Stokes 2009, p. 673.
  5. ^ Fitzpatrick 2006, p. 654.
  6. ^ Fitzpatrick 2004, p. 615.
  7. ^ a b Kanduza et al. 2003, p. 56.
  8. ^ Kanduza et al. 2003, p. 60.


  • Austin, P., ed. (2008). One thousand languages: living, endangered, and lost. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520255609.
  • Dalby, A. (1998). Dictionary of Languages: The Definitive Reference to More Than 400 Languages. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231115698.
  • Fitzpatrick, M. (2004). South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland. Lonely Planet Travel Guides Series. ISBN 9781741041620.
  • Fitzpatrick, M. (2006). South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland. Lonely Planet Travel Guides Series. ISBN 9781740599702.
  • Kanduza, A. M.; et al., eds. (2003). Issues in the economy and politics of Swaziland since 1968. OSSREA.
  • Simons, G. F.; et al., eds. (2018). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (21st ed.). Dallas: SIL International.
  • Stokes, J., ed. (2009). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East. New York: Infobase Publishing. ISBN 9780816071586.

Afrikaans (UK: , US: ) is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa, Namibia and, to a lesser extent, Botswana and Zimbabwe. It evolved from the Dutch vernacular of South Holland (Hollandic dialect) spoken by the mainly Dutch settlers of what is now South Africa, where it gradually began to develop distinguishing characteristics in the course of the 18th century. Hence, it is a daughter language of Dutch, and was previously referred to as "Cape Dutch" (a term also used to refer collectively to the early Cape settlers) or "kitchen Dutch" (a derogatory term used to refer to Afrikaans in its earlier days). However, it is also variously described as a creole or as a partially creolised language. The term is ultimately derived from Dutch Afrikaans-Hollands meaning "African Dutch".

Although Afrikaans has adopted words from other languages, including German and the Khoisan languages, an estimated 90 to 95% of the vocabulary of Afrikaans is of Dutch origin. Therefore, differences with Dutch often lie in the more analytic-type morphology and grammar of Afrikaans, and a spelling that expresses Afrikaans pronunciation rather than standard Dutch. There is a large degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages—especially in written form.With about 7 million native speakers in South Africa, or 13.5% of the population, it is the third-most-spoken language in the country. It has the widest geographical and racial distribution of all the 11 official languages of South Africa, and is widely spoken and understood as a second or third language. It is the majority language of the western half of South Africa—the provinces of the Northern Cape and Western Cape—and the first language of 75.8% of Coloured South Africans (4.8 million people), 60.8% of White South Africans (2.7 million); 4.6% of Asian South Africans (58,000 people), and 1.5% of Black South Africans (600,000 people).In addition, many native speakers of Bantu languages and English also speak Afrikaans as a second language. It is taught in schools, with about 10.3 million second-language students. One reason for the expansion of Afrikaans is its development in the public realm: it is used in newspapers, radio programs, TV, and several translations of the Bible have been published since the first one was completed in 1933.In neighbouring Namibia, Afrikaans is widely spoken as a second language and used as a lingua franca, while as a native language it is spoken in 10.4% of households, mainly concentrated in the capital Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and the southern regions of Hardap and ǁKaras. It, along with German, was among the official languages of Namibia until the country became independent in 1990, 25% of the population of Windhoek spoke Afrikaans at home. Both Afrikaans and German are recognised regional languages in Namibia, although only English has official status within the government.

Estimates of the total number of Afrikaans speakers range between 15 and 23 million.

English language

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England. Both names derive from Anglia, a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. The language is closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, and its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse (a North Germanic language), and to a greater extent by Latin and French.English has developed over the course of more than 1,400 years. The earliest forms of English, a group of West Germanic (Ingvaeonic) dialects brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the 5th century, are collectively called Old English. Middle English began in the late 11th century with the Norman conquest of England; this was a period in which the language was influenced by French. Early Modern English began in the late 15th century with the introduction of the printing press to London, the printing of the King James Bible and the start of the Great Vowel Shift.Through the worldwide influence of the British Empire, and later the United States, Modern English has been spreading around the world since the 17th century. Through all types of printed and electronic media, and spurred by the emergence of the United States as a global superpower, English has become the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions and professional contexts such as science, navigation and law.English is the largest language by number of speakers, and the third most-spoken native language in the world, after Standard Chinese and Spanish. It is the most widely learned second language and is either the official language or one of the official languages in almost 60 sovereign states. There are more people who have learned it as a second language than there are native speakers. It is estimated that there are over 2 billion speakers of English. English is the most commonly spoken language in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, and it is widely spoken in some areas of the Caribbean, Africa and South Asia. It is a co-official language of the United Nations, the European Union and many other world and regional international organisations. It is the most widely spoken Germanic language, accounting for at least 70% of speakers of this Indo-European branch. English has a vast vocabulary, though counting how many words any language has is impossible. English speakers are called "Anglophones".

Modern English grammar is the result of a gradual change from a typical Indo-European dependent marking pattern, with a rich inflectional morphology and relatively free word order, to a mostly analytic pattern with little inflection, a fairly fixed SVO word order and a complex syntax. Modern English relies more on auxiliary verbs and word order for the expression of complex tenses, aspect and mood, as well as passive constructions, interrogatives and some negation. The variation among the accents and dialects of English used in different countries and regions—in terms of phonetics and phonology, and sometimes also vocabulary, grammar, and spelling—can often be understood by speakers of different dialects, but in extreme cases can lead to confusion or even mutual unintelligibility between English speakers.

Nguni languages

The Nguni languages are a group of Bantu languages spoken in southern Africa by the Nguni people. Nguni languages include Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele (sometimes referred to as "Northern Ndebele"), Swati, Hlubi, Phuthi, Bhaca, Lala, Nhlangwini, Southern Transvaal Ndebele, and Sumayela Ndebele. The appellation "Nguni" derives from the Nguni cattle type. Ngoni (see below) is an older, or a shifted, variant.

It is sometimes argued that use of Nguni as a generic label suggests a historical monolithic unity of the peoples in question, where in fact the situation may have been more complex. The linguistic use of the label (referring to a subgrouping of Bantu) is relatively stable.

Outline of Eswatini

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Eswatini:

Eswatini (officially the Kingdom of Eswatini) – small, landlocked, sovereign country located in Southern Africa, bordered by South Africa on three sides except to the east, where it borders Mozambique. The country, inhabited primarily by Bantu-speaking Swazi people, is named after the 19th-century king Mswati II, from whom the people also take their name.

Swazi language

The Swazi, Swati or siSwati language (Swazi: siSwati) (pronounced [siswatʼi]) is a Bantu language of the Nguni group spoken in the Kingdom of eSwatini and South Africa by the Swazi people. The number of speakers is estimated to be in the region of 12 million. The language is taught in eSwatini and some South African schools in Mpumalanga, particularly former KaNgwane areas. Swazi is an official language of eSwatini (along with English), and is also one of the eleven official languages of South Africa.

Although the preferred term is "siSwati" among native speakers, in English it is generally referred to as Swazi. Swazi is most closely related to the other Tekela languages, like Phuthi and Northern Transvaal (Sumayela) Ndebele, but is also very close to the Zunda languages: Zulu, Southern Ndebele, Northern Ndebele, and Xhosa.

Tsonga language

Tsonga () or Xitsonga (Tsonga: Xitsonga) is a southern African Bantu language spoken by the Tsonga people. It is mutually intelligible with Tswa and Ronga, and the name "Tsonga" is often used as a cover term for all three, also sometimes referred to as Tswa-Ronga. The Xitsonga language has been standardized for both academic and home use, making it the base language for the Tsonga people. Like with many other languages, there are various dialects within the Tsonga language group.

Zulu language

Zulu () or isiZulu (Zulu: isiZulu) is the language of the Zulu people, with about 10 million speakers, the vast majority (over 95%) of whom live in South Africa. Zulu is the most widely spoken home language in South Africa (24% of the population), and it is understood by over 50% of its population. It became one of South Africa's 11 official languages in 1994.

According to Ethnologue, it is the second most widely spoken of the Bantu languages, after Swahili. Like many other Bantu languages, it is written with the Latin alphabet.

In South African English, the language is often referred to by using its native form, isiZulu.

Languages of Eswatini
Official languages
Non-official languages
Immigrant languages
Sovereign states
States with limited
Dependencies and
other territories

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