Many South Africans speak English but that doesn’t mean that you will always understand us. For example our “robots” are nothing like R2D2, “just now” doesn’t mean immediately and when we mention “China” we are not talking about the country. Confused? Now let us explain…
South African English often borrows words freely from Afrikaans (which is similar to Dutch and Flemish), as well as from the country’s many African languages. Whilst this helps to give South African English character and a flavour of its very own, we understand that it also makes us a little difficult at times to understand.
Here are some of the most commonly used slag words and phrases, so you are not completely baffled when you arrive in Cape Town.
Biltong: (bill-tong) This South African favourite is dried and salted meat, similar to beef jerky.
Boerewors: (boor-uh-vors) South African sausage.
Bliksem: To beat up, hit or punch; or a mischievous person.
Braai: A BBQ.
Bru: (brew) A term shortened from Afrikaans broer meaning brother.
China: Good friend or mate.
Eina: (ay-nah) Sore or ouch.
Eish: (aysh) An expression of surprise, “wow”.
Howzit: A traditional South African greeting that means “how are you” or simply “hello”.
Is it: (izit) The equivalent to “is that so?”.
Ja: (yaa) Yes
Just now: If a South African tells you they will do something “just now” do NOT expect it to be done immediately. Instead they are telling you they will do it in the near future or in their own time.
Kak: Talking s**t
Lekker: Cool, great, nice or tasty.
Mealie: A corn on the cob.
Moer: (moo-ra with a rolling R) I’m going to hit you.
Muti: (moo-ti) Medicine.
Pap: (pup) A porridge made from maize meal.
Robots: Traffic lights.
Shame: Often said when emphasising something’s cuteness or someone’s misfortune.
Now we have helped you out with a few of the most popular South African slang words you won’t find it difficult to understand conversations like this when you arrive at never@home:
“Howzit my broer, do you want to go to braai night at the Randy Warthog? I’ve heard the boerewors is lekker and the vibe is kiff”
“Ja, sounds good china. We can talk kak whilst enjoying a few cold ones by the pool. See you there just now”
“You’d better pitch or else I’ll bliksim you!”