Nigerian English versus South African English: Which Do You Prefer?

English Lesson Notes for Junior Secondary

Nigerian English versus South African English: Which Do You Prefer?
South African and Nigerian Englishes are two varieties of the English language spoken in South Africa and Nigeria respectively.

Unlike in Nigeria where English is the only official and the most widely used language, there are eleven official languages in South Africa: Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, English, Northern Sotho, Tswana, Tsonga, Swazi, Venda and Ndebele; with English as the fourth most widely spoken language. The top three most common languages in terms of how many people speak them are Zulu, Xhosa and Afrikaans.

The Nigerian English differs from the South African English in terms of vocabulary. Though there are also phonological differences, this tutorial only projects the vocabulary or word differences.

What is Vocabulary?

Vocabulary is the sum total of words which are found in a language or which a language has. As a matter of fact, there are words that are found or used in South African English that are not in any way present in Nigerian English and even the Standard English.

Nigerian English is based on the Standard British English due to the fact that she was colonized by Britain although there is an influx of American English due to her increasing contacts with America in recent times. This has undoubtedly prevented the use of new words (that is, words that are not found in British or American English) in Nigerian English.

However, although South Africa was colonized by Britain (after the Dutch), the English language spoken there is not solely based on the Standard British English. It is heavily influenced by Afrikaans and sprinkled with Bantu language words. This influence has given rise to non English words which are now incorporated in the variety of the English Language spoken in South Africa. It is at this point that you will notice a sharp dichotomy between the Nigerian English and the South African English.

Let’s have a look at some words you will find in South African English that are neither used nor found in Nigeria English; their meanings and how they are used:

1. Lekker/lekka – cool or great.

I had a lekker day today guys!

2. Kif – fun/good/cool

That movie was kif; I want to see it again.

3. Babalas – hangover

I have a babalas today. I think I drank too much beer.

4. Bakkie – a pick up or merchandise vehicle.

Grab the bakkie and let’s go pick up the fridge from the neighbours.

5. Boet – brother, friend

Hey boet! Want to meet later for a coffee?

6. Kuk – rubbish/not good at all

That food was kuk, I don’t think I’ll eat there again

7. Braai – a barbecue

Should we have a braai today guys and girls?

8. Is it? – Used commonly to express surprise or “is that so”?

She broke up with me yesterday
Is it? Sorry man.

9. Jol – To have fun or go out for the night

I feel like going on a jol tonight, are you coming?

10. Ja - Yes. The "J" is pronounced as "y" as in "ya!"

Will you be in school tomorrow?
Ja man!

11. Eish – a colloquial word expressing shame, surprise or disapproval.

Eish, I can’t believe I failed the exam.

12. Dop – a drink (alcohol).

Do you want to have a dop after work?

In sum, although the Nigerian English and the South African English are varieties of the English Language, to an extent, they are mutually unintelligible.

Having read that, do you love rolling your mouth in English like a South African?