Language here is very interesting. First of all, in South Africa there are 11 official languages. Yep, 11! But don’t let that freak you out because in Cape Town pretty much everyone speaks English, which I find to be a good and bad thing. Other than English, the languages for the locals are Xhosa and Afrikaans. Xhosa is what black people speak and Afrikaans is what coloured and white people speak. But like I said previously, everyone also speaks English if they are school aged or older.
As I explained before I mostly work at the head quarters of Grassroot Soccer so I’m not out in the townships very much surrounded by people that are constantly talking in Xhosa. I do hear Xhosa and Afrikaans in the office on a daily basis, but not nearly enough to really even understand the most basic of sentences. And I’ll be honest and admit that I haven’t been very proactive to learn the local languages for a variety of reasons. However, language in general fascinates me, so I do like listening to people talk in their native language and try to ask questions whenever I can.
The interesting thing about Xhosa is its use of clicks. The letters x, c, and q are all clicks. Instead of trying to explain it, here’s a youtube video that always amuses me that is an example of some clicks.
Afrikaans is derived from Dutch. The accent of people that speak Afrikaans is somewhat of a mix between British and Dutch and German if you can picture that in your mind. I have to answer the phones at work sometimes and for the most part I do ok, but people with thicker accents can be a little more difficult to understand which I’m trying to work on.
Lastly, the English here is British English and not American English. So I think that’s one of the more unexpected things for me to experience. I knew that they spoke British English here, but I didn’t realize how many words would be different. There can definitely be a language barrier even when 2 people are speaking English!
So like I said above, I honestly haven’t picked up on much local language, but below are some words and phrases that have become a regular part of my vocabulary.
Moloweni = Hi in Xhosa
Dankie = Thank you in Afrikaans
Yabo!! = Yes!!
Common Afrikaans/British English words and phrases:
Pleasure = you’re welcome
Sharp – said at the end of conversations
Is it? = really?
Robot = stop light
Que = line
Schedule = spreadsheet
Hows it? = Hows it going?