South African English

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[South African English] is a language of many paradoxes. There are 3 million first-language SAE-speakers, about the same as the number of English-speakers in New Zealand, but they are in a minority, greatly outnumbered by second- and third-language speakers. English is perceived both as the language of communication and aspiration, and as an oppressive juggernaut because of its global power. While politicians often brand English as a ‘colonialist’ and disempowering force, many black parents see it as a crucial instrument for their children’s advancement. And while the government espouses multilingualism, in practice SAE is dominant in public life, for reasons of practicality and cost-efficiency. 

Excerpt taken from the OED blog post, ‘South African English‘ by Penny Silva, which explores the history and current status and linguistic features of English in South Africa

South African English words recently recorded in the OED 

Explore the full list of South African English words most recently added to the OED. 

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Additional resources

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South African English editors and consultants

The OED works in partnership with external experts from or in South Africa to ensure that our South African English entries draw from local knowledge and expertise and reflect the everyday reality and distinctive identity of the South African English-speaking community.

South African English pronunciation

View the OED’s pronunciation model and key to pronunciation for South African English. 

South African English resources: from the OED blog

In South Africa, a sandwich is a sarmie; a casual greeting of ‘how’s it going?’ is shortened to ‘howzit?’and a non-committal, resigned, or ironic ‘whatever’ is expressed as ‘ja well no fine’, pronounced quickly, almost as one word. South Africans call an old, dilapidated car a skedonkprobably in imitation of the bangs and splutters such a car makes; and they describe anything that they consider cool as kifa word that can be traced back to kaif, an Arabic word meaning ‘enjoyment’ or ‘pleasure’ which was later colloquially used in English to refer to a feeling of dreamy intoxication, as well as to the mind-altering substances that cause such feelings.

Excerpt taken from OED blog post ‘ South African additions to the OED


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