About the Swati Language

Swati, Sewati, Swazi or siSwati are all names for the same language, which is part of the Nguni group. It is also one of the many Bantu languages and is spoken by people in South Africa and Swaziland. Swati one of the 11 official languages of South Africa and many schools teach it to the students (some on an optional basis, others as a compulsory subject).

Did you know? In South Africa, the reed dance was introduced in 1991 by Goodwill Zwelithini, the current King of the Zulus. The dance in South Africa takes place in Nongoma, a royal kraal of the Zulu King.

The Swati Language bears some similarities to Ndebele, Xhosa and Zulu and they are often confused by those with an untrained ear.

Swati is easiest when divided into its four dialects; which are Hhoho, Nandzini and Shiselweni. These are the four divisions that correspond with the four appropriate districts of the country. There are two main strains of the siSwati language. Regular siSwati is spoken mainly in the South and North West of South Africa.

The other variety of Swati is spoken far into the deep south of the country and is particularly influenced by Zulu.

In 1750, the Swazi successors in South Africa decided to relocate, heading north towards what is today known as KwaZulu-Natal. From there, they went north-west towards the Ususthu River. They chose to move to this river because it provided them with shelter and protection from the warriors and fearsome king, Shaka Zulu. Today, this area remains the home of a Swati community.

The Swazi people are known for their many traditional events, but they are most commonly known for their Incwala and Umhlanga. At these events, you will likely see the entire Swazi community dressed in their colourful attire and red feathers, carrying shields and wearing multi-coloured beaded necklaces.

Another one of their exciting traditional festivals is the eight-day reed dance (see photo above). This is a ceremony that usually begins in the last days of August and continues until early September. It is for all the single women in the village. These unmarried women perform a dance for the Queen Mother and hand over the reeds that had been cut especially for the occasion.

The purpose of this ceremony is to protect the women’s chastity and to praise the Queen Mother. On the last day of the celebration, the King will have his cattle slaughtered and the women may then help themselves to the meat, taking it home with them to enjoy with friends and family.

There are 11 officially recognised languages, most of which are indigenous to South Africa. English is spoken everywhere you go. English is the language of the cities, of commerce and banking, of government and official documents. All our road signs and official forms are in English and at any Hotel, Bed and Breakfast or Guest House the service staff will speak to you in English.

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