Ithuta Setswana

This is a page where I will define, sound-out, and explain any Setswana words and phrases, as well as other terms and acronyms that I use in my blog.  They are for the most part in the order of the entries they appear in, oldest to newest.  Feel free to email me with any further questions –

Many words in Setswana (such as the word “Setswana”) have the consonants “ts.”  You have to just put your tongue behind your top teeth and try to make a “ts” sound the best you can.  I really don’t know how to explain it!  In my pronunciations below I just wrote in a “t.”

As a rule, "g" is pronounced as an "h."  

All "r"s are rolled (if you can - I sure can't!).

a = ah
e = ay
i = ee
o = oh
u = ooh or ew

...but remember - there are always exceptions!

Vocabulary and Phrases:
  • Botswana – (Boh-t-swah'-nuh) The country I’m living in.
  • Gaborone – (Hah-boar-oh'-nee) The capital of Botswana.
  • Dumela – (dew-may'-luh) Formal greeting. 
  • Mma – (mm-ah) Ma’am.
  • Rra – (rrrr-ah *roll the “r”*) Sir.
  • Ee – (Ay) Yes.
  • Nnya – (nn-yahh) No.
  • Lentsweletau – (Lent-swell-ay-tahh'-ooh) The name of my village.
  • Motswakhumo – (Moh-t-swah-koo'-moh) The name of my school.
  • O tsogile? – (oh t-soh-hee'-lay) How are you?
  • Ke tsogile sentle – (kay t-soh-hee'-lay sent'-lay) I am fine.
  • Wena – (way'-nuh) Yourself.
  • Leina la gago ke mang? – (Lay-ee'-nuh lah ha'-ho kay mah-nn-g) What is your name? Literally: Your name is who?
  • Ke bidiwa ­­­____. - (Kay bee'-dee-wah) I am called _______.
  • Ka Setswana – (Kah Sets-wahhh'-nuh) In Setswana …
  • Lorato – (low-rah'-toh) Love.
  • Santse – (Sahn'-t-say) Still. *Must be used in correct grammatical context – it’s not really a word on its own.
  • Motswana – (Moh-t-swahh'-nuh) A person from Botswana, singular.
  • Batswana – (Bah-t-swahh'-nuh) People from Botswana.
  • ARVAnti-RetroViral treatment.  HIV positive Batswana receive ARVs free of charge from the government.  ARVs consist of many different types of pills, having to be taken different times throughout the day, in order to combat different strains of HIV and to prevent HIV building up resistance to the meds.  These medicines often have serious side effects, so although ARVs are a wonderful way for an HIV positive person to lead a normal life, there are definite drawbacks.
  • PMTCTPregnant Mother to Child Transmission.  HIV can be passed to a baby in the womb, during childbirth, or (most common) via breast milk.  Botswana implemented a strong PMTCT program, and thus only a very small percentage of newborns are born with HIV.  Also, as long as the HIV positive mother sticks to formula-feeding, the baby is safe.
  • PLWHAPeople Living With HIV/AIDS.
  • Go tsididi – (Ho t-see-dee'-dee) It’s cold.
  • Montle – (moan'-t-lay) Beautiful, nice, or smart.
  • Combi – (Koh'-mm-bee) Mini-buses that fit roughly 12 – 16 people (depending how smushed you’re willing to be) and are used to get around bigger villages and cities, or to get from one village to the next.  Within cities, rides usually cost less than 3 Pula, or roughly $0.43.  Taking a combi from Gaborone to Lentsweletau costs 10.20 Pula, or $1.46.  They don’t run on a certain schedule, so you just wait on the route until a combi comes by, you hail it, and climb on!
  • A re rapeleng - (Ah ray rah-pay-lay'-ng) Let us pray.
  • Lekgowa - (Leh-kohh'-wuh) A white person.
  • Le nna - (Lay nn-ah) Me too. Literally: And me.
  • Lekgarebe - (Lay-kah-ray'-bay) A fashionable woman who takes good care of herself and who can often be found wearing sunglasses in the club at night.  Male form: Lekgarau (Lay-kah-rah'-ooh)
  • Mazaza - (mah-zah'-zah) Big sunglasses.
  • Go mogote - (Ho moh-ho'-tay) It's hot.
  • Mathata a matona - (muh-tah'-tah ah muh-toe'-nuh) Big problem.
  • Kagiso - (kah-hee'-soh) Peace.
  • Pula - (pooh'-lah) Rain; the currency of Botswana; a word of celebration.
  • Ke a tsenwa - (kay ah t-say'-nn-wah) I am out of my mind.
  • Ka Setswana - (kah Se-t-swah'-nuh) In Setswana...
  • O maaka! - (oh mah'-kah) You're a liar!  (Considered a deep insult here.)
  • Ga re simolola molelo - (hah ray see-moh-loh'-lah moh-lay'-loh) We didn't start the fire.
  • Ngwaga o mosha - (nwah'-hah oh moh'-shah) Happy New Year!
  • Ke se a se buile - (kay say ah say boo-ee'-lay) That's what she said.
  • Phaleche - (puh-lay'-chay) A traditional Setswana food, which looks like mashed potatoes but is very stiff and made from maize.
  • Ke a go rata thata - (kay ah ho rah'-tah tah'-tah) I love you.  (Literally, I like you a lot.)
  • Pula matlho - (pooh'-luh mah'-tloh) Open your eyes. 
  • Go o ra motho, ga go lelwe - (ho oh rah moh'-toh, ha ho layl'-way) Where there is support, there is no grief.
  • Ke tlhatswa diaparo tsa me - (kay t-laht'-swah dee-ah-pah-roh t-sah may) I am washing my clothes.
  • Ditoro tse di monate - (dee-toe-roh t-say dee moh-nah-tay) Sweet dreams.
  • Tshaba ntsha - (cha-bah nn-cha) Beware of the dog.
  • Nale Keresemose e monate - (nah'-lay kah-ray'-say-moh'-say ay moh-nah'-tay) Merry Christmas. Lit., have a nice Christmas.
  • Leina lebe seromo - (lay-ee-nah lay-bay say-roh-moh) An adage meaning that a person's name will shape his or her future.

As I use more words and phrases, I'll post them here.  Please email me if there's anything in particular you'd like to know!

Go Siame!  - (Ho see-ahh'-me) Goodbye!