Background and status
SiSwati (also known as Swazi or Swati) is a Southern African language spoken predominantly in South Africa and Swaziland. It is the official language of Swaziland (along with English) and since 1994 one of the nine indigenous languages to enjoy official recognition in South Africa. With only 3% of South Africans indicating it as their official mother tongue siSwati is ranked as the third smallest official language group in South Africa. In South Africa most of the speakers of this language are situated in the eastern region of the Mpumalanga province, which borders Swaziland.
siSwati in South Africa
Following the democratic transition of 1994 a new body – the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) – was created to facilitate the further development of the official languages. The development of siSwati has however, proven to be a difficult task, as the heartland of the language is located in a predominantly rural and relatively poor region. Migration to urban areas has grown and siSwati speakers living in the larger cities are compelled to learn and speak other languages. SiSwati remains a predominantly spoken language. While it is well represented on TV and radio, there are no newspapers in the language.
siSwati in Swaziland
SiSwati-language publications face difficulties in the marketplace. School textbooks for SiSwati language and social studies courses are published in the local language, as required by a law that seeks to ensure that siSwati is kept alive through academic usage. However, no magazines, including academic, industrial or commercial, are published in siSwati. According to Marcus Ndlangamandla, a secondary school teacher, "English is a language of rules. SiSwati is a language of sentiment, where people communicate with descriptions." That is the biggest reason why, although the Swazis love their story-telling language, business and commerce most often are conducted in English.