South African English Part 2


Family: Indo-European
Group: Germanic
Subgroup: West Germanic


Black South African English, Indian English, Coloured English, Afrikaans English – variants of South African English

Around 3 457 467 people use it as their home language in South Africa.

South African English is probably the most complicated variant of English anywhere because it has always existed in a complex multilingual and multi-cultural environment. English is one of eleven official languages, and mother-tongue English-speakers number just three and a half million in a population of over forty million people – under 9%. So the position of SAE is markedly different from that in multi-lingual but predominantly English-speaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA. There is the potential for influence by many more languages than in other English-speaking communities, and these languages have widely divergent origins and structures.

General Vocabulary
A few notable South African English words: 

dwaal – state of befuddlement 

smaak – to like, to enjoy 

lekker – nice 

handlanger – assistant

skelm – dishonest person, rogue, rascal

veld – field/pasture 

spoor – animal track

braai – a barbecue, to barbecue

impi – horde of warriors

lekker – good, well, OK

shebeen – an illegal tavern, usually frequented by black patrons

sommer – for no particular reason, just because

trek – to move, to wander

tsotsi – thug, criminal, bandit

yebo – yes

bakkie – pickup truck

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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