About Afrikaans

How many people can I speak to if I learn Afrikaans?

Afrikaans language

Afrikaans is spoken by 12 million people.
About 6.4 million people speak Afrikaans as a native language and about the same number speak it as a second language.

Where is Afrikaans spoken?

The majority of Afrikaans speakers live in South Africa.
There Afrikaans is, along with 10 other languages, an official language.
It is also spoken in neighbouring countries like Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and in Lesotho.

Where is Afrikaans spoken

Afrikaans is a “young language”

Afrikaans is viewed by linguists as a young language.
Its development began in the 17th Century when Dutch colonists began to build a supply station for the Dutch East India Company at the Cape of Good Hope.
The Dutch settlers naturally brought their language with them.
This changed so much in following years that it could soon be recognised as a separate language, from then on spoken in South Africa.

Afrikaans inherits much of its vocabulary from its parent language Dutch, but also contains traces of influences from other languages.
For example the various Bantu and Khoisan indigenous languages have also influenced the vocabulary of the new language.

The settlers on the Cape of Good Hope began to expand their settlements.
For the cultivation of their ever growing land holdings, the colonists brought in slaves from Indonesia, Madagascar and Angola.
These slaves spoke Malay and Creole Portuguese.
These languages have also influenced the vocabulary of Afrikaans.

In 1806 the British conquered South Africa and established a colony of the British Empire there, resulting in English influencing Afrikaans.

In 1875 the “Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners” (“Society for Real Afrikaners”) was founded with the objective of raising the profile of Afrikaans in South Africa and to regulate written Afrikaans.
A year after the founding of the society the first newspaper in Afrikaans appeared.
It was followed by literary works and the first work about Afrikaans grammar.

Notable characteristics of Afrikaans and differences to Dutch

A number of differences exist between Afrikaans and Dutch:
Generally one can see that in the course of its development Afrikaans has become simplified in comparison to Dutch.

The pronunciation and writing of Afrikaans has diverged from Dutch and become simpler.
For a German Afrikaans is perhaps easier to learn than Dutch, because written Afrikaans is strongly reflective of the pronunciation like German.

Other differences are to be found in the vocabulary:
During its development Afrikaans has been influenced by other languages, English and German from other European settlers, Malay and Portuguese spoken by the slaves and native languages such as Bhantu and Khoisan.
All these languages have left traces in Afrikaans.

However the most differences are to be found in comparing the grammar of the two languages.
In Afrikaans has completely lost the inflection of verbs.
In contrast Dutch inflects the verbs.
A further distinction of Afrikaans is the double negation.
As a rule a negation in Afrikaans always ends with a nie (Eng. not).
However the sentence that this negation refers to, will also contain its own negation word.
This results in the double negation typical of Afrikaans.

Examples for the double negation in Afrikaans:

  • Ek is nie getroud nie.
    Literally: I am not married not.
    I am not married.
  • Ek praat geen Afrikaans nie.
    Literally: I do not speak Afrikaans not.
    I don’t speak Afrikaans.

So that last sentence doesn’t apply to you, begin learning the language with the Afrikaans Course from 17 Minute Languages.

Would you like to learn more about the Afrikaans language?

  1. Here is a very informative entry about the Afrikaans Language from Wikipedia.
  2. Did you know that there is a monument for the Afrikaans language and the "Afrikaanse Taalmuseum" in the city of Paarl in Western Cape?
  3. How about learning the 50 most important words in Afrikaans?
    Try it! It's free and all words are pronounced by native speakers.
  4. Maybe you also would like to visit the website of the Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniginge (Eng. Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Associations) and learn more about Afrikaans literature and culture?