Expat Life, Language

South African English: A Slightly Silly Post

South African English can be confusing to an English speaker who has just arrived from elsewhere in the world. It’s peppered with slang and some unique words of their own…

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.

South African 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

The ‘translation’ is slightly contrived 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 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.

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 Now Now Right now
Baie Dankie Buy a donkey Thanks a lot
Naartjie Nah-Chee An orange
Sies Sis Yuk/Disgusting
Frot Frot Roteen
Eish Eesh Oh dear
Bokkie Bokkie Literally it’s a ‘small buck’, but can be used as a term of endearment.
La Motte La Motte A South African wine label that rhymes with frot.  I’m a big fan of their sauvignon blanc.

8 thoughts on “South African English: A Slightly Silly Post”

  1. 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


  2. 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.


    1. 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

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