South African English

Welcome to our South African English page.

This page contains a growing list of resources regarding South African English; how South African English has influenced international English and how English is spoken in South Africa.

Please leave any suggested links in the comments section.

Our blog posts on South African English

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.

South African English is the eish
There’s a degree of irreverence in South African attitudes to most things, but particularly towards the English. It is something that undoubtedly has its roots in South African history …

South African words in English – then and now (part 1)
It is a pleasure and a privilege to welcome Jean Branford to our blog. A distinguished lexicographer, Jean is a world authority on the English of South Africa and author of A Dictionary of South African English. This is the first of three blogs from Dr Branford.

Kellogg’s, braais and a monkey’s wedding
Being a bit of a word geek, I subscribe to several ‘word of the day’ emails. You can imagine my joy when my word-love and South African heritage combined, a fortnight or so back, and I found that braaivleis had reached the lofty heights of email ‘word of the day’ …

James Joyce. How could they turn him down?
During Scottish-English week the question was posed, via a tweet: What would Burns’s poetry have been like had he followed through on his plans to emigrate to the West Indies? The question this month is: What if James Joyce, or Samuel Beckett had become a South African? In 1907, Joyce seems at least to have considered emigration to South Africa …

Vuvuzelas and ladumas
Friday saw the opening of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. A large proportion of the world’s population will be watching football over the next four weeks. Historian and Capetonian Dawn Nell discusses South African English football/sport terms featuring in the 2010 World Cup …

South African words in English – then and now (part 2)
The usual range of the South African words we use now, as part of our everyday life, pales under the spotlight of the World Cup. The country, having been working up to it for what seems a long time, is now consumed with the fever – and fervour. The old motto ‘Local is Lekker’ [good, excellent] is still around, but ‘Proudly South African’ has bloomed and every flag-adorned packet of supermarket chops bears a label saying so …

South African words in English – then and now (part 3)
In South Africa, too many social and political changes to enumerate have taken place between my teens under British colonial rule, and my late seventies under the spell of the World Cup. Not the least of these is in attitudes to and use of South African words in English. Obviously this has not happened overnight, but most aspects of everyday life have their own distinctively South African vocabulary …

The Rainbow Nation and its strange racial terminology
Race mattered in Apartheid South Africa because it was the basis on which so much was defined. As a South African who embraces the idea of the Rainbow Nation I would dearly love to avoid using racial terminology, however, as an historian it is virtually impossible. No narrative of South Africa’s past makes sense without acknowledging the role played by definitions of race …

Other links

South Africa – The popularity of the English language
This article investigates the popularity of the English language as a medium of communication and identity among black South Africans.

A Lekker Lexicon – South African English
Native speakers of English visiting South Africa for the first time need to be aware that South African English has a number of what I’ll call ‘false friends’ – recognisable English words which have a completely different meaning to the one traditionally accepted in Britain or other varieties of English.

Other regional English pages

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Russian English
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Australian English
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