What Languages are Spoken in Botswana?

A street sign in Botswana.
A street sign in Botswana.

English is the official language of Botswana, while Setswana is the most widely spoken language in the country. Several other minority languages, especially Bantu languages, are also spoken in Botswana.

Official Language of Botswana

English serves as the official language of Botswana. The language is widely used for written communication and is also the language of business, administration, and education. Most of the residents of the country have a working knowledge of English. About 2.8% of the population of Botswana speak English as a first language.

Setswana: The Most Popularly Spoken Language in Botswana

The Setswana language, also known as Tswana, is spoken widely in Botswana and other parts of Southern Africa. The Bantu language is a member of the Niger–Congo language family. Tswana serves as the lingua franca in Botswana. It is spoken by most of the population of the nation. However, since most written communication in the country is in English, Tswana is mainly used as a spoken language. It is estimated that around 77% of the population of Botswana speak Setswana natively.

Minority Languages Spoken in Botswana


The Kalanga people in Zimbabwe and Botswana speak the Kalanga language. It serves as the native language of about 7.4% of the population of Botswana.


The Bantu language of Kgalagadi, also known as Kalahari, is spoken by about 40,000 people in Botswana and Namibia. In Botswana, Kgalagadi speakers account for about 3.4% of the total population and the language is mainly spoken along the country's border with South Africa.


About 2% of the population of Botswana speak Shona, the native language of the Shona people. The language is also spoken in Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Mozambique.


The Ndebele anguage, a member of the Bantu languages’ Nguni group, is spoken by the Ndebele people. Speakers of the language are mainly found in Zimbabwe. In Botswana, Ndebele speakers account for about 1% of the country’s population.


Only about 1.6% of the population of Botswana speak the Mbukushu language. The language is also spoken in Namibia (where it is a national language), Zambia, and Angola.


Several thousand people in Zimbabwe and Botswana speak the Tshwa or the Tsoa, a Khoe language.


ǃXóõ, or taa, is one of the Khoisan languages, and is spoken by the ǃXoon or Nǀohan people living mainly in Botswana and Namibia.


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