The History of the English language in South Africa can be traced back to the first British occupation in 1795. English was considered to be the civilized language and the upper classes, even those from the Dutch stock used it in their everyday life. A number of British settlers also came to the Cape in 1820. The early South African academics who did not study in The Netherlands, studied in England (Oxford or Cambridge). Since the death of Cecil J. Rhodes his wealth was basically spent on anglicization of promising students - bequests were made to enable them to study in Britain. During the early occupation days, especially after the second occupation when British rule became more permanent, the language of the government, schools, legal system and business was English. Today we have the colourful choice of 11 official languages but without exception most people will opt for English as lingua franca.

Family: Indo-European
Group: Germanic
Subgroup: West Germanic

VARIETIES: Black South African English (BSAE), Indian English, Coloured English, Afrikaans English

More information: English in South Africa (Gough) 


Word list

Unsesco Language Survey

Around 3 457 467 people use it as their home language in South Africa. English is also widely used in South Africa's neighbouring countries as second and third language.


cover Teaching English As a Foreign or Second Language : 
A Self-Development and Methodology Guide 
cover The Oxford English Dictionary (20 Volume Set)  
Survey of English Dialects, Introduction and Basic Material

Kalahari.net (South African bookshop)
Afrikaans-Engelse woordeboek English-Afrikaans dictionary

Afrikaans-Engelse woordeboek English-Afrikaans dictionary

The concise multilingual dictionary The concise multilingual dictionary: Afrikaans, Tswana, Southern Sotho, Northern Sotho, Zulu, Xhosa and English.
Afrikaans-English/English-Afrikaans Practical Dictionary

Internet Links
Arguments for Black South African English as a distinct ‘new’ English
Black South African Englishes - towards a variationist account
Dialects, Standards, Myths
Dictionary Unit for South African English
South African English: Oppressor or Liberator
South African English pronunciation

South African English is lekker


© J. Olivier (2009)