Namlish (a portmanteau of the words Namibian and English) is a form of English spoken in Namibia.[1] English is the country's official language since Independence in 1990. Because it is the second or third language for the majority of the Namibians, local usage can vary significantly from usage elsewhere in the English-speaking world. It shares many similarities with South African English, having been influenced by Afrikaans.


Examples of Namlish


Namlish English Remarks
Baas Afrikaans: Boss submissive appellation towards a white male, used during Apartheid
Babelaas as verb and noun Afrikaans: (having a) hangover
Bakkie Pick-up truck
Oom Afrikaans: uncle term of respect towards older men
Robot Traffic lights
Shebeen Bar or club
Tekkies Sneakers


Namlish English Remarks
whashup? What's up? A common greeting.
Is it? Really?
Are we on the same page? Is it clear? Do you understand me? This expression is used a lot in meetings and workshops.
I’m coming now now. I’m coming right now. Doubling words emphasizes their literal meaning.
... and what what. ... et cetera. Used a lot in meetings and workshops and what what.
It's ntja! It's ok!/It's great
How is the morning? How are you? Comes from Oshiwambo, Walalepo?
The time is going. We’re running out of time.
So.. Otherwise? Apart from the obvious, how are you? Used as a greeting/to fill a gap in a conversation.
somehow as adjective so-so

Literal translations

Namlish comes from literal translations, mostly from Oshiwambo, Kavango languages and Afrikaans, but occasionally from Damara, Herero or other tribal languages. Namlish is generally spoken by the Oshiwambo and Kavango speaking people. In the Oshiwambo language, the "l" and "r" are exchanged. In Kavango, they are not exchanged.

Example 1: "I'm coming now" comes from the Afrikaans saying "Ek kom nou," as well as the Oshiwambo saying, "Onde ya paife."

Example 2: When people are greeting another, they occasionally say "yes sir" which is translated exactly from the Afrikaans saying, "ja meneer."

Example 3: Namlish speakers often use only the present continuous, or present progressive aspect of a verb at times when native English speakers would employ the present simple. This is due, in part, to direct translation from Oshiwambo and Kavango to English. In Oshiwambo and Kavango, the verb form remains the same in either case. Whenever someone wants to indicate possession of anything, he or she "is having" that particular object. The same goes for use of the past continuous tense in the place of the simple past.

Example 4: When people ask time they often say "how late is it?" which is translated from Afrikaans "Hoe laat is dit?"

Example 5: Some of the Oshiwambo speaking people would say "Led" instead of "Red".

Example 6: When asking how you are doing, Namibians would say, "Whatz up" which comes from the word "weni" from Kavango.

Some observations

Many Namibians repeat single-word responses twice. For example, "Hi hi", "Fine fine" and "Sharp sharp" are all common responses in casual conversation.

Upon asking How are you? Namlish speakers will greet you with Yes! or Yebo! Yebo comes from Zulu, which is an emphatic "yes" said throughout southern Africa.

Directions can be very vague: That side is usually the answer.

This one and that one are frequently used to talk about children and elderly people.

'I'm coming now now' 'I'm coming just now' 'I'm coming now now' 'I'm coming right now': All rather vague variations regarding time. Each repetition of the word "now" represents a closer approximation of the typical English "now." Three repetitions of the word is generally the most you will hear. It usually means a minute or less before the activity in question begins.

"I'm coming" can mean numerous things. Usually, it means "I'm leaving and coming back within 5 minutes or not at all." Whereas "I'm coming now now" means "I'm coming right back now for sure."

The word "somehow" is used to describe an event that was all-right, average, or unexceptional. When asked about a day, weekend, holiday, etc., Namibians often respond by saying it was "somehow." (Namibians frequently use, as in this instance, an adverb in place of an adjective. Another example of this is the use of the word "better." When asked about an exam, the response is often simply, "Better." What it is better than is never specified.)

Whenever asking "How are you?" 99% of the time the answer is "fine."

When talking about something small, Namibians use "ka..." (kaboy: small/little boy, kathing: something small in size).

Words like "kutja" (pronounced as kusha) or Kama/kamastag are used instead of "apparently".


As Namlish is its own dialect of English, it has its own pronunciation of English words. For instance, the word "clothes" is almost always pronounced with two syllables. Even Hifikepunye Pohamba, Namibia’s present president, has been caught using Namlish this way.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Namlish
  2. ^ Amupadhi, Tangeni (12 August 2002). "Pohamba's Namlish Offers Light Relief". The Namibian. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Namlish — ist ein Kofferwort aus den englischen Wörtern Namibian (dt. Namibisch) und English (dt. Englisch).[1] Es handelt sich um eine Mischsprache, welche in Namibia von weiten Teilen der schwarzafrikanischen Bevölkerung des Landes, besonders aber von… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • whashup? — Namlish (Namibian English) What s up? A common greeting …   English dialects glossary

  • is it? — Namlish (Namibian English) Really? …   English dialects glossary

  • are we on the same page? — Namlish (Namibian English) Is it clear? Do you understand me? This expression is used a lot in meetings and workshops …   English dialects glossary

  • i’m coming now now. — Namlish (Namibian English) I’m coming right now. Doubling words emphasizes their literal meaning …   English dialects glossary

  • ... and what what. — Namlish (Namibian English) ... et cetera. Used a lot in meetings and workshops and what what …   English dialects glossary

  • it's ntja! — Namlish (Namibian English) It s ok!/It s great …   English dialects glossary

  • how is the morning? — Namlish (Namibian English) How are you? Comes from Oshiwambo, Walalepo …   English dialects glossary

  • the time is going. — Namlish (Namibian English) We’re running out of time …   English dialects glossary

  • so.. otherwise? — Namlish (Namibian English) Apart from the obvious, how are you? Used as a greeting/to fill a gap in a conversation …   English dialects glossary

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