Afrikaans: Totsiens!

I have some good news and some not-bad-but-kind-of-eh news.

The latter first: I won’t be doing anymore video updates until Part Two of the blog, which is coming soon. Unfortunately, I have not resolved the issues with my camera and computer connectivity and making the videos consumes too much time, which is why posts have been late. But the recaps will prove to be much more useful in the later parts of this project.

And, good news: 37 Languages is now on Twitter! You can catch up with the blog at 37 Languages. Be sure to follow; I’ll have links to posts and also tweet about interesting things going on in the language world.

Now, on the the Afrikaans wrap-up.

SUMMARY: Afrikaans is spoken in South Africa and Namibia by roughly 7 million people. It is a descendant of Dutch and came into usage by the European settlers in the western part of South Africa (known as Afrikaners). While the Afrikaners moved away from the cape region and formed republics elsewhere, the language also became standardized through the appearance of publications. Afrikaans is one of South Africa’s 11 official languages.

Pretty cool, to me at least. I was worried that this language would seem really Germanic (as in identical to German) but that wasn’t the case at all.

The Web site I’ve been using for this, Open Languages, has been extremely helpful. It’s very comprehensive and provides audio for most of its online lessons. One thing I learned was that double vowels are usually added to make one syllable words long (tak vs. taak). I also learned that the “g” sound is really almost like an h, but comes from the throat (no English equivalent). The “r” is also kind of trilled too, which I like.

In the introduction for the grammar section, I was impressed. There’s no verb conjugation except for the verbs “to be” and “to have” and gender for nouns aren’t used. There are also no case systems. Um … what? This language is in the same family as German and English?

Some other distinguishing things about Afrikaans are the use of double negatives (basically just tack on the particle “nie” at the end of a sentence) and its word order, known as “STOMPI” (Subject, Time, Object, Manner, Place, Infinitive).

But it did seem a little too good to be true. Many people are opting to just learn English now as a second language, especially as  Afrikaans was seen historically as the language of the oppressor. While there’s a resurgence of spoken Afrikaans in media and people wanting to learn it, it makes me wonder if English is still the more popular option. And then there’s Dutch …

I still like it though. It sort of sounds like Norwegian (I really liked Norwegian) and when you read it, it sort of looks like a quirky version of English. Sort of.

See Ellen DeGeneres speak Afrikaans (and laugh)!


Intelligibility: 4
Complexity: 5 (not hard at all)
Resonance: 3


Open Languages
Wikipedia (Afrikaans Grammar)

2 thoughts on “Afrikaans: Totsiens!

  1. Keith, it’s lovely to see Afrikaans on your list.

    It is very idiomatic, an element on which second language learners often stumble, as it belies the simple structure of its grammar. It basically grew from a Dutch-based creole in the 1800s to what is considered one of the newest fully-fledged languages on the planet today, and contains words and expressions from all the other languages with which it came into contact here at the southern tip of Africa, such as the Nguni and Bantu language families as well as Khoi (Bushman) and Malay (many slaves came from the old Batavia). Some consider it to have a Germanic origin but African soul, although this sentiment is more an expression of the speakers’ love of this patch of earth than it is an academic classification.

    Just for interest’ sake: there is also a community of Afrikaans speakers in Patagonia, Argentina. Most of them emigrated there in the early 1900s as part of a government sponsored farming and settlement scheme, and although many Spanish words and expressions pepper their speech today, the Afrikaans of that era can still be heard in their dialect of this beautiful language.

    Mooibly (keep well),

    Mariènne Botha
    Cerebris Language Services
    South Africa

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