South African or Kiwi or Aussie?

Southern HemisphereMany accents get confused with one another: Canadian and American, Scottish and Northern Irish, Jamaican and Barbadian. But the granddaddy of all of them? The three-way mixup between Australian, New Zealand and South African English.

If you speak with one of these accents, and you live in the US, your accent has probably been identified incorrectly.  “Are you like, British or something?” we say, a befuddled look on our faces. And if you’re from New Zealand or South Africa, many a poor soul has certainly mistaken you for Australian. I can only imagine what it’s like to constantly be told you’re from a country thousands of miles from where you grew up.

With that in mind, I hope to shed a little light on why these accents get mistaken for one another. But first, lets look at the similarities between them:

1.) Each tends to raise the “e” vowel in DRESS, so it may sound like “driss” to an American. (“Yis, please!”)

2.) Each tends to raise the “a” vowel in TRAP, so it may sound like “trep” to an American. (“Thet’s a bed idea, mate!”)

3.) They also tend to all front the “o” diphthong in words like GOAT, so that “boat” might sound a bit like “bout” to an American. (“Ow now! Thet’s terrible!”)

So all of these accents have some related vowel shifting. Fair enough. But how can you tell them apart? Let’s look at some clips, starting with Aussie English. Since we’re mostly discussing American misperceptions, whose accent is more fitting than that of Paul Hogan, Australia’s unofficial Australian ambassador in the 1980s?

I’ll pause a moment, and wait for Australians reading this to stop laughing.

Now contrast this with a New Zealand accent (courtesy of New Zealand comedian Rhys Darby):

At first listen, these two accents sound similar. There is one notable difference, however: the “i” in KIT: This vowel almost becomes an “ee” sound in AusE, so that bit can sound like American “beat” (IPA bit). In NZE, on the other hand, this is sound is retracted, so it’s closer to the “a” in comma: ( IPA bɘt).

There are some other differences in the quality of the vowels and diphthongs, but they are too slight to be noticed by many. So  there’s enough overlap here that it’s easy to see how these two accents can get confused. The difference between the two is comparable to the difference between standard American and Canadian English: one or two pronounced differences, with a slew of much slighter differences.

But what about South African English? Listen to the speech of this well-known politician:

To my ears, this is a completely different can of worms.  Because there’s really so much different here:

1.) Where the first two accents pronounce FATHER with a fairly fronted vowel for the “a,” in South African English this word sounds more like “fawther” (IPA fɒ:ðə).

2.) The South African dipthongs are also quite different than for the other two: the vowel in KITE is pronounced similarly to the way it is in American Southern English“kaht” (IPA ka:t).

3.) The dipthong in words like MOUTH, meanwhile is even more unusual–“mouth” is nearly homophonous with American English “moth” (IPA mɑ:θ).

And those are only a few of the things that mark this accent as a very different animal.  My conclusion:  Kiwi and Aussie accents? Different, but similar enough that the confusion is understandable. But South African accents, although they share a similar vowel shift, belong in a very different category.

In defense of those who mistake South African accents for Australian, though, there are probably more similarities when you account for different variants of SA speech. As I’m mostly comparing middle-of-the-road types of each accent, I’d love to know more about some types of “sub-dialects” where there’s more overlap.

Are there Australian regional accents that sound particularly Kiwi? A city or town in New Zealand that sounds unusually Australian? Or types of all three accents that sound “British?”


About Ben

Ben T. Smith launched his dialect fascination while working in theatre. He has worked as an actor, playwright, director, critic and dialect coach. Other passions include linguistics, urban development, philosophy and film.
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98 Responses to South African or Kiwi or Aussie?

  1. dw says:

    Or types of all three accents that sound “British?”

    I have met several South Africans whose speech I was unable to distinguish from RP-ish Britons. (I am, or was, an RP-ish Briton myself).

    • Erik says:

      Same here. I had a South African professor in college who sounded like a very posh English woman. The only things in her speech that would possibly allow someone to identify her as South African would be the very back and unrounded [ɑɤ] she used for MOUTH and the “pure” monophthong [iː] in FLEECE. But there may be very posh English people who use the same pronunciations.

    • trawicks says:

      A very good example of this is author JM Coetzee — here is a a clip of him speaking. His accent has hardly anything recognizably “un-RP” in it at all.

    • Chantelle says:

      The South African Accent sounds nothing like the British or any one else for that matter

      • Nina says:

        Chantelle, depending on where in South Africa one grew up and which school one attended, some South African English accents certainly have similarities to the British accent (of which there are also many differences (lest I also start generalising). Many people associate an Afrikaans accent to being the standard South African accent but thankfully we don’t all sound that way.

        • Chris says:

          When Afrikaners speak English some find it grating, but I have to say when Afrikaners speak Afrikaans it’s the most pleasant form of Dutch that i know (fully acknowledging that it is classed as a separate language). It has a lilt and little of the harshness of Dutch ABN (“common civilised Dutch”) in there (I know it’s classed as another language).

        • Ralph says:

          You might like the sound of Belgian Dutch and Frisian too (yes, I know Frisian is a different language. It is related to Dutch though). I do. Especially Frisian.

      • Peter says:

        Which one? There’s more than one South African accent.

      • Chris says:

        I can’t say I would ever be able to tell Aus and Kiwi apart but I agree with you. South African is a totally different category. I work at a place that did insurance I landed the account no one could get because every one thought he was Aus but living in CA. I got his account, read the notes, and called him and as soon as I heard him speak I knew it. I was like “Mr. so and so it say here in the notes you are from Australia and that is not correct is it? You are South African. He was shocked. Asked me how I knew , etc.

        I told him what you said. They are really nothing alike. And I got that contract. I could listen to that guy talk all day. It along with Scottish and Northern Irish are my favorites outside of my native tongue which is Southern. I’m from the US South. LOL

  2. tatjna says:

    Speaking with the ear of a kiwi .. uh.. anyway.. Australian accents vary a lot. It’s a huge country and I’d say the regional variation in Aussie accents is similar to that of the US – there’s a lot of it. To my ear the southeastern states sound more similar to us but still quite different, and there’s an area (somewhere near Tweed Head? could be wrong here) where the accent sounds a bit British.

    To a Kiwi there’s a vast difference between our accent and the Australian one but I guess we’re attuned to the differences in ways that US folk aren’t. Accents within NZ vary too, but seem to have less regional influence. And you’re right, the South African accent is quite distinct from either – to me it sounds more German/Dutch/British with a smidgin of kiwi thrown in.


    • trawicks says:

      I recall reading somewhere that Tazmania has a bit more of a Kiwi sound to it. Or at least the more pronounced DRESS–>”dress” thing in NZ accents is more pronounced there.

    • m.m. says:

      I had always heard that regional variation in oz was relatively low compared to the states though P:

      • trawicks says:

        That’s probably true–unlike American, Australia doesn’t have any rhotic/non-rhotic distinctions, or any dialectical divides as large as the Northern US and the Southern US. But I think Australia has more variation that people give it credit for. You’ll probably see more clearly defined divisions pop up as the 21st Century progresses.

        • m.m. says:

          “You’ll probably see more clearly defined divisions pop up as the 21st Century progresses.”

          Definitely. All they need is time and someone to map the divisions 😀

      • Naomi says:

        I’m British and spend 8 months travelling all around Australia. In each city I visited the accent sounded different to me. The accent in Melbourne was different to Perth, and Darwin was different again. However the differences were not as strong to me as the differences within British accents.

    • Helmut says:

      I am not completely agreed with the vast variety of accents in Australia not even compare with the variety in the States or GB, English is not my mother tongue but I been very into accents. Still think the best explanation for the Aussie accent is the three distinctive RP, Broad and General Australian, except for some local words basically this three accents are all along Australia.
      On the other hand NZ accents sounds different, when you live in Aus it is easier to get the difference though sounds very similar for me (taking about a general accent comparison) but there is a South region in NZ call Otago where people roll the R, with Scottish/Irish background that is a very clear difference in the same country, there is nothing like that in Aus. I met a guy from Queenstown in Japan and he sounded almost Scottish for me.

  3. Nick says:

    North-Eastern Australia is the closest to NZ.
    Some Kiwis (usually from North Island, I think) sound very close to Australians. The only way to be sure is to ask them to say the shibboleth “fish and chips”, which they all pronounce “fəsh ənd chəps”.

    • Paul says:

      South Africans say the “i” in fish and chips very similar to New Zealanders. The Aussies are the odd ones out, saying it like Mexicans or something – Feesh and Cheeps.

      • Xavier says:

        I think if you were to somehow morph your accent from SA to AUS, the NZ accent would appear somewhere in the middle, but leaning somewhat towards the AUS accent. But feesh and cheeps sums it up nicely. Plus, I always thought some AUS accents sound a bit nasel too.

  4. Richard says:

    The South African accent you’re describing seems to be that of white anglophone South Africans. Granted, they’re some of the ones you’re most likely to have met abroad, but they comprise less than 4% of the population. The breadth of accents in SA amongst English speakers is vast.

    As for Australia, Adelaide tends to have a slightly more English accent. People from there sometimes say that it’s because convicts were never sent there so the prevailing accent is more refined. Not sure if I buy that but the difference is real.

    • Dw says:

      The South African accent you’re describing seems to be that of white anglophone South Africans. Granted, they’re some of the ones you’re most likely to have met abroad, but they comprise less than 4% of the population.

      Yes. Indeed, if Wikipedia is to be trusted, native English speakers (regardless of accent) comprise only 8% of the population.

      The breadth of accents in SA amongst English speakers is vast.

      Of course, particularly if one includes all those who speak English as a second or subsequent language.

      I still think it’s somewhat interesting (to me, at least) that the only non-Britons whose accents I am unable to identify as such have been South Africans.

    • trawicks says:

      I agree, Richard–South Africa is one of the most linguistically diverse nations on earth. This makes dividing English into dialects there tricky, as the vast majority of English-speakers have some type of non-English influence on their speech.

      I do, however, think there are certain characteristics that have become common across a large spectrum of South African English. For example, Cape Town mayor Dan Plato clearly has a lot of non-English influence in his speech (as this clip testifies), but he still has many of the features discussed above.

    • Peter says:

      Adelaide has the most noticeable regionalized accent; all the vowel sounds are shorter than the accent in most other areas of Australia and the “a” is almost universally pronounced as the New Zealanders pronounce it, (i.e. dance, chance and stance are pronounced as non-rhotic “darnce, charnce and starnce” in Adelaide but pronounced similar to Canadian and “no accent” US in most other parts of Aust).

  5. Tim says:

    Am Canadian, have worked in the States & UK & Oz, married to a Kiwi, travel a lot. To my ear the South African Englishes are the most beautiful. I refer to the two mainstream accents, educated black native English speaker and educated white native English speaker. Quite distinct and only related here and there, but both very nice.

    My second favorite would be the rapidly-vanishing true American Western, found for example in Colorado before it vanished behind a screen of Denver suburbs, Boulder hippies, and Colorado Springs uniforms.

    • Chantelle says:

      Hi there, Im South African and thank you for that compliment. Yes we mix so much of our Afrikaans in with our English. We dont sound like anyone really

      • Ben says:

        Chantelle, you generalise about our accent a lot, in SA. Not all English speakers mix their language with Afrikaans. It’s very area specific. Regionally the English accent varies: Cape Tonians and Joburgites speak with far clearer accents as it is newer to the continent with many coming out with the gold rush and early 20th century migration making it closer to that of British, whereas in the Eastern Cape the accent is slower due to its origins with the 1820 settlers, who were largely from the Ireland and places like Cornwall (spelling not verified sorry). Many towns within the Eastern Cape have their own accent such as East London and Bathurst.

        There are many who speak the way which you describe due to heavy influence from Afrikaans, largely found on the East Rand and in towns with small pockets of English speakers in Afrikaans areas.

  6. Aidan says:

    Speaking from an Irish perspective it can be hard to tell straight away if somebody is from NZ. I have met Australians with RP type accents who I guessed (wrongly) were from NZ.
    To me white anglophone South African accents often sound English. Those who speak Afrikaans as a first language have a very distinctive accent even when they speak perfect English (Ernie Els being a great example of what I mean). There is an enormous variety of SA accents in between because of so many other languages being spoken in the country, mixed language backgrounds and the fact that there has been waves of immigrants from Great Britain and The Netherlands (amongst other countries) who would have pulled the accent to and fro.

    • trawicks says:

      Els occasionally lets loose “trilled” or “tapped” r (which you can also hear in the clip of Cape Town’s mayor that I posted above). It’s funny, because as you mention, he otherwise speaks relatively unaccented English!

  7. Stuart says:

    A very helpful blog, thank you! I’m a Kiwi who is quite prepared to acknowledge the very close similarities between our accent and that of many Australians. It’s understandable why so many others confuse the two, but it will be interesting to see what effect the developing regional accents, on both sides of the Tasman, have on this problem. How ANYONE can mistake South African English for an ANZAC version totally escapes me. There’s just something about Afrikaaner English in particular that makes my skin crawl. Illogical, unfounded and pointless, but listening to someone whose first language is Afrikaans speak English is like fingernails down the chalkboard of my soul.

    • Mark H says:

      Your last sentence is nothing more than raw prejudice against a group of people based on their accent. Clearly there is so much more to it. Why don’t you just come out and say it?

    • Chantelle says:

      Really!!! Well you one of the very few people who do not like the South African Accent. Id say there is nothing worse than the Australian accent. It sounds like they are speaking through their noses

      • Paul says:

        Ha, I’d have to agree with that. Aussie accent can be tolerated in small doses only. South African accent is great. I like listening to rugby matches that are played in South Africa with South African commentators. Don’t know what it is about that accent.

    • Steven Chiaberta says:

      I’m an English speaking South African, and I completely agree with you Stuart – for some reason English spoken in an Afrikaans accent is, well, grating. On the other hand, Afrikaners laugh at us when we speak Afrikaans with our ‘English’ accents.

      There is a HUGE amount of different SA english-speaking accents. In Joburg alone the difference between accents in the north, south, east and west differ greatly. And all of them differ to the ‘Cape Town’ version, which in turn differs from the ‘Durban’ version, and so on. The funny thing is, we all rip each other off over our accents – Afrikaners and black South Africans included!

      I went on a Contiki tour a few years back. There were 50 people on the bus, the vast majority of them Australian, with about 10 New Zealanders thrown in. I was the only South African on board, yet the Kiwi’s ‘accused’ me of being Australian (haha 😉 and the Australians all thought I was a Kiwi. I was amazed, because to me all forms of Saffa english sound completely different to any form of Australasian english accent. At first I thought the NZ and Aus accents were similar, but after the first day I could tell the difference easily – it’s actually very different.

    • Peter says:

      Whoah, pretty rough comment on the poor old South Africans mate! I buy my lunch from a sandwich bar run by a South African couple at least once a week and love listening to them talk. As for “…how can anyone mistake…” a given two accents, how can anybody mistake a New Zealand accent for an Australian accent? I know a lot of New Zealanders and have never met one I didn’t like so I’m not criticizing when I say your vowel sounds are much shorter than ours and you say your “a”, “e” and “i” COMPLETELY differently. In NZ you say your a like an e: you don’t eat apples you eat EPPLES, you say your e like an i, you don’t turn left, you turn LIFT and you eliminate the i altogether by making lift become LFT, and a tin becomes a tn. Keep off the South Africans case, their cricket side is better than yours.

  8. Wendy says:

    I think my ear is attuned to the difference between Kiwi and Australian accents–the difference is huge to me, MUCH different from “American” vs. Canadian. I’m American and often can’t identify Canadians. (I’m from the west coast, though I speak some weird mishmash accent/dialect that gets me asked if I’m a foreigner no matter where I am.)

    There was a time when Southern American accents all sounded about the same to me, but now I live in a place where we get Southern visitors from a few different areas. When I first moved here I thought the people had a slight Southern accent, but after two years I can’t hear it anymore–I probably have it myself. But I can pick out a Kentuckian a mile away. (I LOVE the Kentucky dialect–so slow and musical.)

    I’m curious why the Australian variants would become more pronounced this century. Won’t they become less pronounced with greater exposure to national media? That seems to be what’s happening here.

  9. Becky says:

    “Are you like, British or something?” asked in the US does not really indicate that the American really thinks that the person is British. It is code for “You English-speaking foreigners all sound alike to me.”

    A number of good points have been made about the different South African accents; there are also regional differences. White native speakers of English in Cape Town sound as distinct from their peers in Johannesburg as, say, speakers from Chicago and Boston.

  10. Rob Pensalfini says:

    Interesting stuff. Quick bit of background so you know where I get my opinions…. I have a PhD in linguistics, and while my main specialisations are Australian Aboriginal languages and formal theoretical linguistics, I do also research and teach on varieties of English. I am also an actor, director and voice coach, and Artistic Director of the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble.

    I can’t say too much about S African English (cuz I don’t know too much), though to my ears this is the odd one out of the trio, and the most distinct.

    Within Australia, received wisdom for many decades (since the pioneering work of Mitchell and Delbridge in the mid 1960s) has held that there is quite a lot of variation, but that it is NOT regional per se, but determined by class, gender, and urban vs rural. They identified three broad varieties, General Australian, Broad Australian, and Educated Australian. Paul Hogan is generally considered Broad Australian, and therefore not representative of the bulk of Australian English speakers. The Crocodile Hunter, the late Steve Irwin, on the other hand, spoke more General Australian, with a few nods to Broad. Dame Edna speaks Educated Australian. Generally, men speak General or Broad, women speak General or Educated. In the cities you tend to get Educated and General, away from the cities it’s general and broad. Some scholars, such as Barbara Horvath and Felicity Cox, have noted that in recent decades, there has been a shift away from both Broad and Educated, in favour of general.

    However, recent prime ministers of Australia have gone for the Broad Australian sound. The first to do so was Bob Hawke in the 1980s (before him Prime Ministers generally spoke Educated Australian), but since then also John Howard and Julia Gillard (the current, and Australia’s first woman, PM). In fact Gillard’s broad accent sounds a little odd to some, perhaps because it’s coming from a woman. There may be other reasons more to do with style and delivery than accent why people think she sounds funny.

    It is generally held (by linguists, though non-linguists will swear black and blue to the contrary) that, Adelaide aside, which does appear to have its own thing going on, you can’t pick a middle class white person from one city versus another, eg Sydney versus Melbourne versus Perth versus Brisbane. I grew up in Perth (west) and live in Brisbane (east). There is no difference in the range of accents.

    That’s the old story. The contemporary story recognises that most of the above is true, but there are also several new accents in Australia, from the various forms of Aboriginal English (not that new, but only recently has anyone paid serious attention to them) to a variety known as Wogspeak, or by the far more PC term New Australian English. You can hear classic examples of this on the Aussie TV show Pizza, or from the character Effie Stefanidis (played by Mary Coustas). This variety seems to have emerged in the last two decades, originally among second generation immigrants (mostly Meditteranean) in Melbourne and Sydney, but now, and largely thanks to the power of hip hop, spreading to become an urban youth variety.

    Again not so much difference between one city and another. However I have recently read some claims that Melbourne seems to be developing its own offshoot of General Australian, which involves among other things, lowering of “e” to “a” (as in ‘hat’) – so they say “hallo I’m from Malbourne”. However other people have noticed exactly the same changes in Sydney…. I think it’s an upper-middle class thing, it has slight overtones of elitism, and maybe people think it’s from Melbourne because Melbourne has more pretentious people per capita than any other Australian city 🙂

    So yes, there are many varieties in Australia, but rather than defined by region, they are defined by social class, race, gender, etc. Which is not so surprising for a large country with a generally low population density.

    Someone here commented that NZ English sounds more like the NE of Australia. That’s somewhat baffling, given that the NE of Australia is one of the less inhabited parts, it’s Northern Queensland and the Eastern Northern Territory, which would be home to the Broad Australian accent (generally), as in Paul Hogan/Crocodile Dundee.

    Maybe I’ll save my comments on NZ English for a second post.



    • AUDIO NOIR says:

      thanx for this post it was probably the best description of the australian accent situation i’ve ever read. as a yankee, though, what really stood out the most to me when i was in australia a few months ago was how much of the vocabulary is so clearly and obviously american (especially amongst people below age 20) not so much because of the vocabulary itself but more because the basic accent does not seem to have been influenced at all.

  11. Rob Pensalfini says:

    OK if you managed to make it through all that, here’s something on NZ English.

    While the original sources of NZ and Aust English are similar, NZ had a higher proportion of Scots and English free settlers versus the cockney and Irish convicts providing the numbers for European settlement in Australia. It is generally held that both have their origins in Cockney English.

    What’s happened in NZ is a continuation of the vowel shift, which hasn’t taken place in Australia, but has (I believe) for some speakers of South African English.

    So, as mentioned in the original post here, the “i” vowel in “bit” in NZ English is more centralised. However, it’s not quite a schwa (as in the “a” in “comma”), which is a true central vowel, but a high central (unrounded) vowel. Represented in the IPA by an [i] with a line through it. Naive Australians often represent this as a “u”, claiming the Kiwis say “fush and chups” for “fish and chips”.

    But that’s not the only one. In NZ you will also hear the following changes for many (though not all) speakers:

    e –> i (so “sex” becomes “six” – “would you like to hev six tonight?”)
    ae –> e (so “hat” becomes “het”, likewise in long vowels, so that “dad” can sound like “dared” (non-rhotic))

    Those are the main ones. We actually had a PhD student here at the Uni of Queensland about a decade ago who was working on this, she noted that the changes I’ve mentioned are actually quite recent, so that you will hear them more clearly among younger than older speakers. They are also more common among women than men.

    When I was in NZ about 20 years ago, I met three generations of women from the same family, all born and grew up in the same town near Auckland, NZ. The grandma sounded almost British (SE England) to me. The ‘mum’ sounded pretty much like an Australian to me. Yet the youngest one sounded very distinctly New Zealand.

    “Hillo, hev you got a pin?” [Hello, have you got a pen?]
    “Shut, Tim, someone’s dinted the Sutrun.” [Shit, Tim, someone’s dented the Citroen]

    I will now dodge missiles hurled from across the Tasman.



    • trawicks says:


      Great stuff. One thing I’m curious about is the ae –> e | e –> i thing in Australia. Here is a vowel chart of contemporary Australian English (it was uploaded to Wikimedia, but I’ve seen similar charts in actual academic texts). What’s interesting is that “e” sound in “dress” is still raised (it is actually fairly close to American short i). But the “a” in “trap” is close to the position in American English.

      This suggest there has been a bit of “correction” in AusE in recent years (as you mention above). I’m curious if a lot of the differences between NZE and AusE are products of the latter disassociating itself from more broad “Southern Hemispheric” features.

      • Greg R says:

        “But the “a” in “trap” is close to the position in American English.”

        One little and maybe trivial thing I’ve noticed is that Aussies raise this vowel before front nasal consonants (I’m not sure about /ŋ/ though). This is similar to the so-called “nasal system” of American English. The Wikipedia article “Phonological history of English short A” talks about this. Although unlike in American English, I don’t ever hear ingliding diphthongal allophones of the [eə] type from Aussies. It’s more along the lines of [ɛː ~ eː]. So words like sand and ram are pronounced quite differently compared to how they’re pronounced in England. However, trap itself may or may not be different.

      • Boris says:

        So why did you marry this man in the first place? So you would have someone to write speiuftl things about?You have the title of this blog wrong. It should have been called I AM EVEN MORE ANNOYING AND NEED TO GET OVER MYSELF AND/OR DIVORCE THIS HEN-PECKED MAN.’Why’d you even bother marrying him?

    • Stuart says:

      No missiles from this Kiwi, Rob. I’d say your timeline of the 3 generations sounds about right too. Do you have anything to add on on the developing regional accents within NZE?

    • Paul says:

      Kiwi accent more similar to South African accent in terms of the “i” vowel. South African version is very pronounced.

  12. James says:

    I’d say the US-Canadian difference is much smaller than the Australia-NZ difference. I’m an American and usually can’t pick out a Canadian accent until they say “about”. I live in Australia now, and when I visit NZ, the difference is quite noticeable. And you’d think that, as an American, I’d be less sensitive to that difference.

    • trawicks says:

      It really depends. There is less difference between Canadian and most West Coast accents than between Canadian and, say, Alabama. And for some Canadian accents, the signature vowel shift is less noticeable. So it really depends on whom you’re comparing to whom.

  13. Tom says:

    As a South African, to me the aussie and kiwi accents basically sound the same, but the kiwi accent sounds a bit more british than the aussie accent, which actually sounds alot like the south african Durban region accent.

    There are variations in the SA accent and it sounds very different from our southern hemisphere cousins because of the larger array of influences on it due to the high amount of different language groups in the country.
    Cape Town locals have a laid back drawl to their accent.
    The durban accent as i’ve stated sounds vaguely similar to the aussie accent, a bit of a drawl.
    The johannesburg and pretoria accents have a stronger afrikaans influence (which itself is a creole of german,dutch,french,english,local african languages and surprisingly some arabic) and obviously within these regional accents there are differences depending on what cultural group the speaker comes from.

    British and Irish people have told me though that my accent sounds “very posh”

    • Ettienne says:

      Afrikaans is not a creole. A creole is a language that originates from a pidgin. And a pidgin is classified as having more than one parent language. Afrikaans only has Dutch as a parent language.

      Afrikaans vocabulary is more than 96% Dutch. The other 4% comes from words picked up from Malaysian, Khoi, French, German, English and isiXhosa. But most of the 4% words are actually neologisms that are made from compound Dutch words. In reality there are very few non-Dutch words in Afrikaans. This assimilation is similar to how English picked up words from around the world (shampoo, creek, spoor etc): this doesn’t make English a creole.

      The pronunciation and grammar of Afrikaans was certainly influenced by other languages (which depends on where you live). Standard Afrikaans (as spoken in the Eastern Cape) has very little influence on its pronunciation (this is the Afrikaans heard on the news, radio etc) And finally, the biggest thing that sets Afrikaans apart from Dutch is the simplification of the spelling during the 1870 standardization of the language.

      Afrikaans is language on its own, but only just.

      And there isn’t actually Arabic in Afrikaans. During the 19th century Muslim who didn’t know the roman alphabet would write down Afrikaans words in Arabic. It had no effect on the language, it is just very interesting for academic purposes.

      More than 40% of English words are of French origin, that doesn’t make English a creole. If all languages are creoles, then no languages are creoles.

  14. Rob Anderson says:

    As a New Zealander who has lived in Perth Western Australia for thirty years the differences in accents between the two countries has fascinated me for many years. It appears to me that the NZ accent has changed over recent decades (in some regions of NZ ) and even I mistake the pronunciation of some words spoken by Kiwis. There is however a mid range in accents of both countries that I think is very similar.
    The Australian accent also varies from State to State. A New South Wales or Queensland accent is slightly harder eg the letter(a) than it is in WA.

  15. Clarissa says:

    I do not know much about accents, but I do know that Aussie accents are the best (personally)! I am Canadian and every time I hear an Australian accent, I melt. It’s literally the best accent I’ve ever heard. I am actually thinking of moving there!

  16. Robin says:

    Just listened to South African Ernie Els after winning British Open. I thought he was Australian till I looked it up.

  17. Dylan says:

    This video probably demonstrates the NZ English vs Aust English best.

    Brotherly love, that’s all I have to say 🙂

  18. Jackson Greer says:

    The SA accent has a strong similarity to French. Am I alone in this?

    • André says:

      You are indeed.

    • Ettienne says:

      There is some truth in that. One of the major influences on Afrikaans, is French. They mostly influenced the pronunciation of the language.

      Even today there are a few areas where the locals speak Afrikaans with a slight French influence (which is mostly apparent with their fricative “r’s”).

      When these people speak English, they can sound similar to French people.

  19. Tam says:

    I reckon here’s a way to tell…Aussies and Brits say “yea” (for yeah) and south Africans say “ja” (pronounced ‘ya’) even us posh sounding English speaking saffas that don’t use many Afrikaans words say it all the time!! I’ve been in Australia a year now and I’m trying to say “yea”, to fit in, but the ja habit is hard to break and ja slips out all the time- my Aussie friend even started using it!! 🙂

    • Sue says:

      Well I’m British but have lived in South Africa for 33years and I still say “yes”. I live in the South of Durban and find the flattening out if the really pronounced.

  20. Aaron says:

    Im English, of Irish decent (fathers side) and live in NZ

    I spent 2 years in Australia and (living in Auckland, anyone here will know what the North Shore is like) know many South Africans.
    I have also travelled alot.

    From my perspective I once found the South African, Australian and Kiwi accents very similar, now I cant imagine how I ever thought that.
    The Kiwi and Aussie (like US and Canadian) accents are very similar (especially Aucklanders) however stand one next to the other and there is an obvious difference, spend enough time in either country and you will instantly be able to tell them apart.
    Aussies love to ask Kiwis to pronounce the number “six” as with a kiwi accent it sounds like “sex”.

    However not only do most South African accents sound completley unique but there are so many of them! Some sound almost Australian, others British and some Dutch! I dont think ive met 2 South Africans with the same accent.

    However I think the confusion in the states is probably due to many factors.

    1. How many South Africans are you likely to meet on an average day in the US?
    2. Americans for the most part do love to stereotype, assuming all British people sound like either James Bond or the Queen and all Australians sound like Steve Irwin or Paul Hogan.
    3. There are alot of British accents, within England there are literally hundreds, Wales and Scotland also have vast variations (compare Glasgow to the Highlands or North and South Wales) so if you hear an English language accent you are not familiar with it may be easy to just assume its an unknown British one.

    Whilst in the US many people actually thought I was Australian (this was before I had spent any time in the southern hemisphere) and to give you an idea of my accent I am from Portsmouth, on the South Coast (South East region) about 2hrs south of London.

    Accents are fascinating though and there are variations even within NZ (The South Island) and Australia (QLD).

    1 thing I have noticed as uniquely kiwi however is the pronounced “w”…so unknown is pronounced “un-no-wen” and and grown pronounced “gro-wen”

    just my 2 cent ramble and personal experience

    • Lex says:

      Just had to say firstly because it is one of my pet hates, there is not such word as “alot” 🙂 but I agree with you completely, Americans (in particular) often think Aussies have to have a very strong accent. Personally I think that Americans need to realise that the US is not the only country in the world; if they actually were globally aware they would be able to tell the difference between these obviously different accents. But Americans have been like this for quite some while so I guess they can be forgiven for it.

      • Tam says:

        My pet peeve too!!! When people use “alot”, it drives me crazy!!! Why do people write it like its a word!! I’ve also seen it written as “allot” and the person had written it several times so it was not a typo!!!! argh!!

      • John says:

        Sorry I had to comment on the perception of Americans given my Aaron and Lex. As an American, I’m offended that you think Americans love stereotypes. We are going off the general information everyone receives. At least we voice our ignorance and generally welcome correction. Non-Americans are no better. I’m from Texas and the first thing any non-American does when they hear this when I travel is say “Yee-haw” or “Y’all” or ask if I was a cowboy. I’m from Dallas one of the largest cities in America, I’ve never been on a horse in my life and I have a general, non-regional accent. Most Britons think a country American accent is the same as a southern American accent; its not. How is this any different that what you accuse Americans of doing?

        MY PET PEEVE is when the rest of the world criticizes Americans for doing something every other country does. We are just not shy about it or pretend we don’t do it. We do not think we are the only country in the world but from the level in which you talk and reference America and Americans in your everyday lives we probably should.

        South African, Kiwi, and Aussie accents are different but similar enough that it is not unreasonable to confuse them. What is unreasonable is the idea that without exposure we are suppose to know the difference. How often does the world hear a South African accent? Or Kiwi? Or Aussie? What about the Chinese or Koreans or Latin America? Is the rest of the world so linguistically adept to the differences that Americans should blow their heads in shame?

        • MichInHemmingford says:

          One must remember that Americans tend to be very sensitive and not open to criticism.

  21. Pingback: Aussie and Kiwi accent similarity - Page 3 - City-Data Forum

  22. John says:

    Sorry I had to comment on the perception of Americans given my Aaron and Lex. As an American, I’m offended that you think Americans love stereotypes. We are going off the general information everyone receives. At least we voice our ignorance and generally welcome correction. Non-Americans are no better. I’m from Texas and the first thing any non-American does when they hear this when I travel is say “Yee-haw” or “Y’all” or ask if I was a cowboy. I’m from Dallas one of the largest cities in America, I’ve never been on a horse in my life and I have a general, non-regional accent. Most Britons think a country American accent is the same as a southern American accent; its not. How is this any different that what you accuse Americans of doing?

    MY PET PEEEVE is when the rest of the world criticizes Americans for doing something every other country does. We are just not shy about it or pretend we don’t do it. We do not think we are the only country in the world but from the level in which you talk and reference America and Americans in your everyday lives we probably should.

    South African, Kiwi, and Aussie accents are different but similar enough that it is not unreasonable to confuse them. What is unreasonable is the idea that without exposure we are suppose to know the difference. How often does the world hear a South African accent? Or Kiwi? Or Aussie? What about the Chinese or Koreans or Latin America? Is the rest of the world so linguistically adept to the differences that Americans should blow their heads in shame?

    I also think there is a issue with the three accents not wanting to acknowledge their similarities so not many take the time to notice their differences out of not wanting to look ignorant.

  23. William says:

    South African whites sound Dutch to my ears. My father is Australian but educated in Newcastle. My mother’s family are Irish but my grandmother came from Glasgow. The family emigrated to Pennsylvania and my oldest uncle and aunt were born and brought up there until they were about five or six years old.
    Every accent sounded completely natural to me and to this day I can still slip into them all.
    I was brought up in Scotland in an Irish/Italian community and I have a clear Scottish accent. Amazingly, some English people can’t hear this.
    French people hear my accent as Belgian when I speak French.
    German people know I’m not a native German speaker but have difficulty pinning down my pronunciation.
    If what you are saying is understood by the person or people you are talking to, who cares?
    Are there accents in sign language?

  24. Ron says:

    I’m a South African with a New Zealand passport living in Sydney, Australia.

    I hear a vast difference between the New Zealand and Australian accents but it took me a couple of years to become attuned to that difference. Initially, I couldn’t tell the two apart.

    On the hand, many people tell me they struggle to tell the difference between South African and New Zealand accents – and there are some similarities I think. However….there are too many South African accents for that rule to be generally applicable.

    South African accents even among native English speakers are very varied. My accent is quite quite different to my brother’s– go figure!

    Though it’s tempting to say that my accent is not unlike a posh English accent (relatively speaking, that’s the closest accent to it), they’re still very different. No one from England would ever think I am English, though oddly enough many South Africans do mistake me for English, though I am a ‘saffa’ like them!!!

    I will leave it to the linguists to make sense of this. I can only add that South Africa is a complex country with more cultural influences than most other nations. Accents differ regionally, by class, by culture (with numerous shades of influence even there) and by location.

    I’m from the Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg and my accent differs to someone who, like me, has English as a first languarge but lives in the Eastern Suburbs.

    They may only be a few thousand people on planet Earth with my accent.

  25. AUDIO NOIR says:

    as somebody who thinks himself to have a good ear for accent (i’ve been told i should be a dialect coach as it happens) i must say that i’ve never been able to tell AUS. and NZ apart. when I was growing up for that matter i could not tell australian from british. and like canadian english and certain american accents i think that until you’ve had alot of exposure to both you won’t be able to tell the difference. canadians used to have a very distinct accent that i would describe as an american who had lived many years in northern ireland but that accent seems to be on the way out. the vast majority of canadians basically sound american to me these days and even within the states regional accents appear to be levelling out. when i was a kid different american accents were quite strong and distinct but these days i routinely have to ask yankees where they’re from as i frequently can’t tell by their speech. “general american” seems to be slowly overtaking regionalisms especially in the cities. it’s not at all uncommon these days that in a family from georgia, for example, the parents will have distinctly southern american accents but their kids (who grew up in the same locality) will not. it’s quite odd but as someone who has travelled his own country quite a bit i’m finding that to be the case more and more.

    as for mistaking the 3 accents south african to me sounds like a combination of australian with a heavy afrikaans influence whereas AUS. and NZ seem to be much more similar and as much as i know the people from them parts don’t want to hear it all 3 do sound somewhat english to american ears at least more than american accents generally do.

    peace out folks this site rules.

  26. jason says:

    Thanks for posting this, I always wondered. I can definitely tell the difference between SA and Australian, but the NZ sounds literally no different to my American ears than Australian. I guess if I had to make a distinction in US terms, I’d say the difference is as similar to the accents of a person from Maine and a person from Wisconsin.

  27. DILEEP.D.ANAND says:

    Well,I reckon somewhere down the line the London Cockney,South African English,AU English and NZ English all come under one umbrella.Can anybody throw more light upon the dutch tilted south African English?

  28. Remmy says:

    All I wanna say is that I’m south African and I live in new Zealand and people constantly ask me if I’m American I’m only 15 been in NZ for 7 years and I sound like a newzealander I’ve also been to Australia and I can tell the difference by ‘fish and chips’ but honestly everyone in NZ always tell me they hate it when I say ‘now now’ or ‘just now’ or ‘braii’ it’s like gosh I don’t critisize you! I live on the north shore btw and their are so many saffas here especially in browns bay.

  29. Anubrata, India says:

    The best way to to distinguish a SA, Aus & NZ accent is to watch cricket and listen to the commentators from those respective countries. NZ and Aus accent are quite hard to distinguish actually. The subtleness of the South African English makes it one of the most unique accents in the whole world.

  30. Hcat says:

    South Africans say “fush and chups” too, because of a sound shift that differentiates Afrikaans from Dutch.

    • Dodge says:

      No, English speaking South Africans from Port Elizabeth say fush and chups. The rest of us say fsh and tjips.

      As some have noted, SA accents differ RADICALLY – not so much by area but by economic/social class. Northern suburbs Johannesburg private school educated white saffers sound a lot like their counterparts from CT and Dbn. A fairly classical “British” accent. East and West Rand of JHB are markedly more harsh (clipped and flattened vowels, mushed consonants). “Model C” accents (Saffers of African descent that went to private or so-called model C schools (government schools now integrated but previously mostly white) have a quite distinctive and fairly pleasant accent. Poorer/rural areas of most SA cities have very strong Afrikaans accent on their English. Cape coloureds (so-called, mixed ancestry of african, white and malay descent but that a fairly distinct identity as a racial group) have a very distinct and sometimes almost unintelligibly rough accent, almost a patois of Afrikaans and English (a “guide to speaking coloured’ here

      My R0.02 🙂

      • Judith says:

        Spot-on comment, this. The accents of English South Africans are socio-economic rather than regional.

  31. Dave Warner says:

    For those who doubt that some South African accents can be confused for English, listen to English Cricketers Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior or Jonathon Trott.

  32. Sue says:

    Well I’m British but have lived in South Africa for 33years everyone recognizes my British accent here, but if I go back to the UK they say I sound South African. I live in the South of Durban and find the flattening out of the vowels really prominant.My three sons all born in SA, have my accent and when the eldest was in grade one the teacher wanted to send him to speech therapy as he was having problems with his phonics. When I asked her what was wrong she said that she would say a sentence for them to right down and try to get the spelling right. Matthew wrote ” the mulkman dulivered faav bottles of mulk ” so he obviously had a problem with his “sounding out” when I told her how she had pronounced her words I said I was not surprised he was confused as he had copied it exactly as she pronounced it,
    she wasn’t too impressed. She still insisted he saw a Speech therapist who happened to have a Durban Indian accent, we still laugh about this 20 years later 🙂

  33. Rachel says:

    I think there’s a lot of overlap. I’ll address South African first, since that’s the easiest to order my thoughts on.

    I think the confusion here usually comes from (a) South African accents are less-known abroad than, say, and Australian accent, and (b) South Africans don’t all have the same home language. So a South African of English descent sounds very different from one of Dutch descent. South African accents can be pretty hard to pin. If they speak Afrikaans at home it’s easy, but if they speak English at home, it gets trickier, and easier to mistake them as being English.

    Kiwi accents have a lot of variation. Of course, there’s the stereotypical accent (which the guy in the clip wasn’t speaking) – you hear this mostly from Air New Zealand flight attendants, Maoris, people from Auckland, and people from Dunedin (plus others, I’m sure). Then there’s what I consider a “milder” accent, like the guy in the clip, which can be pretty indistinguishable from an Australian accent (you could almost think that guy was Victorian). And then there are those pockets of the South Island that you’d swear were Scottish…

    In Australia, there are some accents which seem more Kiwi. As a South Australian, Victorians sound slightly Kiwi and Tasmanians sound more so. But then, “geeky” Australians can sound pretty English. And of course, with the amount of immigrants and first-generation Australians, you can very quickly get a South African-sounding accent from someone who speaks a Germanic language, such as Dutch or German. And then you run into even more confusion if it’s someone originally from South Africa or New Zealand who’s being living in Australia for a few years…

    As for why South Africans get confused as Australian or New Zealand accents by Americans, my guess is that they’re used to identifying “Australian” and “English” as the two other main accents – so therefore, if a South African doesn’t sound “English”, they’re obviously Australian. (My uncle, an Australian, used to teach in Korea, and was continually misidentified as an Englishman because his accent clearly wasn’t American, so therefore it was English.)

  34. Untrilled R says:

    As a born New South Welshman (AU). There is considerable variation in New Zealander accents, usually this is broken down as North Island and South Island accents, but to be fair its more of a continuum than anything else.

    Those from NSW at least but probably much of the AU Sth-east will usually find many far north accents (incl. Auckland), to be mostly indistinguishable from normal English in everyday speech. It of course depends on the person, and the words used.

    Take a far south accent (eg. Dunedin), and you can more easily see the basis for the fish and chips/fesh end cheps thing, six/sex/sucks thing, and beard/bed thing

    In general most Australians consider NZ English to have very short or even “forget” the vowels, so if we wish to portray a stereotypical accent from NZ that is exactly what we do. So New Zealand becomes Ne Zullind.

    Australians usually find it odd that NZ gets so much variation, yet we can find it extremely hard to figure out where someone is from in AU in most circumstances.

    Stereotypical South African can sound a little like vowels are replaced with “e” to me. So South Africa becomes Seth Efreekeh.

    It doesnt sound very much like it, but to an Australian ear, South African sounds a little bit like a very weird stereotypical New Zealand accent. It can be confused on very rare occasions but in general no. Definitely not the slightest bit like any Australian accent though.

    • ChrisWhakatiki says:

      In NZ I’ve noticed in the last 30 years since the deregulation beginning 1984 more variation seeping in between the speech of different economic classes in NZ vis a vis the formation of regional accents. Prior to 1984 there was I think considerably smaller variation given our much vaunted egalitarianism; post deregulation this egalitarianism has to a great degree been dismantled which has more strongly stratified society along economic lines, solidifying differences in speech.

      Great blog btw.

  35. Suzanne says:

    As a South African I must admit that I find some of these assumptions and criticisms of the “Afrikaans-English” accent somewhat harsh and extremely rude. To criticise someone for speaking a second language with an accent influenced by their native language is simply… Extremely stupid. It’s like criticising the Frenchman for speaking English with a French accent or criticising an Italian for speaking English with an Italian accent. Perhaps it is a bit snide of me but I’m reminded of that old joke, “If you can speak three languages, you are trilingual, if you can speak two languages you’re bilingual, if however, you can only speak one language you must be American.” This applies to most English speakers, I’m afraid. One thing that can be said for most South Africans are that they are at least bilingual or, more often trilingual. I speak four languages with relative ease: Afrikaans, English, German and isiXhosa and I promise you that I am in no way the exception to the rule in this Rainbow nation.

  36. Corné says:

    There really is no uniform South African accent and it varies a lot. Besides regional differences (Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban to the Eastern Cape,) there are also marked dialect differences based along racial lines, economic class and obviously first language.

    Along racial lines one gets the stereotypical African accent which I have to admit, I cannot spot the difference between a Xhosa and Sotho accent. It all just sounds the same to me.

    After Apartheid there seems to have been created a division among younger blacks depends on which schools they attended. Former model-C schools is the term the media uses to describe schools that were formerly only reserved for whites and usually offer a better quality of education. Younger blacks who attend these school usually adopt a so-called ‘white’ accent and sound very much like the video you posted of the SA accent.

    Then one gets the Cape Coloured accent of Cape Town, probably one of the most distinct South African accents with it’s rolled r’s (not always) and ‘a’ pronounced as ‘e’. The other day I couldn’t stop laughing when a Coloured boy called their school play “Peter Pen.”

    Among whites it varies between Afrikaans speakers and native English speakers. Afrikaans speakers also like to roll their r’s and pronounce ‘th’ many times as ‘f’. For some reason, also the accent most of the world associates with South African English.

    Some native white English speakers almost sound British (middle class to upper class usually) sometimes while others sound almost like Afrikaans speakers who speak English as a second language (lower class to middle class usually.)

    Indian accents in the rest of SA are apparently very different from Indian accents in Durban and Indians are often stereotyped as speaking like Indian ESL speakers from India but most actually speak with former model-C school accents.

    But all in all, the video you posted of the SA accent, I think is actually very representative of the standard South African accent which seems almost identical to the accent used on SABC news broadcasts. So it seems this is the accent that South Africans are adopting more and more.

    P.S. I still struggle to hear the difference between OZ English and NZ English, never mind Canadian and American English.

  37. Maxx says:

    I’m a South African and have been fascinated by accents since I first became aware of them as a child, especially on the origins of accents. I understand that a second language can influence an accent, or rather “create” an accent – as is the case in South Africa for example with the Afrikaans influence. We also have other languages that have created regional differences in SA – such as the Khoi-San influence in the Western Cape province and the German influence in the “Border” region of the Eastern Cape province. I have lived most of my life in the Border region and have first-hand experience of the German influence in this region. Then even within the same province there are variations as is the case here in the Eastern Cape. Here we have a German influence in East London and then a very strong English influence in Grahamstown (due to 1820 British settlers). In Port Elizabeth there is a combination of English (1820 settlers) and Afrikaans influences. The same regional differences can be seen in SA with Afrikaans. The Western Cape , Free State and Gauteng provinces have their own Afrikaans accents – I’m specifically referring to people using Afrikaans as a first language. Again these regional differences are most likely due to “outside” influences – a stronger Dutch influence, as well as French and Khoi elements in the Western Cape as opposed to Free State and Gauteng Afrikaans, which did not have these influences. I can appreciate the origin of accents in this manner, but how did accents originate in the UK? A region that is geographically relatively small with no second language influences – or was there a Gaelic influence that brought about the differences in Southern England, Cornwall, Yorkshire, Irish and Scottish accents? I would like to hear your opinions as well as with regards to USA accents.. and how they originated. Thank-you 🙂

  38. Celes says:

    Can anyone please give me three sentences one in aussie english, another in kiwi english, and the third one in south african english? that is, I need three sentences that mean the same but with its unique slang or colloquial words so that if a foreigner reads them he won´t be able to see that they actually mean the same thing. I would be really grateful if u could help me. Thanks!

  39. Jase says:

    The Aussie accent above is pretty wild. Not only is Hogan putting it on, but a lot of the characteristics he emphasised have been leached out of capital city accents in the last 30 years.

    These are closer to standard white educated Aussie accents these days:

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  42. Johnny says:

    “The South African dipthongs are also quite different than for the other two: the vowel in KITE is pronounced similarly to the way it is in American Southern English–“kaht” (IPA ka:t).”

    You’ve largely described the South African English-speaking white accent. In numbers, Indians probably come a close second to English-speaking whites as the largest group of English native speakers in South Africa, and we have fairly different accents to “standar d South African”. In the 1990’s I attended a formerly segregated Indian high school in Pretoria, and we had a white visitor (who probably lived somewhere in Johannesburg) who told one of the boys in our class that he had “nahs ahs” (“nice eyes”). We knew what she meant, but we still found it hilarious (it sounded like “nice arse”).

    There are also massive differences between Indians in various parts of South Africa. The Durban Indian English accent is instantly recognisable to an Indian from the Transvaal region. There’s also a Johannesburg northern suburbs Indian accent that boys who attend former white schools have developed. Black African children who attend former Indian schools in Gauteng speak English with a more “Transvaal Indian” accent, than a stereotypical ‘model-C” accent.

  43. Linell says:

    Somewhere in these comments there’s a clip of JM Coetzee speaking in his very ‘British’ sounding accent. His accent is typical Cape Town Southern Suburbs with what we like to call the ‘UCT lisp’ (UCT: University of Cape Town). John Malkovich did it quite convincingly in ‘Disgrace’, incidentally based on a Coetzee novel.

    Many of the comments point out that first language and geography influence South African accents. Another factor, however, is simply where and how you learnt English if it’s not your first language. I had a teacher who made us sit and practise how to say the soft r, the ‘th’ sounds and how to properly pronounce the o in ‘off’, for example. In SA I’m often told that I sound British. I’m not sure whether they mean South London, Leeds, Liverpool, Cardiff or Glasgow, to be honest. (When abroad, I’m often mistaken for an Aussie, although the Brits can immediately tell where I’m from.) My sister, only a year younger than I, had different English teachers even though we went to the same school and she speaks English with a more pronounced Afrikaans accent.

  44. Chantal says:

    I think that before you try and compare South African accents to other countries you need to understand that depending on what colour you are and depending on where you grew up in South Africa will depend on what your South African accent will sound like. I happened to be overseas with other South Africans at the same time; I am a white english speaking South African, I was with an Indian South African, a Coloured South African and some white Afrikaans speaking South Africans and we confused everybody because we all looked and sounded different but were from the same country and could communicate in two different languages at the same time and we didn’t even have half the available ‘accents’ from our country with us.

    • Shaun says:


      This is so true and made me chuckle. 🙂

      I am a white South African native English speaker. When I went to live in London in 2001 I was always asked which part of Australia I came from. People (Brits) were always shocked when I told them I had never been to Australia. Only the Ozzies & Kiwis over there could tell I was from South Africa even when I was drunk in a Walkabout pub.

      Every time I went back to visit SA, I was told I have a British accent or sound British. Now I live in Brisbane, Australia and most people can easily tell I am South African from my accent. Only one person here, so far, hasn’t pinned my accent down to South African, in four years.


  45. Rob says:

    Athol Trollip says in this interview (0:42) that his first language is the Bantu language Xhosa. That might partially explain why his accent sounds like “a whole different can of worms” than Aussie or Kiwi English. He doesn’t have a typical black African accent though. But maybe his Xhosa influences his English in subtle ways

  46. Louise says:

    Great article! As a (south-eastern) Australian with (southern) English parents, numerous Australians in regional Victoria and Queensland have assumed that I’m English, while in England I sound obviously Australian (maybe Kiwi, but as others have mentioned, Australian seems to be the default). In central Queensland I met two South Africans, one whom I assumed was French, and one who assumed I was South African. I don’t know which part of South Africa he was from, but apparently Australians can sound South African to those who should know better!

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  48. paul says:

    Quick things on South African accents, from a Saffa:

    1. It’s very cool to see how in our country, as time goes on, all races are starting to speak with a standard South African accent. It’s great, because boundries come down when people sound exactly the same. Heard a white girl on the bus talk about her school friends, or whatever, and turned around to see she was a black girl! And the same with Afrikaans kids, starting to speak with a more standard SA accent.

    This is standard in my opinion (very nice, and quite posh in my opinion):

    and again with white people, the same accent:

    This is the old horrible Afrikaans accent that will die with time (I’m Afrikaans I can say it’s bad)

    And it’s funny how it’s actually become cool to tweak the AFR accent and speak a modern type of it. Sort of ‘street style’:

    ^^Those people aren’t really real, but you can see that type of accent is a real thing:

    I think in the next 50 years we’ll all sound like clips 1 and 2.