Posted by on June 01, 2010

It’s South African English month, lekker! When I got back to South Africa in 2002 having been away for 6 years, I was struck by the change in the English spoken there. It had become more of a mix of the other predominant languages (such as Zulu and Afrikaans) and was a real indication, I thought, of the societal changes that had taken place in the post-apartheid ‘Rainbow Nation’, especially amongst the younger generation. Now, 8 years later, it seems to me that South African English has become even more of a mix. We’ve put together this vid to try and show the charismatic diversity that exists there:

Also (more importantly?!), South Africa is hosting the Fifa World Cup 2010 … I’m sure you’ve heard. I can almost hear the vuvuzelas from over here. Ja no, there’s a lot to celebrate hey, we’re totally amped.

As always, we welcome your comments, opinions, and guest posts.

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Comments (12)
  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Caroline Short, Macmillan Dictionary. Macmillan Dictionary said: It's South African English month, howzit# South Africa! […]

    Posted by Tweets that mention Howzit | Macmillan -- on 1st June, 2010
  • This is really great and very interesting. It would be even better if you could have the word the people are talking about written on the screen. Some are difficult to understand.

    Posted by Barbara Leonard on 1st June, 2010
  • Apparently ‘kiff’ is derived from the afrikaans ‘gif’ popularised from the english translation ‘poison’ during the ’70s…

    Posted by Burt L / Browne on 1st June, 2010
  • Nice combination of sounds, languages, cultures.
    Is it right what I have listened to?… “I feel shop”= I feel good.
    Another interesting South African response: “Hundreds!”
    Enjoy the Fifa world Cup 2010!
    Thank you very much, Laine.

    Posted by Maria Costa on 1st June, 2010
  • Maria, it is actually the word ‘sharp’ said in a dialectical SA accent and should probably be spelt ‘shap’. It means the same as ‘cool’ and is often said repeating it “shap shap”

    Posted by Geoff Tracey on 1st June, 2010
  • Many Thanks, Geoff! So useful and detailed your information!
    So “sharp” indeed…

    Posted by Maria Costa on 1st June, 2010
  • Hi Barbara,

    I will definitely provide a list of the South African English words used here, along with their definitions.Thanks for the comment!

    Posted by Laine on 1st June, 2010
  • I have a Dictionary of South African Slang on my website (that you have linked). I’ve been wanting to do a video series for South African slang since last year but just haven’t been up to it – it’s still on my to-do list.

    We have eleven official languages here in South Africa!

    Posted by Randi on 2nd June, 2010
  • As a South African living and teaching English in Italy, I was amused by and interested in your video. I’ve also noticed a great change in the way English is spoken in South Africa.
    I was reminded how different my English was to British English when I spent some time with the British teachers at the first school where I taught in Italy. My instructions to turn right at the “robot” resulted in hysterical laughter and robot-like hand movements. When I said I was wearing a “spencer” under my winter top, they were mystified. They wore “vests”. In an unguarded moment one day, I told someone to “Check out my new takkies,” only to receive a blank stare. I wanted them to admire my trainers.
    The list could go on and on. This is the country where money is “bucks” and a minibus taxi is a “zola budd”. Or was – perhaps things have changed again. I’m looking forward to following your blog this month.

    Posted by Margaret Brizzolari on 2nd June, 2010
  • Why is the background music so loud? It is really irritating. Can’t hear the speech clearly.

    Posted by Beverley on 3rd June, 2010
  • All your englishes made me start a new site for Russian you very much for your constant job!

    Posted by AllaSobirova on 9th June, 2010
  • Very interesting. What about ‘Ja’. People here in New Zealand say we say ‘Ja’ for everything. That is so true as we tend to say ‘Ja’ opposed to ‘Yes’. This is both English speaking and Afrikaans speaking people. After teaching at a secondary school for two years in New Zealand I have noticed that some of my students started using the word ‘Ja’. Quite amusing.

    Posted by Belinda Guy on 9th June, 2010
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