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Namlish, (a portmanteau of the words Namibian and English), is a form of English spoken in Namibia. 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.


Examples of Namlish

Namlish English: remarks
whashup? What's up? A common greeting. Often pronounced as "Whosit?"
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 now. Double now emphasizes that it’s serious.
... and what what. ... etcetera.
My colleague here ... describes Used a lot in meetings and workshops and what what.
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 so-so used as an adjective

Literal Translations

Namlish comes from literal translations, mostly from Oshiwambo, but occasionally from Afrikaans, Damara, Herero or other tribal languages.

Namlish is generally spoken by the Oshiwambo speaking people. In the Oshiwambo language, the "l" and "r" are 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 to English. In Oshiwambo, 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".

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.

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.)

"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."

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) 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.


Also Hifikepunye Pohamba, Namibia’s present president, has been caught using Namlish. This link directs to an article in the Namibian about the word Fundaraising.

See also



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