Tswana 101

Tswana Peace Corps Course

Tswana Peace Corps CourseDumela! This Tswana course was developed by the U.S. Peace Corps for its volunteers going to Botswana. It can be useful as a primer for learning the basics of the Tswana language. You can listen and follow along to each lesson or download the whole course directly.

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Lesson 1 – A Guide to Pronunciation


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Alphabet Like Example
a a in father batho, people
b b in baby baba, enemies
ch ch in church chenchi, change
d Debt ditau, lions
e (represents two sounds) ey in “they” or “a” in came pele, first
  e in begin bina, dance
ê “e” in there êma, stand
f far fêla, only
g The sound made when you hawk a lougie gana, refuse
h house huma, be rich
i ee in deep bina, dance
j j in jug jwala, sow
k k in kind kima, thick
l l in line lela, cry/ weep
m m in me mena, fold
n n in name nama, meat
o (represents two sounds) o in boat Motse, village
  A sound somewhat like u in put Pelo, heart
ô ou in ought bôna, see
p p in pain pitse, horse
ph p (with aspiration) as in peach phutha, fold
q non existent  
r You just roll the “r” rêra, preach
s s in sit simolola, start
t t in steak setoto, carcass
th t (with aspiration) as in take thusa, help
tl as in cluck tla, come
tlh (with aspiration) as in sclerosis tlhapa, wash/ bathe
tsh (with aspiration) like ts in mats tshaba, run away
u u in rude pula, rain
v nonexistent  
w w in water wêna, you
x an palatal click that is laterally released as in nxe, expressing sympathy Nxau-xau, name of place in Botswana
y y in yet tsamaya, go
z nonexistent

Lesson 2 – Greetings


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Formal Dialogue

Tswana English
dumêla rra Good morning/day/evening sir
dumêla mma Good morning/day/evening madam
o tsogile jang? How are you?
ke tsogile sentle, wêna o tsogile jang? (tsogile- Lit. means how have you risen?) I am fine and how are you?
Ke tsogile sentle I am well

Greeting a Group

Tswana English
Dumêlang borra le bomma Good day ladies and gentlemen
Dumela mma Good day madam
Le tsogile jang? How are you (pl)?
Re tsogile sentle, wêna o tsogile jang? We are well and how are you?
Ke tsogile sentle I am well
Re a leboga Thank you

Informal Dialogue

Tswana English
Dumêla rra Good day sir
Dumêla mma Good day madam
Le kae? How are you?
re teng a lona le teng? I am fine and how are you?
Re teng I am fine
“Dumêla” is not specific to any time of the day. Men are expected to take off their hats/ caps when greeting elders.

Lesson 3 – Introducing Yourself


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Tswana English
leina lame ke Itumeleng My name is Itumeleng
sefane same ke Moeng My Last name is Moeng
leina la gago ke mang? What is your name?
ke tswa kwa Botswana I am from Botswana
o tswa kae? Where are you from?
leina la gagwe ke Thabo His name is Thabo
sefane sa gagwe ke Thuto His last name is Thuto
a o tswa kwa Amerika? Are you from America?
ke moithaopi I am a volunteer

Lesson 4 – Saying Goodbye


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Tswana English
go siame Good-bye
ke tla go bona See you
tlhôla sentle Have a good day
robala sentle / borôkô Good night
ke tla go bôna kamoso See you tomorrow
ke tla go bôna kgantele See you later

Lesson 5 – Vocabulary 1 (Verbs) Part 1


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Go- (word after slash represents the verb in its past tense form) To-
kgôna / kgônnê Able, be
gakolola / gakolotsê Advise;remind
tshaba / tshabile Afraid of, be
araba / arabile Answer
gôrôga / gôrôgile Arrive
botsa / boditse Ask
kopa / kopile Ask for (polite way)
tsamaya / tsamaile Away, go ; travel
nna, ntse Be, become
simolola / simolotse Begin
dumêla / dumetse Believe, agree
bedisa / bedisitse Boil
adima / adimile Borrow
tlisa / tlisitse Bring
tshuba / tshubile Burn
fitlha / fitlhile Bury
rêka / rêkile Buy
bitsa / biditse Call another person
kuka / kukile (lit. lift, when in its past form it means to help sb. carry) Carry
palama / palame Climb
tswala / tswetse Close
tla / tlile, Come
tsêna/ tsenye Come in
tswa / dule, Come out (emerge)
apaya / apeile Cook
lela / ledile Cry
bina / binnê Dance
diêga / diêgile Delay
senya / sentse Destroy
dira / dirile Do
nwa /nolê Drink
phakêla / phaketse Early, to be
ja / jele Eat
tsêna / tsene Enter
tlhalosa / tlhalositse Explain
utlwa / utlwile Feel; Hear; Taste
fetsa / feditse Finish
fitlhêla / fitlhetse Find
baakanya / baakantsê Fix, prepare
itshwarêla / itshwarêtse Forgive
bôna / bonye To see
tsoga / tsogile Get up/ wake up
fa / file Give
ya / ile Go
itumêla / itumêtse Happy, be
thusa / thusitse Help
tshwara / tshwere Hold
bolaya / bolaile Injure
boloka / bolokile Keep
siama / siame Kind, be
itse / itsile Know
tshêga / tshegile Laugh
ithuta / ithutile Learn, study
reetsa / reeditse Listen
rata / ratile Like/ love
nna /ntse Live
tlhôka / tlhôkile Need
bula / butsê Open
feta / fetile Pass
duêla/ duetse Pay
sêla / setse Pick up
baya / beile Place, put
gana / gannê Refuse
boa / boile Return
raya / reile Say
rekisa / rekisitse Sell
lwala / lwetse Sick, to be
nna-fatshe / ntse-fatshe Sit down
robala / robetse Sleep
gôga / gogile Smoke ; pull
bua / buile Speak
lala / letse Spend the night
sala / setse Stay behind
tsaya / tsere Take
ruta / rutile Teach
bolêla / boletse Tell
lapa / lapile Tired, become
leka / lekile Try
tlhaloganya / tlhalogantse Understand
dirisa / dirisitse Use
êta / êtela Visit
batla / batlile Want
Tlhatswa ; tlhatswitse Wash (clothes)
Tlhapa ; tlhapile bathe
leba / lebile Watch
bêrêka / berekile Work
kwala / kwadile Write

Lesson 5 – Vocabulary 1 (Verbs) Part 2


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See Lesson 5 Part 1 text

Lesson 5 – Vocabulary 1 (Verbs) Part 3


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See Lesson 5 Part 1 text

Lesson 6 – Useful Expressions


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Tswana English
ke lapile I am tired
ke a otsêla I am sleepy
ke tshwerwe ke tlala I am hungry
ga ke a tshwarwa ke tlala I am not hungry
o ya kae? Where are you going?
ke ya lapeng I am going home
o tla leng? When are you coming?
o nna kae? Where is your home?
Andrew o kae? Where is Andrew?
Edward o ya posong Edward is going to the post office
ga ke ye shopong I don’t go to the shop
ke ithuta Setswana I am learning Setswana ; I study
ga ke rate kofi I don’t take coffee
ke batla go ikhutsa I need some rest
ke a ja I eat ; I am eating
ga a je He doesn’t eat
ga a ithute She doesn’t study
ke tlhapa phakela I bathe in the morning
ke tsoga makuku I wake up very early
go nna bosigo It’s becoming late (night fall)
nako e tsamaile; …e tshaile (inf.) It’s time up
Ke tshwere ke lenyora I am thirsty
ga ke tlhaloganye I don’t understand
Bua ka bonya Speak slowly
gape Again
intshwarele Excuse me
Bua ka bonako Speak quickly
A o na le mathata? Do you have a problem (s)?
Ee ke na le mathata Yes, I have a problem
Nnyaa, ga ke na mathata No, I don’t have a problem
A o na le dipotso? Do you have any questions?
reetsa Listen
botsa Ask
dumêdisa Greet
Tswêê-tswêê Please
Ke itumetse Thank you

Lesson 7 – Vocabulary 2 (Nouns)


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Kitchen

Tswana English
tafole Table
setilô Chair
sejana Plate
kopi Cup
leswana Spoon
thipa Knife
lefeêlô Broom

Bedroom

Tswana English
bolao Bed
kobô Blanket
diaparô Clothes
borokgwe Pants
ditlhako Shoes

General Items

Tswana English
pensele Pencil
buka Book
bêkê Bag
pênê Pen
fensetere Window
lebati Door

Lesson 8 – Pronouns


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Tswana English
nna I
wêna You
ênê She/ he
rona We/ us
lona You (pl)
bônê Them

Lesson 9 – Connecting Words


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Tswana English
le and
mme But
Kgotsa/kana Or
ke Is
jaaka As/like
Ka jalo therefore
Ka gore because

Lesson 10 – Negation


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I You (sing) She/ he We You (pl) tdey
Present Ke a batla O a batla O a batla Re a batla Le a batla Ba a batla
  I want You want She/he wants We want You want They want
Negative present Ga ke batle Ga o batle Ga a batle Ga re batle Ga le batle Ga ba batle
  I do not want You do not want She/he not want We do not want You do not want They do not want
Past Ke ne ke batla O ne o batla O ne a batla Re ne re batla Le ne le batla Ba ne ba batla
  I did want You did want She/he did want We did want You did want They did want
Negative past Ke ne ke sa batle O ne o sa battle O ne a sa battle Re ne re sa batle Le ne le sa batle Ba ne ba sa batle
  I did not want You did not want She/he did not want We did not want You did not want They did not want
Negative future Ga ke kake ka batla Ga o kake wa batla Ga a kake a batla Ga re kake ra batla Ga le kake la batla Ga ba kake ba batla
  I will not want You will not want She/he will not We will not want You will not want They will not want
Future Ke tlaa batla O tlaa batla O tlaa batla Re tlaa batla Le tlaa batla Ba tlaa batla
  I will want You will want She/he will want We will want You will want They will want
When you add the negative ga in the present statement the last letter in the verb changes to e (applicable in negative present tense).

When you change the subject marker present “ke” to subject marker past the negative ga changes to sa i.e. negative past tense.

In the negative future, the stem ga + pronoun+ kake is used to signify the negation.

Lesson 11 – To Be and To Have


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Verb to be (-nna)

Tswana English
ke a bala I am a reading
o a bala You are (sing) reading
Lo a bala You are (pl) reading
o a bala She/ he is reading
Ba a bala They are reading
Re a bala We are reading
the ‘a’ is applicable in all pronouns to mean am, is are etc.

Verb to have (-na le)

Tswana English
ke na le buka I have a book
O na le buka You have (sing) a book
Lo na le buka You have (pl) a book
O na le buka She/ he has a book
Ba na le buka They have a book
Re na le buka We have a book

Lesson 12 – Questions and Commands


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Tswana English
Eng? Ke eng? What is it?
Leng? O tsile leng? When did you come?
Kae? O tswa kae? Where are you from?
Jang? O tsogile jang? How are you?
Mang? O mang? Who are you?
Efe? O batla efe? Which one?
dife? O batla dife? Which ones?
reng? go reng/ ka go reng? Why?
bula lebati Open the door
tswala lebati Close the door
êma o buê Stand and talk
êma ka dinao Stand
tsêna mo teng Get inside
tlaa kwano Come here
didimala/reetsa Keep quiet/Listen
boela kwa morago Go back
tlaa kwa pele Come to the front
nna fatshe Sit down

Lesson 13 – Expressing Needs


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Tswana English
o batla eng? What do you want?
ke batla kêrêsê I want a candle
o tlhôka eng? What do you need?
ke tlhoka madi I need money
o batla go ya kae? Where do you want to go?
ke batla go ya kwa lapeng I want to go home
o batla go dira eng jaanong? What do you want to do now?
ga ke itse I do not know
o ikutlwa jang? How do you feel?
tlhogo yame e santse e opa My head still aches
ke eng a tlhoka madi a mantsi? Why does she need a lot of money?
o tlhôka go reka dijo le diaparo She needs to buy food and clothes
o rata kofi? Do you like coffee?
nnyaa, ga ke rate kofi No. I don’t like coffee
o ya kae kamoso; kamoso o ya kae? Where are you going tomorrow?
ke batla go ya shopong phakela I want to go to the shops in the morning

Lesson 14 – Food


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Tswana English
dijô Food
mabêlê Sorghum
phaletshê Mealie-meal
sukiri Sugar
letswai Salt
metsi Water
mashi Milk
ditamati Tomatoes
ditapole Potatoes
mae Eggs
borotho Bread
kofi Coffee
tee Tea
motôgô Soft porridge (made from sorghum / mealie-meal)
anyense; kwii Onions
namunê Orange
apole Apple
manôkô Peanuts
dinawa Beans

Lesson 15 – Family


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Tswana English
ntate mogolo Grand father
nkuku Grand mother
ntate Father
mmê; mma Mother
kgaitsadi (said only to pers. of opposite gender) Sister ; Brother
nkgonne (to either elder sister/ brother) Older sibling
nnake (to either younger sister/ brother) Younger sibling
rangwane Uncle (paternal)
malome Uncle (maternal)
rakgadi Aunt (paternal)
mmane; mmangwane Aunt (maternal)
ntsalake cousin
batsadi Parents
ngwana; bana (pl) Child/Children
Lelwapa ; lelapa Family

Lesson 16 – Time


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Tswana English
gompieno Today
maabane Yesterday
kamoso Tomorrow
maloba a maabane The day before yesterday
maloba Few days ago
beke e This week
beke e e fitileng (lit. the week that passed) Last week
beke e e tlang (lit. the week that is still to come) Next week
ngwaga e This year
ngogola ; ngwaga e e fitileng Last year
ngwaga e e tlang Next year
kgwedi e This month
gone jaanong At the moment
kgantele Later on; earlier on (depending on context)
bosigo At night
phakêla In the morning
motshegare At noon (till sunset)
maitseboa Around sunset

Lesson 17 – Daily Activities


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Tswana English
Ke tsoga ka 6 phakela I wake up at 6am
Ke a tlhapa I bathe
Ke bo ke ja And then I eat.
Ke ya sekolong Then I go to school
Ke tlhôtse kwa sekolong I spent the day at school
Re ne re dira dilo tse dintsi we were doing a lot of things today
Gone go na le baeng ba mapodisi there were visitors from the Police
Ke ne ke itumetse gompieno I was excited today
Fa ke tswa sekolong, ke a itapolosa When I come back from school I rest.

Lesson 18 – Vocabulary 3 (Places)


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Tswana English
Ntlo House
Tlelase Classroom
Thoelêtê Toilet
Kitsi kitchen
sekolo; sekole School
Sepatela Hospital
kokelwana Clinic
shopo; lebênkêle Shop
Poso Post office
noka; molapô River
Tshimo Field
Kêrêkê Church
Banka Bank
Kgotla Customary court

Lesson 19 – Words with Similar Spelling But Different Meanings


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Setswana is what's called a tonal language. In other words, every syllable has a high or low tone associated with it. It is this that gives Setswana its melodic sound.

Lesson 20 – Asking for Prices


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Tswana English
kgetse ya dinamunê ke bokae? How much is a bag of oranges?
ke bokae? How much is it?
ke P4.50 It’s P4.50
namunê e le nngwe ke bokae? How much is each orange?
e le nngwe ke 75 thebe They are 75 thebe each
ke bokae gotlhe?; madi otlhe ke bokae? What’s the total price?
madi otlhe ke P17.50 The total price is P17. 50

Lesson 21 – Weather


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Tswana English
Gompieno go serame; tsididi Today it is cold
Gompieno go mogôte; molelô Today it is hot
Go bothithô It is warm
Go letsatsi It is sunny
Go diphefô; phefô It is windy
Gompieno go botoka Today it is better
Selemô Summer
mariga Winter

Lesson 22 – Health Phrases


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Tswana English
ke a lwala; ga ke a tsoga I am not well
ke opiwa ke tlhogo I have a head ache
mala ame a botlhoko My tummy hurts
matlho a gagwe a botlhoko His eyes are sore
Franco o ya tliliniking Franco is going to the clinic
o ile ngakeng She/ he went to see the doctor
o rurugile leoto Her leg is swollen
Seema o jêle sengwe se se sa siamang Seema ate something bad
ba batla go ya tliliniking They want to go to the clinic

Lesson 23 – Safety Phrases


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Tswana English
nthuse Help me
ke kopa thuso I need help
ke tlhasetswe I have been attacked, I am being attacked.
go thubilwe kwa lwapeng;ntlung My house has been broken into.
Ke utswetswe There has been theft in my house.
ke thukuthilwe I have been robbed

Original Course Text

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