Unfortunately, Botswana does not have a slang dictionary for new arrivals. Instead, you have to learn as you go. I recently watched someone have the following conversation:
Foreigner: I love fat cakes.
Motswana: Is it?
Foreigner: Is it what?
I have a number of visitors who will be dropping by from overseas in the next few months, so let me give you a crash course in Batswana English:
Is it?- This essentially means the same thing as “Really?” Above noted conversation should have been more along the lines of “I like fat cakes.” “Is it?” “Yes, they are my favorite.”
Howzit?- Translation: “How are you? What’s going on? How ya doin’?”
Shame!- This conveys a sense of compassion or empathy. If I told someone I had to miss a party because I was sick the response would be, “Oh, shame!” meaning “That’s too bad.”
Big- Much. In America I would say, “Thank you very much,” In Botswana I “Thank you very big.
Now- If someone uses the word “now” it means whatever they have just promised you MIGHT happen sometime before they die, but it most definitely will NOT happen now. This could mean ANYTIME in the future, just no time in the NEAR future.
Now, now- This is what you want to hear! “Now, now” means immediately. Anytime I am on a call with someone and want to clarify they are on their way I always ask, “You are coming now, now?” If they aren’t coming now, now, then chances are they haven’t gotten out of bed and they were probably sleeping in a neighboring country anyway, so there is little if any chance I will actually see him this century.
This concludes today’s lesson. Thank you for your attention. With that being said, visitors, please come to Botswana now, now; I miss you very big and can’t wait to find out, “Howzit?”