Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How To: Master South African Slang

So many languages, so little time.  If I wanted to learn all of the official languages of South Africa, during my stay, I would have to master an average of about two languages per month. On a daily basis I hear English, Zulu and Afrikaans. These are probably the most widely spoken languages but this is also based on my geographic location. The additional eight languages include Xhosa, Sepedi, Sesotho, Tsonga, Swati, Venda, Ndebele and Setswana. Wish I could say that I have learned all of these languages but I haven't even come close. In fact, I usually have trouble naming off all eleven languages. That said, I have learned some pretty cool South African slang. So today, we're all going to learn to talk like a South African. Ready?

Howzit: This is an informal greeting. Like "how's it going." The trick to fitting in is that you have to know that the greeter is not actually interested in how things are going in your life. Just respond with hello and you won't reveal your true identity as an outsider quite as quickly. 

Sawubona: This is "hello" in Zulu. Respond with a drawn out "yebo" to acknowledge the greeting. OR if you want to get really fancy inquire with an "Unjani?"

Izzit: Sounds like "is it?" except it's used any time you would you "really?" So in place of "does it?" "Was it?" "Were they?" etc.

YOH!: Pronounced yaw. Like yikes or wow. An exclamation. 

Eish!: Essentially the Zulu equivalent of Yoh! Also HAW! can be used.

Bru: used like bro or dude

Lekker: When something is super awesome it's soooo lekker.

Tuning: Say "chooning" though. when someone is doing something the opposite of lekker you tune them. In other words if you are calling someone out or giving someone a hard time you're "tuning them hard"

Robot: Stoplight. I know--this was weird for me too. And while we're on the subject of driving...

Combi or Kumbi: a mini bus/public transportation that "seats 14" which actually means seats 34.

Chappies: Gum. Anyone who knows me well knows that this was an important one for me to learn.

Grafting: before you WRITE (not take) exams you will be graftin' hard. It means bustin' your butt.

Shame: This one means exactly what you think it means but is peppered into almost every conversation you have with a South African. Sometimes used as a space filler when there's a pause. 

Hectic: Again means the same thing as in the US but used often in the same way Americans use crazy. So you can say you can say that "traffic was hectic" or you can say it was "hectic fun" etc. 

Braai: A barbeque. Braai's are a major part of South African culture. And if you haven't just been to a braai then perhaps you're out jolling. 

Jol: used as a noun and and a verb. Meaning a party or to party. A night out jollin' may result in a...

Babelaas: Pronounced bub-ah-lahs. A word that is Zulu in origin and means hangover. 

Spaza: a Zulu word that describes little informal convenience stores that may sell everything from healing powder to potato chips. But who really knows on any given day.

Shap: said to sort of acknowledge the end of the conversation or to leave. "Shap, shap, I'm going."

And with that shap, shap y'all!