One of the things I find incredibly interesting about South Africa is that they have 12 official languages and many other languages that are spoken. I only speak one of the official languages, which is English. However, it is still interesting that I can have a conversation with someone in english and still be confused about what they are saying. For a funny example check out Trevor Noah’s video about English vs. American. I am adding to some of the items on his list. Some of the differences I have collected and eventually started using without thinking about it are listed below. Enjoy.

jorl= party/ to have fun

oke= male, dude

just now= sometime in the future

now now= in a minute, now

robots= traffic lights

shops= grocery store

lekker= great

braai= barbecue

gymming= going to the gym

nappies= diapers

serviettes= napkins

biltong= beef jerky (South Africans claim theirs is better)

babbelas= hangover

bru= friend, pal

chow= lets eat

chommie= friend

hoezit- how is it?

toastie= grilled sandwich

sarmie= sandwich

chips= french fries

yebo= yes

shame= sympathy or admiration

eish= colloquial exclamation of surprise, disapproval, exasperation or regret

sharp= good-bye (pronounced shap)

boerewors= ‘farmers sausage’ in Afrikaans, popular for SA braai.

biscuit= cookie

Askies= sorry

There are others but these are the ones that I can currently remember. Pronunciations are also different as well. I’ll leave those up to your imagination. If I had to foresee what it would be like to go home, to one language for the most part, where I can understand everyones conversations, it will be very strange. All the languages and different cultures seem to add so many other layers. However, I do believe when I return home I will see other layers and many differences that will be strange, but things I have never notices before.

Other observations are that many traffic rules mean suggestions, such as, yellow means speed up to make sure you go, red means that two more cars can go before the other directions light goes green and stop signs are more like yields. The cars here are also manuals, and I can only drive an automatic. All these differences are not out of the ordinary but just interesting still how things are similar but not the same.





One thought on “English?

  1. Hi Randi! This post brought a smile to my face! What is interesting is that many of these words on the list are actually not unique to South Africa, but are actually inspired by British English. Chips, Biscuits, nappies, etc. many of them are really an influence from the British. Here is a great site that has more British English terms. I wonder how many others you will find similar to what you hear in SA 🙂

    Sorry we were not able to connect again today! Hopefully third time’s the charm!



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