July 2, 2010

From Babbalas to Yebo

Having been in South Africa for 4 months, we have greatly added to our dictionary of South African expressions, so here is Part II on my Language entry (click here for Part I):
  • Babbalas - A hangover
  • Biltong - Dried meat, like jerky – grows on you!
  • Boerewors - That which goes on a braai (a really long coiled-up sausage)
  • Eish! - Gosh/bummer/ouch/no way – fits in most “welcome to Africa” situations
  • Good’n-you? - Answer to Howzit (I've often felt a bit awkward when I only say "good, thanks" and then get "good thanks" back automatically, even though technically I didn't ask "and you?")
  • Howzit? - How are you? 
  • Izzit? - Oh really? (which sounds funny to us in a dialog such as "I'm planning to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro," and "Izzit?" as the response)
  • Ja - Afrikaans for yes
  • Just now - Technically this means soon; but in reality not very soon at all, definitely not immediately, might not even be today
  • Kit - Uniform (athletic)
  • Naartje - Tangerine/clementine
  • Shame - You’re kidding/really – hard to translate but used often, like when you’re telling someone an endearing story and they cluck sympathetically on occasion
  • Side - Team
  • Stoep - Patio
  • Takkies - Sneakers/tennis shoes
  • Yebo - Zulu for yes
One last thing on language: I’m very impressed what an effort South Africans make to pronounce words correctly, as opposed to Americans who in my experience quite liberally anglicize most foreign words. For example, even English-speaking South Africans pronounce Gauteng (the province Johannesburg is situated in) the correct Afrikaans way, where the “G” sounds like the “CH” in the German word “Nacht”, making it something like “Chaoteng”. “Haoteng” would be the next best thing but not quite right. Even more difficult to pronounce is the clicking sound Zulu and other native languages incorporate, like in the word Xhosa. That is pronounced “Khosa” preceeded a clicking of the tongue. And again, if, say, a white South African gives you directions through the towns of Kwa-Zulu Natal, you will feel quite inadequate in the face of so much tongue-clicking!

You might also like:

My 43 Favorite South-Africanisms
"Just Now or Now Now"?


Jake said...

Naartjie - Clementine/Tangerine :0)

Jake said...

Tekkies - Sneakers/Tennis shoes is an afrikaans word.

W. A. Jeffrey said...

Language is probably one of my top ten expat worries. I embarrass easily and I hate it when I mispronounce words. In any foreign country this can be tricky but in most cases you only have to learn pronunciation in one language. South Africa has 11 and they borrow from one another quite liberally. Tension city!

Sine said...

Yes, but South Africans being some of the friendliest people on Earth, I don't think you'll have to worry. At the beginning when meeting new people I'd often smilingly get something like "you have a funny accent," which never bothered me. On the contrary, I felt honored, because English isn't even my first language and yet here everyone thought I was 100% American.