Our language history


According to Baile, it’s very interesting that the Language Act (Act 59 of 1995) came into effect before the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (1996). The former Act established the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB).


“This means politicians and those in government were very, very serious about matters of language.”


Officially launched in 2001 at the former University of North West, the Setswana National Lexicography Unit is one of eleven PanSALB structures that represent our official languages.


“Parents should encourage their children to be bilingual. If the school is English-medium, children must speak their mother tongue at home.”


- Baile Mareme

Baile is editor-in-chief and executive director of the Sefala Dictionary Unit. The unit, officially known as the Setswana National Lexicography Unit, is situated in the Faculty of Humanities on the campus in Mahikeng.


Baile’s journey with the NWU goes back a long time. Joining the former University of Bophuthatswana in 1987 he became the Sefala unit’s editor-in-chief in 2003.


Sharing his expertise


His core responsibilities are the compilation of dictionaries. Students from the NWU’s Setswana subject group rely heavily on Baile’s expertise and passion for the language to navigate their studies.


Listeners can tune in once a week to popular SABC Setswana radio station, Motsweding FM, to tap into Baile’s Sekgutlwana sa Thuta-Puo programme. It focuses on proper use and terminology of the Setswana language and is hosted by NWU communication graduate and presenter, Amon Mokoena.


Future projects


The Sefala Dictionary Unit is proposing a project to produce a trilingual Setswana, English and isiZulu dictionary. This is in response to demand from users such as isiZulu-speakers living in North West, a province of mainly Setswana speakers.

“I would fight for my language, but would not hate somebody else’s language. I see tolerance among our people as the most important aspect of being together.”


- Baile Mareme


is never at a loss for words


The United Nations has declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Closer to home, Baile Mareme and his colleagues are hard at work developing and promoting our languages, particularly Setswana.