Language choices among South African migrants in the tourist space of Zanzibar

  • Susanne Mohr


In an increasingly mobile world, in which people and languages from different cultures meet all across the globe, the development and dynamics of linguistically and culturally superdiverse spaces are of particular sociolinguistic interest. In this regard, two important phenomena are migration and tourism. This article analyses language choices and their motivations in the superdiverse tourist space of Zanzibar. Applying Q-methodology developed for behavioural psychology, the article presents a case study of two South African migrant workers and two local Zanzibari hosts, and
motivations for their languages choices in interaction with tourists. The results show important differences between the South Africans who choose their native language English for practical reasons and the Zanzibaris who accommodate tourists to a much larger extent and use a large
linguistic repertoire to boast. Apart from English, ‘Hakuna Matata Swahili’ (HMS), a simplified form of Kiswahili, is frequently used. The South  Africans employ it possibly due to their lack of Kiswahili skills and the popularity of HMS expressions in popular culture. In this way, language  choices and reasons for them illustrate the glocal nature of language practices in tourism and the liminal status of the South Africans in Zanzibari society.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614