Afrikaans: Jammer!

We’re on Afrikaans, y’all.

So what’s up with Afrikaans? Lots. For starters, it’s one of the major languages spoken in South Africa and Namibia by about 7 million people. It’s like Dutch, but not. But we’ll get into that later.

REGIONAL HISTORY: If you recall from the post I made about Xhosa, groups of immigrants, including many from what would now be the Netherlands, Germany and other parts of Europe arrived to the Cape of Good Hope, which mainly served as a pit stop for those traveling to India. The groups of people, known as Afrikaners (referenced generally as Boers in the Xhosa post) would eventually settle there. The Afrikaners later clashed with English settlers, causing the Boer Wars in the 1800s. Afrikaners took part in a mass migration called The Great Trek and formed their own republics in the northeastern parts of the country (The Orange Free State and Transvaal).

Afrikaans also came into fruition while all this was happening. The language had undergone several changes from Dutch, including an influx of words from the native populations and Coloureds (South Africans of mixed ancestry). A book called Zamenspraak tusschen Klaas Waarzegger en Jan Twyfelaar, considered the first text in Afrikaans, appeared in 1861, followed by Afrikaans dictionaries. In the early 1900s Afrikaans became one of the standard languages of the country and the first Bible in Afrikaans was published by 1933, edifying Afrikaans as a languages in its own right, not just a slang version of Dutch. Since that point, the language has been used steadily, being one of the 11 national languages of the Republic of South Africa.

WRITING SYSTEM: Afrikaans uses a Latin alphabet. It has the exact same letters as English and many of the sounds are the same, so I won’t write it. The main exceptions appear to be J, which sounds like the y in “yes,” Q, which sounds like “qu” as in “quite” and V, which basically sounds like an F. The W sounds like a “w” as in “walrus” after consonants and a “v” as in “vase” any other time. Vowels can be short and long.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Afrikaans sounds like a quirky version of German, which can either be a good or bad thing. It sounds  very see-saw like to my ear and I cannot stop noticing the constancy of double vowels (just look at its name!). This makes me wonder if I will be put off by things I didn’t like about German. I also wonder if I will be able to distinguish Afrikaans from Dutch, when I get to the latter in the upcoming weeks.

What I posted below is interesting. Famous South African actress Charlize Theron switches back and forth from speaking English and Afrikaans with a Belgian interviewer. I want to do this one day with a language!

Omniglot’s page on Afrikaans
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: Afrikaans – The Alphabet
Wikipedia (Afrikaner, Afrikaans)

5 thoughts on “Afrikaans: Jammer!

  1. After seeing a movie IN MY COUNTRY with Samuel L Jackson, I was thinking strongly about studying Afrikaans. Even though I’m still debating about learning the language, I find this article very helpful.

    1. There are many international films were Afrikaans is spoken, and I think you will like most of them! A short list:

      – Blood Diamond
      – District 9 (not one of my vafourites unfortunately)
      – Invictus
      – The Power of One

  2. The Afrikaans Wikipedia is also of surprisingly high quality. Article count alone is quite low but since tens of thousands of tiny articles can be created with bots on Wikipedia the article count alone doesn’t really mean anything – Volapük for example technically has over 100,000 pages but they are almost entirely bot-generated. The Afrikaans Wikipedia is pretty much the exact opposite, with a huge number of lengthy articles compared to the total article count.

    For some Afrikaans songs with text, see here:

  3. I actually have an Australian friend, Matthew, who came to London for two years. He socialised with our group of friends (mostly South Africans) and after his two years in LONDON could speak Afrikaans fluently!! He is now married to a South African girl and they live in South Africa.

    I also met an American this week-end that can speak Afrikaans fluently!

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