What Languages Are Spoken in Swaziland?

The flag of Swaziland.
The flag of Swaziland.

Official Languages of Swaziland

Swaziland is located in the western half of the southern tip of Africa, where it covers a total land area of 6,704 square miles. The country has a population of approximately 1.34 million individuals. Swaziland came under the control of the Swazi people in the 1700s, which lasted until the early part of the 1900s, when Great Britain colonized the area. During British rule, the land was divided into European and non-European regions, but the country gained its independence in from Great Britain in 1968.

The political history of Swaziland is reflected in the country's official languages: Swazi and English. Both languages are used by the government, particularly its legislative body which carries out all sessions in Swazi and English. Additionally, the public school system teaches classes in both languages. Fluency in English is required for acceptance to universities and other post-secondary learning institutions. News outlets primarily report and present information in Swazi.

Minority Languages

In addition to the official languages of Swaziland, residents also speak a number of other minority languages, including Afrikaans, Tsonga, and Zulu.

Afrikaans is spoken by approximately 13,000 people in Swaziland. This language belongs to the Indo-European language family and is part of the Dutch subgroup. It developed from the language of Dutch settlers in South Africa and is often considered a creole language, having borrowed words from several languages, including German, Malay, Portuguese, and Khoisan.

Tsonga is spoken by approximately 19,000 people in Swaziland. The language belongs to the Niger-Congo language family and is considered a Bantu language. It can be understood by speakers of both Tswa and Ronga. Tsonga is spoken by the Tsonga people and holds official status in Mozambique and South Africa.

Zulu is the most widely used minority language in Swaziland, spoken by approximately 76,000 individuals. Like Tsonga, it also belongs to the Niger-Congo language family and Bantu subgroup. It is the language of the Zulu people and is an official language of South Africa.

Immigrant Languages

A number of immigrants have settled in Swaziland from other areas around Africa. These individuals brought with them their native languages, which are now considered immigrant languages in the country. The principal immigrant languages of Swaziland include Sotho, Shimaore, and Nyanja.

Sotho is native to South Africa and Lesotho. It belongs to the Niger-Congo language family and is part of the Bantu subgroup. In Swaziland, the language is used by approximately 4,700 individuals. Throughout Africa, it has approximately 5.6 million native speakers.

Shimaore is one of the least commonly used immigrant languages in the country, with only about 600 speakers. Like the previously mentioned indigenous languages, it also belongs to the Niger-Congo language family and the Bantu subgroup. It is a dialect of the Maore Comorian language and has approximately 97,000 native speakers, primarily concentrated in Madagascar and Mayotte.

Nyanja is the most widely used immigrant language in Swaziland, with about 5,700 speakers. It is also known as the Chewa language, in reference to the Chewa people who communicate using this language. It is a Bantu language of the Niger-Congo language family as well.


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