My South African accent

Saturday, November 04, 2006 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

Occasionally my accent is queried. Some less well travelled people might mistake it for an Enn Zed accent or less well travelled may assume that it is Oz.

However most people are unsure of my accent. Even in most parts my own country my accent was unrecognisable. I guess its a mainly because my accent is a mixture of growing up in both Natal & the Cape as well as constant mixing it up with my European circle. In the Cape my accent is pretty standard for my circle. South Africa is a rainbow nation and the accents and languages spoken are so diverse that a brief explanation is necessary:

South Africa has 11 official languages:

Other languages spoken in South Africa and mentioned in the Constitution are the Khoi, Nama and San languages, sign language, Arabic, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Portuguese, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telegu and Urdu. There are also a few indigenous creoles and pidgins.

The South African accent has been influenced by the English, Dutch and native African languages

Afrikaners (Boers), descendants of mainly Dutch settlers, tend to pronounce English phonemes with a strong Afrikaans inflection, which is very similar to Dutch.

South African English accents fall into the following categories: (Being from the Cape myself they may have a slightly biased sound to them)

Cape proper - English almost pristinely maintained from the Victorian era by private school education . Mainly spoken in the Cape
Sample - "Hellooo, how are you?" "Hey how are you? Can't chat right
now I'm in a rush to the game"

English - Native English speakers in South Africa have an accent that generally resembles British Received pronunciation modified with varying degrees of Germanic inflection (caused by the Afrikaner influence). As well as by the other rainbow nation's influence and regularly infused by escapees or immagratotrs from the UK.

Spoken twice as quickly in the commercial region Gauteng region

Sample - "Howzit my china, howzs it going?" "Allright hey, lets catch up just now. I'm on the way to the mall hey" Cool look after yourself hey!

Duchy - Afrikaans has its roots in 17th century Dutch, with influences from English, Malay, German, Portuguese, French and some African languages. Spoken by mainly Afrikaans speaking people. Often with Afrikaans words thrown in.
Sample - "Hoesit" "Jislaaik I haven't seen you in jonks, listen I can't talk now I'm on my way to pick up some meat for the braai. Stormers vs. The Sharks later today. Listen Why don't you pull in, bring your stukkie" "lekkers"

Occasionally "aish" (Xhosa word, meaning gosh) is thrown in to prove how edgy or down with their brothers they are

Hippy or peacey (PC)-
Mostly English with some Afrikaans thrown in. With a good measure of Aishness.

Sample - "Howsit, hey bru" "Aish, long time brother. We are going to the half moon (party) tonite. Pull in bru. Aish nort I'm getting some hemp shirts for Greens (market). Come check them out.

Natalian - Natal was the last colonial outpost and with it comes an incredibly high pitched, laid back, nasal twang. Very disconcerting when when you are approached by a 6 foot brick house and he starts a conversation with an accent that would make Mike Tyson think you are making fun of him

Sample - "howzit bro" "butters my bother. What you been up to I haven't seen you in awhile yaa my clothing range is taking off big time how's the club. Cool by the pool. I've hooked up a DJ that's the biz come by Saturday.

Surfer or south coaster - Similar to a mixture of English Natalian with a slice of west coast slang and a dash of laid backness. Mostly found in the water, on the beach or in a puff of clouds.
Sample - "Howzit bru" "fully, whats the score? I heard outer kom is ripping lets roll. Nowt bru I'm on like Donkey Kong I'm scoping the betties on the beach" "Fullaa bru, Kiff"

Cape colured - (This is a non-racist term)
Cape coloureds are found in Cape Town are very proud of their heritage as Cape Coloureds they are wonderfully vibrant, strong people. A typical Cape coloured speaks fluent 'Kombuis'(kitchen) Afrikaans; this is the informal more English version of Afrikaans.
Sample - "t'zay wat doen t'zay, ne" "is lekkers cuz, hoesit" "nay, waars staggie?" "Lekker aan vir a braai, ne"

Often heard on the beaches: "Lolly make you jolly, sexy like a pepsi"

Fanagalo - Another unofficial language its a sort of kombuis but is mostly isiZulu and isiXhosa with a little Afrikaans, English, Dutch, and Portuguese. It is spoken mainly in the north aroung mining areas. I guess it must have originated as a way for people from different nationalities to communicate while working on the mines. Its a bit like the street speak in "Blade Runner" but for real and happening now.

It is essentially a simplified version of isiZulu and isiXhosa - about 70% of the lexicon is from isiZulu - and incorporates elements from English, Dutch, Afrikaans and Portuguese. It does not have the range of Zulu inflections, and tends to follow English word order. Similar pidgins are Cikabanga in Zambia and Chilapalapa in Zimbabwe. Fanagalo is a rare example of a pidgin based on an indigenous language rather than on the language of a colonising or trading power.

Breton - Is a dialect of Afrikaans and is spoken up the West coast its
Afrikaans but spoken with a really heavy inflection. Making it almost
foreign to the uneducated ear (mine, included)

Some choice South African accents from Hollywood:

Cry Freedom
Kevin Kline is Donald Woods
A good attempt but not very consistent and veers occasionally to an
English man with a South African accent which might have been the
effect he was going for. As the film was set two decades ago. In which
case its a very good accent.

The Power of One
Daniel Craig is Jaapie Botha
Interesting accent Based on his regular accent I suspect that Craig
has some African roots. Although in this film it sounds like his lines
were dubbed.

Hard Target
Arnold Vosloo is Pik van Cleef
Ok Vosloo is South African so you are probably wondering why he's in
the list. Like most South Africans trying to crossover to the world at large
Vosloo has adopted a faux mid Atlantic accent (see Charlize Theron,
and think Britney Spears suddenly developing a Parisian accent or
Madonna suddenly developing a British accent ???m). No doubt Vosloo
has spent a lot of time and money with a voice coach developing his
faux Americanise twang. " Next time I cut me a steak". All good ,-)
the real issue is that he is either moonlighting as a voice coach or
the same coach that helped him lose his Afrikaans accent is now
teaching other actors Vosloo's faux accent. So anyone attempting to
gain a South African accent seems to be developing a fake American
accent putting on a South African accent.

Muriel's Wedding
Daniel Lapaine is David Van Arckle
Lapaine seems to think that the best way to induce a SA accent is by
frowning lots, adding extended r's to everything e.g. "I'm going to
rrrrealy" "rrrright" and act like a confused German competing in the
1933 Olympics.

The Saint
Val Kilmer is Simon Templar is the surf/poet/druggie/farmer/WTF??
I'm from SA & I did not understand half the things he was saying.
Circa 1997. Cape Town A viewing of The Saint. There is mild confusion
in the audience as Kilmer turn into an incomprehensible druggy and
then laughing as the audience realises Kilmers character is supposed
to be South African. His character sounds like he spent a year as a
groupie with the Doors, got dragged backwards through the Serengeti by
a Rhinoceros and to finish spun himself around very quickly while
smoking the worlds biggest blunt. I don't care if Kilmer spent a
weekend going to clubs in Cape Town to method act is accent for "The
ghost & the darkness". It's atrocious e.g. You know when his character
confuses you with his strange lingo and accent, its just as confusing
to South Africans.

Half a point for throwing in a Jislaaik into the dialogue. He may have
learnt something from his time in the Cape.

Lethal Weapon
Patsy Kensit is Rika van den Haas
Joss Ackland is Arjen 'Aryan' Rudd
Ok this shows good examples across the spectrum from hilarious to
scary. The film kicks off with a crackling voice over our heroes radio
Riggs: "Wha what's that? Japanese?"
Murtle: "Well its not colour purple but at least I'm working"

To this day and after repeated viewing I do not know what the supposed
Afrikaans voice over the radio is saying. It may as well be Japanese.

Kensit 's accent sounds across between a Glaswegian and an Australian.
The less said the better. I t was just embarrassing.

Ackland as Arjen 'Aryan' (for real). Is scarily good. He has done it s
many times before (White, Mischief, A dry white season ,etc.). He
sounds like every repressed, older, authoritarian Afrikaans male I
have ever heard. It could just be the way he looks but I think he
based the character on PW Botha (never knew what the PW stood for)
South Africa's last Apartheid Prime Minister, who recently passed away
(like 3 days ago.)

Mission Impossible II
Richard Roxburgh is Hugh Stamp
What is it with these Australians?? Another cartoon rendition of a an
Arnold Vosloo accent

Die Another Day
Ian Pirie as Creep
This was a hilarious cartoon impression of a Duchy/Afrikaans accent.
If you are unsure who the South African was he was the generic
creep/thug at the clinic ordering people around like it was South
Africa 20 years ago (in the north). Bond poses as his wheel chair
carer. He could be mistaken for a nouve riche Russian but he's
actually supposed to be south African.

Thomas Jane is Andre Stander
You have to admire the ballseyness of a guy that has mild success as
supporting cast that takes on a main role -playing a South African.
There is lots of murder in this film mainly Jane murdering a duchy
accent. Points for throwing in the Afrikaans (with subtitles).

Daniel Craig is Steve
Actually quite good. Even better if he was imitating a Namibian
accent. Namibia borders South Africa on the West coast and has a large
Afrikaans & German speaking population. Alternatively the film was set
two decades ago so Daniel could have been affecting a period accent.

The Interpreter
Nicole Kidman is Silvia Broome
Wisely producers did not position Kidmans character as South African.
She is supposed to originate from a country just North of South Africa
possibly Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. Either way her interpretation borders the
slanderous and is up there with Patsy Kensit & Val Kilmer for worst
put on accent.

Presley Chweneyagae is Tsotsi
OK Presley is South African so I can't crit his accent. He has an
honourable mention as an example of Fanagalo mixed with Afrikaans. I was
surprised to see the influence on the local language, maybe this was
for effect and to appeal to wider South African market. Maybe I am
completely out of touch with the languages actually spoken up north.

Blood Diamond
Leonardo DiCaprio is Danny Archer
Actually sounds like a mix of northern English with Cape proper.
Unfortunately its not very consistent. Similar to Dicaprio's
Boston/Irish accent in The Departed

Catch a Fire
Tim Robbins is Nic Vos
An Ok mix of duchy and English but less consistent. Once again it may
be indicitive the period.