Basics – Speaking South African

more than a year ago

South Africa has 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. Most South Africans speak more than one language, but city life happens in English. In addition to the official South African languages, Joburg is also home to a babel of language communities from across the globe.

While English is the lingua franca, cultural diversity has created a South African language of its own. Key words include:

Aweh Awesome
Babelas Hangover
Bakkie ​Pick up truck
Biltong Like beef jerky, just much better; also made from venison
Bobotie Spice mince meat baked with an egg-based topping
Boerewors Sausage made with minced meat and spices. Sometimes served as a boerie roll (hot dog style in a bread roll with relish)
Born-frees Children born after the advent of democracy in 1994
Braai Both the act of coal-grilling meat, and the event at which it is eaten
Bro ​or Boet Brother, meaning friend
Coloured Refers to an ethnic group whose origins are mixed, European and African
Dagga or Zol Marijuana
Eita Hello
Eish! Exclamation of surprise or wonder
Howzit How are you?
Ja Yes (originally Afrikaans, pronounced "ya")
Jissis Boet - Yeah man for example; "Jissis boet, I'm gonna smash those weights at the gym."
Jol To go out on the town, to party
Just now Any time in the near future, from two minutes to many hours. Now now is more immediate and usually means something will happen imminently.


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