Languages of Swaziland

Languages of Swaziland
Official languages Swazi and English
Minority languages Zulu, Tsonga, Afrikaans
Main immigrant languages Nyanja, Sotho, Maore
Source [1]

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

National and official languages

Swazi (Swati or siSwati), a Southern Bantu language, is the national language of Swaziland,[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 Swaziland 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 Swaziland.[2] Swazi is also used in mass media.[2]

English is the medium of instruction,[7] and is taught in all state 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, 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 Swaziland.[1]

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

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

See also



  • Austin, Peter, ed. (2008). One thousand languages: living, endangered, and lost. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-25560-9. 
  • Dalby, Andrew (2004) [1998]. Dictionary of Languages: The Definitive Reference to More Than 400 Languages. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-11569-8. 
  • Fitzpatrick, Mary (2004). South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland. Lonely Planet Travel Guides Series. Lonely Planet. ISBN 978-1-74104-162-0. 
  • Fitzpatrick, Mary (2006). South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland. Lonely Planet Travel Guides Series. Lonely Planet. ISBN 978-1-74059-970-2. 
  • Kanduza, Ackson M.; Mkhonza, Sarah, eds. (2003). Issues in the economy and politics of Swaziland since 1968. Swaziland Chapter of the Organization for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA). 
  • Lewis, M. Paul, ed. (2009). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (16th ed.). Dallas: SIL International. 
  • Stokes, Jamie, ed. (2009). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East. New York: Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8160-7158-6. 

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