Friday, September 30, 2005

How to speak "Saff Effriken"

So what else do you need to know about language, and talking, and listening here?

Well! One of the charming conversational gambits is that whenever you complete a transaction at a store, and say, “Thank you,” the shopgirl will smile this huge gorgeous smile at you, and say, “Pleasure”. Or even “Mah plih-zhah” It seems so friendly and, well, pleasurable. (And I don’t have any idea what guys are thinking when they get this response!) But this country seems like a place made to be pleasant. The weather is fabulous, the sun is shining, and flowers are lush and bountiful.

I’m still having some trouble actually understanding what people are saying, though. It’s embarrassing, really, like when I first got to England. You have to ask everyone to repeat everything two and three times. And then you’re still at sea, because you’ve now heard the words, but you don’t have any context in which to evaluate them.

I bought some airtime for my pay as you go South African phone, and the guy had to ask me three times how many Rands I wanted to purchase. Then I was so flustered, that when he asked me if I knew how to put it into the phone, I just said, “Yes.” Walked out of the store, and thought, “Duh, you silly prat, you don’t have the first idea!” So I went back into the store and said, “I’m sorry, but I absolutely have NO idea how to do this. I don’t know what I was thinking.” The kid just laughed and did it for me.

Anyway, here I have developed a useful little chart, for pronunciation and translation purposes. But first, some examples.

Listen carefully:

the vowel sounds ....
lights = lahhhhts
pleasure = plih zhah
bed= bayed (like, “bayed at the moon”)
you = well, it’s “you”... oddly, the same....
have = hehv

i = a
e = i ... or perhaps an “a” sound
u = oo
a = e
o = well, jury is out on this one...

South Africans seem to say “o”, (as in “”), as “ow” like “ouch”.... and “ouch”, that’s what I say to myself when I’m trying to figure out what was just said to me! I haven’t even been using the phone much, because it’s just too hard to understand people at the moment.

A couple of other bits and pieces. “Have a lekker day!” which I think means “Have a sweet day!” And then the general greeting, “Howzit?” -- that’s just an all purpose “Whazzup?”.

Oh and then let’s not forget “Ja”.

Obviously, it means “yes”. But you should hear how they say it!

“Ja ... yawwwww.... Oh yawwwwwwwwww... O yawwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!”

As Miss T said, you can almost see their tonsils! Quite an exciting anatomical experience.

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