South African English



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 tracks

Author: Janet Carr

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

6 thoughts

  1. dwaal, smaak, lekker, handlanger and veld are dutch in origin, all are normal words in dutch, but the meaning is a little different, dwalen is a verb and means to wander. Smaak means taste, handlanger is an accomplice and veld means the same 🙂

  2. Wonderful comments to read and try to understand. One question Janet, after all your travels and your obvious competencies with foreign languages, do you speak English with a South African accent? Sorry, just curious, and fascinated by such things!

  3. Eish. What a jôl. I smaak you stukkend. Check that mobi mampara madala over there. Nyum nyum this is moosh.

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