South African English – A Slightly Silly Post

South African English (“Sanglish”) can be confusing to an English speaker who has just arrived from elsewhere in the world…

The English spoken in the UK, US, Australia and Canada is similar, yet distinctly different.  As is the English in India, Nigeria and South Africa.  Each one has evolved separately from the same language tree, all adapting to their own unique environment along the way absorbing history and culture into their grammar and vocabulary resulting in each case in a rich and unique branch of English.

Read the silly ditties below to give you a contrived example of how indecipherable South African English could be at first listen.

S.A. English version (some spellings have been adjusted so that you read it how it sounds)

An oak and his stukkie in a bakkie on a koppie.

He says “Come to my side for a bry and a doppie”

She says “Liquor man. Now now? Buy a donkey. “

He says “don’t eat those na cheese, sis man they are frot.

Eish, sorry my bokkie, instead have some La Motte.”  

English version (slightly inventive ‘translation’ to make it rhyme)

Jack and Jill in a pickup on a hill

He says “come to mine for a drink and a grill”

She says “Nice! Right now? Thanks a lot.”

He says “Don’t eat those oranges, they are full of rot

Oh, sorry my darling, instead have some La Motte.”

Sometimes you just have to throw the book out of the window.
Sometimes you just have to throw the book out of the window.

Then there are tackies and lappies and boerewors and biltong, rooibos and rooineks but I shan’t go on and on.

Apologies to the lovely people of South Africa if I have made any glaring errors.

That’s the end of the post, but if you want to read on there’s a little vocab list (apologies for the slightly wonky formatting) for you to refer to.  If you don’t want to read on, why not read one of my other posts?  You can find out about those bullets I dodged here or the joys of adopting a rescue dog here or the utter privilege of travelling with small children here.

S.A.nglish                 Sounds like              Means

Oke                                Oak                               Guy/Bloke

Stukkie                         Stukky                          Girlfriend

Bakkie                          Backy                           Pick up truck

My Side                                                               My place

Braai                             Bry                               Barbeque

Doppie                         Doppy                          Drink (often alcoholic)

Lekker                         Liquor                          Nice/tasty

Now now                                                            Right now

Baie Dankie                Buy a donkey               Thanks a lot.

Naartjie                       Nah-Chee                     Orange

Sies                               Sis                                  Yuk/Disgusting

Frot                                                                     Rotten

Eish                              Eesh                               Exclamation – oh dear.

Bokkie                                                                 Literally ‘small buck’, but can be used as a term of

endearment.

La Motte                                                             A South African wine brand that

rhymes with frot!  I rather like their Sauvignon

Blanc.

Africa Expat Wives Club

8 thoughts on “South African English – A Slightly Silly Post

  1. Vincent May 4, 2015 / 5:16 am

    That’s the post I’ve been looking for!! Now I’ll get to understand a bit more my South African fellows! Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

    Like

  2. Alison May 31, 2015 / 9:45 am

    That made interesting reading Nicola. I do recognise a few of those from my South African friends here – we often go there for a braai and they are always saying Eish. A lot of them are new to me though… I may try them out on said friends. Enjoying your blogs! Ali xx

    Like

  3. awrightadventure July 1, 2016 / 6:44 am

    Fab! My boys have started picking up some of these words since being here in zambia!

    Like

    • Expatorama July 1, 2016 / 2:36 pm

      We use so many of these words without even thinking now and our youngest is learning a smattering of Zulu and Afrikaans just to keep us on our toes.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. clara@expatpartnersurvival.com July 1, 2016 / 3:06 pm

    This is funny! I love saying ach, shame. Sometimes I say “shame” anyway in the same way I would at home in the UK and my gurls go oh mummy you’re turning into a South African! But I realise that actually the use of Shame is quite similar to when we would say “bless” at home.

    Like

    • Expatorama July 1, 2016 / 3:33 pm

      Yes, we say ‘shame’ a lot too and schlep is another word we’ve adopted. I’m sure there are others we don’t even realise we use. Added to other words we’ve picked up in other countries I’m sure people probably wonder what on earth we’re on about sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Frances Woodhams July 2, 2016 / 12:00 pm

    I have quite a few South African friends here in Nairobi. I tease them a bit by giving them their ‘fine and you’ greeting in an SA accent. I wrote a similar post on how we absorb Swahili words into our vocabulary while living here. It’s just too tempting! http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?s=kenyanese

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