South African English - Versatile and Unique

Of the two European languages which were brought to South Africa during the early days of colonization, English is undoubtedly the most widespread. Because of the prevalence of this language, English is the main language used in government and business. Though English is not the first language of many individuals, it is usually spoken and understood by a large portion of the population. Many television programs which are broadcast nationally are in English and you will almost always find English speakers in most parts of the country.

Of all the official languages in the country, English and Afrikaans are the most widely used since they cross the various cultural barriers more easily than most other native languages. Each province uses English, Afrikaans and the most predominant African language in their province for official documents. Because the English spoken in South Africa is derived from the British Settlers who immigrated to the country en mass in the 1820s, schools teach the language based on the British grammatical system. However, as a spoken language, English has taken on several peculiarities as it has become mixed with a variety of accents and words taken from other languages. Several expressions that are specific to South Africa have emerged and are used across the country. ‘Howzit?’ is a common greeting – a contraction of the words “How goes it?” A common reply would be ‘lekker’, which is Afrikaans slang for ‘great’. This is just one example of how the language has not only taken on several twists in South Africa, but how it has been influenced by the widespread use of words from other languages.

If you are planning a trip to the country soon but are unsure of which languages to familiarize yourself with, English would be a safe bet. Even if they cannot read or write it, most South African’s can usually speak and understand the language. What’s more, it is spoken in several other countries across the world which makes it a convenient language to know. So come to South Africa and find out more about the country’s unique brand of English first hand.


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