There is one thing that can be both exciting but also a bit irritating at once. When you travel somewhere and you have absolutely no idea what locals are talking about. Every country and every culture has their own way of doing and saying things. It’s like you are an alien who fell off mars. I’m going to sketch a situation for you: Let’s say you are hanging out on your first night in a foreign, but beautiful country, and you’re having a drink at the local bar. You have a two day stay over before your big trip begins so you strike up a conversation with group of locals sitting next to you: ´So, what’s there to do in this great place of yours”? And the answer you get almost sounds like this: “Oh honey look, there’s a fly in my soup”. This has you baffled because what does soup have to do with hanging out in town? Tell me you have never felt this way?

It will be easier traveling in Namibia if you understood the lingo and local language.

The languages spoken in Namibia are mostly Afrikaans, German, English and Oshiwambo (a native language). Obviously the first thing you need to know in Namibia is saying hello. In Afrikaans, it’s a plain hallo (huh-low). The Germans say guten tag (gut-ten taahg) and in Oshiwambo its Wa lalapo, which means good morning. You can also use the slang term Howzit – which is a combination of hello and how are you all in one.

At a barbeque, in Namibia known as a braai, here are a few things you need to know. The host will ask if you want a “koue enetjie”. This is usually a beer and literally means cold one. Your answer to this is, ja please.

There are a few topics to steer clear off at such an event. Any type of politics is a no go at a braai. This includes rugby, sport, office, parliament and home politics and your wife or girlfriend. This is a standing rule for the guys.

The morning after the night before, the word “babelas” will be used to describe that banging feeling in your head. That’s the hangover talking. If somebody asks you how you are feeling, use the word /Na! It needs a bit of practice and clicking of the tongue. You first say the “N”, and then the click follows. Your tongue should form a clicking sound behind your upper teeth make this clicking sound. Then the “aah” follows. Its Nnnn – click – aaa. It must almost sound like nnntsa with the “ts” being the click. Now say it together. If you want to do this with real Namibian attitude, it helps if you make a bit of an upward motion with your left cheek. This way the click sound comes out better. I can just imagine how you are sitting there at this moment, trying to do this. Sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh at you.

Namibians have very different ways to say things. Like agreeing when someone says: “Nice weather were having”, you reply with: “Is ja”. Or if you are asked: “Will you phone me?”, you can reply with the word shapp. It should be pronounced like sharp but with a silent r.

Image by: Judy & Scott Hurd

Image by: Judy & Scott Hurd

A popular term we use in Namibia is lapa. It’s a thatched roof and is usually the gathering place where the braai and big screen for the rugby is setup. In some parts this gathering place is called a shebeen where you can drink tombo (locally produced sorghum beer). The word shebeen derives from the Irish síbín, meaning ‘illicit whiskey.

When it comes to people; the term “meme” is used for females, usually older female figures. The “me” must be pronounced like the sound a sheep makes.

An older guy is a “tate”, pronounced taah-teh. In some cultures, a beautiful girl is reffered to as a cherry or a goose, but don’t use this too loosely. It can lead to a klap. The klap is a swiftly executed hand movement and is the cause off your blackeye the next morning.

It was Nawa talking to you and teaching you these kinds of words but unfortunately it’s time for me to tjaila now.. Nawa – nice . Tjaila – Go home.

Get the EES dictionary for Namibian German slang and lingo.

EES Dictionary Volume 2

EES Dictionary Volume 2

 What is your local word ? Is there a term or word you would like to add ? Leave a comment in the box below.

Jessica SchoombeeJessica Schoombee is a local freelance writer. She is an eccentric young lady who has a love affair with writing. Get on board her journey of discovery.