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Often referred to as the "Rainbow Nation", South Africa is home to a fascinating mix of citizens. There are the Nguni (Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and Sazi people), the San people, the Sotho Stana, the Tsonga and the Venda.There are the people of European, as well as mixed and Asian descent. Then there is a cross pollination of several of the descents, all falling under the overarching South African culture. South Africa is a a melting pot of endless cultural diversity that is reflected through traditional and modern interpretations of songs, dance, theater, design, fashion and food. Language is no different.

While it's true every country has its own peculiar turns of phrase which may not form part of its’ standard vocabulary, but rather used informally amoungst locals as slang.There is something exceptionally quirky about South African slang. Slang gives any local language flavour, colour and character. Unless you’re a native speaker, South African slang can be tricky to grasp which is understandable considering the 11 official South African languages!

There are an abundance of words and phrases poached from all these languages and used informally as slang, and can be quite daunting for foreign visitors especially when faced with some of the more obscure lingo. Here are some interesting examples of South African slang one could come across while visiting South Africa:

  • "Ja-wel-no-fine"- direct translation: Yes-well-no-fine
    This is an expression of resignation. For example, “The bus is running late again, ya wel no fine, not much we can do about it”.
  • "Lekker"- direct translation: Good or nice. (Interestingly the plural version "lekkers" means candy or sweets.)
  • "Jol"-direct translation: Party or good time. These 2 words in a phrase: “That was a lekker jol last night”
  • "Jislaak"- means: Gee whiz or wow. This is used to express surprise or confusion. For example: “Jislaak that was a big wave!”
    " Haaibo"- means: Oh no or gosh! This is a term to express shock or disbelief, for example: “Haaibo you are not 21!”
  • "Awe masekind"- direct translation is: hello mother's child and is often followed by the phrase" Hoe lyk dit?" meaning how is it going? Often used together as an informal greeting among friends like this: "Awe ma se kind, how lyk dit"?

If you are planning a trip to South Africa and would prefer not to flounder when faced with some of the local lingo, you can find an extensive compilation of South African slang here. South Africa is a large, diverse and incredibly beautiful country. Come explore it and converse with the locals .

Sheilan House in Port Alfred is perfectly situated in the heart of the Eastern Cape, known as the Sunshine Coast, or the Adventure Province of South Africa and it certainly lives up to its’ name. For more information on must-see Eastern Cape attractions and activities click here.

You can book directly with us via email or call us: Cell phone: +27 82 894 1851 Phone: +27 46 624 4076

Image rights: Tori Stowe