How to Learn a South African Accent?

Learning English with a South African accent might be a bit of a challenge, especially to those who grew up speaking English with a neutral accent. Still, it’s worth the trouble as learning the South African accent will expand the range of roles you can audition for as a voice actor.

Hence, in this article, we’ll overview the steps you need to take to acquire a nice and clear South African accent while speaking English.

Make your sentences softer and rounder

South African accent is not overly strong and quite neutral but it has its distinctions. When doing the accent try to soften and round up your words. The vowels should be elongated and syllables can fuse together making a constant soft sound.

With the South African accent, it’s sometimes hard to tell where the syllable begins and ends, the separation is minimal and sentences seem to flow with minimal separation between words. It’s a very nice and flowing accent.

The South African accent has some similarities to the British accent as it was once a British colony. However the ‘a’ is pronounced more like ‘eh’ in a South African accent, again making it sound softer and lighter compared to the British.

Immerse yourself in the accent

When learning how to speak English with a South African accent it’s a good idea to immerse yourself in South African culture, listen to South African podcasts, watch South African YouTube channels and movies, and read South African news websites. By doing this, you will get a feel for the South African accent and the words used in South Africa.

You don’t need to necessarily understand every word being said, just focus on the South African accent and how the words are pronounced.

Get South African English literature

It would be best if you got a South African English dictionary. This will help you understand the different South African words and how they are pronounced. By having this, you will know the right way of pronouncing South African words and phrases.

You can get a South African English dictionary online or from a bookstore.

Aside from getting a South African English dictionary, you can also get literature written using South African English. You can practice reading the words with a South African accent and then pronounce them yourself. This will help you understand the South African way of pronouncing words and phrases.

Learn South African English slang words

South African English has a lot of slang words. So, it would be helpful if you learned some of the most common South African slang words. You can learn these by listening to South Africans speak or reading South African literature.

Some of the most common South African slang words are:

  • biltong: a type of South African dried meat
  • braai: a South African barbecue
  • boerewors: a South African sausage
  • Chinamania: South African term for Chinese people
  • dagga: South African term for marijuana
  • doek: a South African headscarf
  • jol: a South African party
  • lekker: a South African term meaning “nice” or “great”
  • rooibos: a South African type of tea
  • taksi: South African term for a taxi
  • tosspot: a South African term meaning “loser”

Learning all of these will surely help you understand the South African way of speaking English. It would be best to remember that while these words do not exist in standard English, South Africans often use them in English conversations, so incorporating them into your practice can give you an added layer of authenticity. Just remember to be patient and to practice as often as you can.

Expose yourself to the general accent

When learning how to acquire a South African accent, always listen to formal speakers of the language, such as news outlets, speeches, lectures, and informative documentaries. South Africans have distinct accents in different parts of the country but if you want to learn the general accent stick with traditional media.

A good idea is to watch Trevor Noah, who has a typical South African accent and there’s plenty of footage to listen to as he runs a ‘Daily show’ on Youtube.

Record and practice a lot

Practice a lot. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Try to find a South African friend who can help you practice, or look for online resources that provide audio recordings of South Africans speaking so that you can hear the accent and mimic it yourself.

Recording yourself speaking with a South African accent and listening to it is also a great way of teaching yourself. Most language learners benefit from listening skills, so this is a great tool.

Having a South African talk to you in a South African accent can help you understand the certain nuances of the accent. It can also be helpful, especially when correcting your mistakes.

Watch South African movies and shows

You can also try to find South African movies or TV shows that you can watch and listen to how the South Africans speak in those movies or shows. This can be a great way to pick up the accent and start using it yourself.

Some popular South African movies and TV shows include:

  • Inxeba (The Wound)
  • Tsotsi
  • Jerusalema
  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
  • Thembi Seete
  • Sarafina!
  • Hotel Rwanda

Finally, have patience. Learning a new skill takes time and practice. South African English is no different. So, be patient and diligent with your practice, and you’ll be speaking more like South African soon enough.

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