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.”
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.”
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.
|SOUTH AFRICAN ENGLISH||SOUNDS LIKE||MEANS|
|My Side||My place|
|Doppie||Doppy||Drink (often alcoholic)|
|Now now||Now Now||Right now|
|Baie Dankie||Buy a donkey||Thanks a lot|
|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”
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!! 🙂
Baie dankie! Glad you enjoyed it.
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
Fab! My boys have started picking up some of these words since being here in zambia!
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.
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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.
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.
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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