29 June 2008

Book of the Week #5: Fanagalo Phrasebook

On the net there is conflicting information about the popularity of Fanagalo and very little about the language itself. I got curious a few years ago and obtained Fanagalo Phrase-book, Grammar and Dictionary by J.D. Bold, published by Ernest Stanton Publishers, Johannesburg (tenth edition, 1977).

The author claims that (at least when he was writing) Fanagalo is a widely used lingua franca in southern Africa, not limited to giving orders to miners and domestic servants, but actually helpful every day to people in all kinds of situations. Here he takes a swipe at Esperanto:

He does a good job explaining how to make the clicks represented by the letters c, q, x. For example he says the x click "is the sound that White children make when they imagine they are urging a horse to get moving."

Below is a sample of the grammar section.

You can read a Fanagalo text specimen here.


Susan-Mary said...

Dear Mr. Harrison,

Could you please tell me where you obtained this copy of the no out of print "Fanagalo Phrase-book" as I really want to buy a copy for my father.

Thank you


riku said...

I purchased my copy on abebooks.com which is an excellent source of used books. -RH

Anonymous said...

Cool site, I hadn't noticed langbreeze.blogspot.com earlier during my searches!
Carry on the great work!

Anonymous said...


This is a message for the webmaster/admin here at langbreeze.blogspot.com.

Can I use some of the information from this blog post above if I give a link back to this website?


R.K.Harrison said...

Yes, feel free to quote this blog and/or link back to it.

Anonymous said...

I bought Fanagalo by JD Bold in Johannesburg where they were selling for about US$ five cents each.

The reason for this is that Fanagalo is a pidgin used mostly under Apartheid for the whites to attempt to communicate with Blacks.

They should have just learned any of the 11 official languages, and others.

Anonymous said...

Johannesburg is the commercial center where many AFRICANS came from various areas looking for employment verged, speaking different languages. It served them all including the whites, colourds and Indians! You can't paint everybody with the same brush you ignorant fool.

Robin Clay said...

Not only that - but Wenela gathered wrkers from all over Southern Africa - as far as the Congo, Angloa and Mozambique, where returned workers still know the language. It was also used by white Rhodesians visitng LM on holiday, for none spoke portuguese, and the locals spoke no English.

Oh, and it is being revived, as people realise its usefulness.

It takes about 15 hours to learn.