• Travel English: A Guide to the English Spoken in South Africa

    There is no denying that the English spoken in South Africa is challenging to most students of English. Indeed, it is difficult even for native speakers to understand at times. Due to its many periods of colonization it has elements of Afrikaans, (a native language that is like Dutch), Portuguese, Malay as well as many tribal languages.

    However, don’t worry, there is help at hand. Here is a brief vocabulary guide to the English spoken in South Africa:

    Keyword: Apartheid

    Apartheid was the system of racial segregation that existed in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. It was introduced and enforced by the ruling National Party during this time. Non-whites were denied key civil rights like voting and there was a segregation (or division) of all public institutions which separate hospitals, schools, etc for the dominant whites and the oppressed non-whites.

    Food and Drink

    Amasi is used to refer to a drink made from sour milk.

    Strips of dried and salted meat are called biltong.

    Bobotie is a meat dish with egg sauce.

    Mealie is maize.

    Dumpie is a well-known local beer.

    Spook and diesel is a spirit mixed with coke.

    Alcohol is called dop.

    If you drink too much you could suffer from a babbelas or hangover.

    If something is tasty you can say it is lekker.


    Swimming trunks are called baggies.

    Running shoes are called takkies.

    If you have a tendency towards designer clothes you could be called a larney.


    To graze means to eat.

    Dankie is thank you.

    Rock up means to arrive.

    A good friend is called a china.

    A party is called a jawl.

    If you hear Chips! it means Look out!

    If you are asked to a social engagement and agree to it, you can say Fixed up!

    If someone tells you they will be there in now now, it means they will arrive in a little while.

    If someone tells you they will do something  just now, they might do it in a week, a month or never.

    If someone wants to bliksem you, you might want to leave quickly as it means they want to hit you.


    Townships are the precarious shelters where the poor people live in the suburbs of the big cities and where the non-whites lived during the apartheid regime.

    Crash means to go to sleep.

    Boere means police.

    Bergie is the name given to homeless people on the streets.

    Grassland is called veld.

    Money is called tom.

    If something is great or cool it is called bakgat.

    If something is cool, it is kief.

    To flog means to sell.

    A fight is called a barnie.

    Traffic lights are called robots.

    Smokes refer to cigarettes.

    An old person might be referred to as toppie.

    As we learn vocabulary for a trip to South Africa, let’s watch an uplifting moment in the country’s history – the election of Nelson Mandela as the county’s first non-white president in 1994. This event officially marked the end of Apartheid. Here is Mandela’s inaugural address.

    Travel English Classes | Inglés para Viajes

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