Basic Facts: Afrikaans was for a long time referred to as “Cape Dutch”, as it was spoken by Dutch people who moved to South Africa only to be altered and birthed into a language of its own right after being influenced by Malay, Portuguese, Bantu languages, and Khoisa languages. It’s spoken by 10 million people in South Africa and Namibia as parts of Botswana, Zimbabwe and places like England with a high number of South Africans. Like English, Afrikaans is part of the West-Germanic language family.
- No conjugations: Ek is, ons is, hulle is, meaning you say I is, we is, they is. Easy.
- No gender: In Dutch there are words that are de or het. It is more or less entirely random, unlike in Romance languages where there are a few rules that can help you guess if you’re going to go with el or la or le or la. Afrikaans has simplified all that and just uses die, just like English uses the, and ‘n for a/an.
- Spelling in Afrikaans is easier for English-speakers to figure out than Dutch: mij is written my.
- Pronunciation: Afrikaans is more or less pronounced just as it’s written. So for those of you who’ve given up on French because of silent letters and words like soleil, Afrikaans will be more your speed.
- One single past tense: No difference between I went and I had gone, for example.
- Only one standard Afrikaans – Unlike in Spanish where the accents and vocabulary vary massively from one Spanish-speaking country to the next, or like Arabic where there’s a formal and informal dialect AND such major differences between dialects spoken in, for example, the Maghreb and the Gulf, that they are mutually unintelligible, you’ll always be understood.
- Not a whole lot of learning materials or people to practice with outside of South Africa.
- Irregular plurals: Most words you add an -en or -s to and boom, plural, but there are some that you’re just going to have to memorize and accept, like one eye is oog and two eyes? Oë!
- A gutteral g (like in loch). If you’re afraid of sounding a little harsh!
- Like German and Dutch, there is a scary word order. In South African textbooks they explain it as the STOMPI Rule.
- Afrikaans: Hy het ‘n huis gekoop.
- Direct Translation: He has a house bought.
- English: He bought/has bought a house.
- Afrikaans: Ik weet dat hy siek is.
- Direct Translation: I know that he sick is.
- English: I know that he is sick.
- Afrikaans: Ek wil dit nie doen nie.
- Direct Translation: I want this not do not.
- English: I do not want to do this.
And lastly, numbers: In German, Dutch and Afrikaans, the number order is reversed. For example, it’s not twenty-seven, but rather, sewe-en-twintig (seven and twenty). This goes on to look like eenhonderd een-en-twintig , eenduisend tweehonderd negentien [1,219].
Afrikaans is a great intro language to Germanic languages. It’ll give you a leg up in learning Dutch and German, and in comparison with those two languages it’s really been parcelled down and simplefied. Interested in getting started? According to fellow blogger Mithridates this is a good website to get you going on your foray into Afrikaans!
You can also impress Charlize Theron with your skills. You may have a better chance of flirting with her than Piers Morgan does in this clip.