As you know by now, English is the official language of Namibia. However, people here speak much differently than we do in America, and they call this version of English ‘namlish.’ Since arriving in nam I have become increasingly good at this type of english, in fact for almost the entirety of our holiday in Swakopmund we spoke to each other exclusively in namlish just for fun. I’ll go over a few terms now, thanks to some of the Core 34s who I sought out in compiling this list due to their excellent namlish.
Now: this does not mean actual now. It means some time in the near future, like maybe a few hours. However, now-now means now. Now-now-now means like urgent!
Example sentence: We must go now-now to get to school on time.
“I am coming” this actually means “I am going,” I don’t really understand why. If you say ‘I am coming’ when you are actual arriving, people would be confused.
Example, as my colleague walked away from me but would get back to me eventually with the answer to my question: Ah, I am coming now.
‘ne’ [pronounced like nay] I can’t emphasis enough how this one word is used all the time, it goes at the ends of phrases or sentences and it’s equivalent is kind of like an affirming ‘right? Got it?’
Example used by my host mom showing me how to get to school from my new house: Do you see that you just go with the road here, ne?
“Is It??” This is my favorite namlish term, it is most used amongst Afrikaans speakers, the equivalent is ‘really?’ Literally people use this term CONSTANTLY, so much so that I too have replaced the word really with ‘izzzit?’
Example sentence from another conversation with my host mom from a while ago:
Me: Guess what, I’m making red beans and rice for dinner tonight, and my mom in America just sms’ed me that she’s making the same thing!
Host Mom: Is it?!
[yup, it was]
Ayyyyy june [pronounced yuh-nna]: this means Oh lord, it too is common in conversations
Et seeeee! [pronounced ate sayyyyy!] I love this one. It’s used for emphasis or exclamation
Aahhtata: I’ve already referred to this one, it’s like a sigh
Oyyyoyoyo: this is also like a sigh
“It’s true.” There’s no strange meaning to it, people just insert this phrase into a lot of conversations for some reason.
“Used to” this means habitually, as in “They used to call me David”
“Is it fine” being ‘fine’ here is a thing. Fellow PCV Allison does this namlish phrase the best, “it is fine my de-ah”
“that side” this is used a lot in referring to places. As in, “ah, when I return that side [America] I will be speaking nice English, ne?”
Nam-lish phrases that I hear all the time at school
-ahhhh this one, he is not serious. The whole concept of ‘being serious’ is something talked about a lot.
-this one, she is very naughty [note: naughty is used a lot too, like my host mom refers to some of the teachers who like to party as a ‘naughty’ group, it’s pretty funny]
-“Teacher, borrow me a pen?” People don’t seem to be familiar with the word ‘lend’ here. The ‘borrow me’ thing is going to be my main project during term one, it drives me crazy!!! Goal is to get my learners to say “Ms. Nowlin, can you please lend me a pen?” we’ll see how long that will take. They also still call me ‘teacher,’ which really bothers me for some reason – I’m learning all 160 of their names, they are going to at least call me by mine!
-When talking about class expectations: “Teacher must learn us good English” In Afrikaans [and I assume Oshiwambo too], the word for teach and learn is the same.
-also, this is more cultural than namlish, but here people do not say 'you' to their superiors. this means that the learners will say "what does miss nowlin do when miss nowlin is in america?" and also that my friend the other night [a grown man] spoke to his boss like "did sir attend school near windhoek?" I guess that's how Namibians modify English to be more like Afrikaans, which does have a formal 'you.' inneresting
*at this point I have gotten the kids to use the word lend!!!! VICTORY!! Although, they don’t always give me my pen back… hmmm. i'm not sure they will ever stop calling me teacher it's so engrained in their school lives, but i'm going to keep up the fight.