Siske Loggie: group photo posing

Useful phrases for volunteers in southern Africa (Quiz)

During your time at one of our many projects in Southern Africa, you’re likely to be exposed to one or more of the many local languages (South Africa alone has 11 official languages). Below is a handy guide to some useful phrases in the languages you’re most likely to encounter while you’re working alongside locals to protect and conserve their natural heritage.

You can also take our quiz at the bottom of the page if you want to test your knowledge!

Afrikaans (southern Africa)

Afrikaans is very widely spoken in Southern Africa and is the language you’re most likely to encounter during your time on many of our projects. Many people involved in conservation speak some Afrikaans, even if it is not their first language, and so the following phrases are very likely to be useful to you during your time in Africa no matter where you are.

  • Good morning – Goeie more
  • Hello – Haai
  • How are you? – Hoe gaan dit?
  • I’m fine thanks – Goed dankie
  • What is your name? – Wat is jou naam?
  • My name is… – My naam is…
  • Thank you – Dankie
  • See you later – Totsiens
  • Good night – Goeie nag
  • How much does this cost? – Hoeveel kos dit?
  • Excuse me -Ekskies
  • I’m thirsty – Ek is dors
  • I’m hungry – Ek is honger
  • Look – Kyk
  • Listen – Luister
  • Go – Gaan
  • Come – Kom
  • Yes – Ja
  • No – Nee
Two males looking down at animal tracks

Tsonga / Shangaan (Greater Kruger)

We have several projects in and around the Greater Kruger National Park, including wildlife research and management projects, wildlife rehabilitation projects and wildlife veterinary projects. In this part of the world, one of the most commonly spoken languages is Tsonga (also known as Shangaan). If you’re going to be joining a project in this area, then a few of these Tsonga phrases might well be useful to you and will definitely endear you to Tsonga speakers you encounter there!

  • Good morning – Avuxeni
  • Hello – Xewani
  • How are you? – Kunjhani?
  • I am fine – Ni Kona / Ndzi kona
  • What’s your name? – Hi weni mani vito
  • My name is… – Hi mina
  • Good night – U etlela kahle
  • Goodbye – Sala kahle (stay well) / Famba kahle (go well)
  • Yes – Ina
  • No – E-e
  • How much is this? – Xana i malimuni?
  • Please – Ndza Kombela
  • Thank you – Ndza nkhensa
Frances Watson: rhino horn trimming

Zulu (Phinda)

Zulu is another very commonly spoken language across large parts of Southern Africa, and the Zulu tribe is one of the largest and best-known of South Africa’s many ethnic groups. Zulu will be most useful to you if you’re volunteering at our Phinda Wildlife Research Project, but it is also useful more broadly because it is so close to the other Nguni languages, of which there are several. If you look closely you will notice some similarities between some of the Zulu, Tsonga and Shangaan phrases for this very reason.

  • Hello / good morning – Sawubona
  • How are you? – Unjani?
  • I am fine, thank you – Ngikhona, ngiyabonga.
  • What’s your name? – Ngubani igama lakho?
  • My name is… – Igama lam ngu…
  • Good night – Lala kahle
  • Goodbye – Sala kahle (stay well) / Hamba kahle (go well)
  • Yes – Yebo
  • No – Eikona
  • I don’t know – Angazi
  • Excuse me – Uxolo
  • Thank you – Ngiyabonga
Guide on a walk

Setswana (Botswana)

Setswana is the most commonly spoken language of Botswana, where it is the second official language alongside English. You’ll want to brush up on some of these useful phrases if you’re joining our Okavango Wilderness Project in particular. You’ll be amazed at the response you’ll get if you greet a Motswana in his or her mother tongue too – so don’t be put off by the sometimes tricky pronunciation! More often than not you’ll find people very happy to help you master these and other simple phrases.

  • Hello – Dumela rra (m) / mma (f)
  • How are you? – Le kae?
  • I am fine – Re teng
  • What’s your name? – O mang?
  • My name is… – Leina la me ke…
  • Good night – Boroko!
  • Goodbye – Sala sentle (stay well) / Tsamaya sentle (go well)
  • I don’t know – Ga ke itse sepe
  • Excuse me – Intshwarele
  • How much is this? – E ke bokae
  • Please – Tswee-tswee
  • Thank you – Ke a leboga, rra (m) / mma (f)
Mother and baby elephant

Animal names

You’ll be doing more than spending time in camp greeting people during your time in Africa though, so we’ve also included a useful list of some of the animals you’re most likely to see and work with. Master these and there are plenty more for you to learn in the best place of all – the field!


  • English: Lion
  • Afrikaans: leeu
  • Zulu: ibhubesi
  • Tsonga: ngala
  • Setswana: tau


  • English: Leopard
  • Afrikaans: luiperd
  • Zulu: ingwe
  • Tsonga: ingwe
  • Setswana: nkwe


  • English: Elephant
  • Afrikaans: olifant
  • Zulu: indlovu
  • Tsonga: njovu
  • Setswana: tlou


  • English: Rhino
  • Afrikaans: renoster
  • Zulu: ihhino
  • Tsonga: mhelembe
  • Setswana: tshukudu


  • English: Buffalo
  • Afrikaans: buffel
  • Zulu: inyathi
  • Tsonga: inyathi
  • Setswana: nare

How Good Is Your African Language Knowledge?

From Afrikaans to Zulu, how well do you know the African languages? Test you knowledge today with our quick quiz and see if you're an expert in the making or in need of a little more practice.

Ramez Ramzy: professional guides posing beside the water

How many official languages are there in South Africa?

Liam Corcoran and Emily Munroe: campfire

How do you say 'thank you' in Afrikaans?

Rhinos in the landscape

Where are you most likely to find Tsonga speakers?

Sunset in the Kruger

How do you say 'Hello' in Zulu?

Professional guide cooking over a campfire in the Okavango

What is the Setswana word for Leopard?

Close-up of a baby leopard, looking into the camera

What is the Zulu word for Buffalo?

Siske Loggie: buffalo

What is the Tsonga word for Elephant?

Tomer Admon: close-up of an elephant

Which of these are not one of the Big 5?

Close-up of an elephant coming towards the camera

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ACE group with professional learning about the landscape

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Rino Eliassen: group photo with the local community

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Savannah de Mare: group photo in the sunset

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Join real conservation experts in the field and watch your knowledge come to life as a wildlife volunteer! If you’re not sure which conservation project is right for you, then get in touch with us and we’ll help you decide.

Staff and volunteering jumping in front of a sunset in the Okavango

African language quiz questions and answers

How many official languages are there in South Africa?


How do you say 'thank you' in Afrikaans?


Where are you most likely to find Tsonga speakers?

Greater Kruger

How do you say 'Hello' in Zulu?


What is the Setswana word for Leopard?


What is the Zulu word for Buffalo?


What is the Tsonga word for Elephant?


Which of these are not one of the Big 5?