Afrikaans - interesting facts


Afrikaans is the native language of 7 million people worldwide (about 0.1% of the world's population). It is outside the world's top 100 most spoken languages regarding the number of native speakers.

Afrikaans is one of the 11 official languages of South Africa. It also has official language status in Namibia. It is spoken mainly by white Africans and Coloreds (a group formed due to the mixing of the Boers, Malay and Khoisan people).

Afrikaans belongs to the Germanic language group, specifically to the subgroup of South Germanic languages. The origins of its history date back to the 17th century, when in the Cape Colony in southern Africa this language was distinguished from the southern dialects of the Dutch language. Its development was also greatly influenced by other languages, mainly Portuguese, Malay, Khoisan and Bantu languages (later also English). Until the beginning of the 20th century, Afrikaans was treated as a dialect of Dutch. Later - by a special law passed in 1925 - it was recognized as an official language in South Africa.

Afrikaans and Dutch are considered mutually intelligible languages. Despite lexical influences from other languages, more than 90% of Afrikaans' vocabulary is derived from Dutch. There are three main dialectal varieties: Cape Afrikaans (Kaapse Afrikaans), Orange River Afrikaans (Oranjerivier-Afrikaans) and Eastern Border Afrikaans (Oosgrens-Afrikaans). A dialect with many peculiarities (derived from the Bantu languages) is Oorlans (recognized by some as the Creole language, which was created based on Afrikaans).

Verb forms in Afrikaans are less elaborate than in the Dutch and do not change by person. The Afrikaans equivalent of the verb to be (wees) has the same form in all persons of the present tense: is. Another feature that distinguishes Afrikaans from other Germanic languages is the presence of double negation in the sentence. An interesting functional word in Afrikaans is the indefinite article 'n (equivalent to Dutch een). It is always written in lowercase (even if it appears at the beginning of a sentence).

Standards for Afrikaans are regulated by the Language Commission (Die Taalkommissie), part of the South African Academy of Sciences.

Afrikaans, one of the eleven official languages of South Africa, has a rich history and interesting structure. It is mainly derived from Dutch, but it also has influences from other languages such as English, Portuguese, Malay and African Bantu. Although not widely spoken in the world, the Afrikaans language is an important element of the culture and identity of Afrikaners – descendants of Dutch, German and French colonists. For people who speak Polish, discovering the Afrikaans language can be a fascinating experience that allows you to understand the extremely rich and diverse culture of South Africa.

Below we present interesting facts, interesting aspects and surprising curiosities about the Afrikaans language.

The origin of the Afrikaans language

The Afrikaans language derives mainly from Dutch, spoken by colonists who arrived in South Africa in the 17th century. Over time, Dutch has changed under the influence of local languages such as Khoisan, Malay and Bantu. As a result, the Afrikaans language was created, which despite its strong similarity to Dutch, has its own unique structure and vocabulary.

Afrikaans and Dutch

Although Afrikaans and Dutch have common roots, they differ in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Afrikaans is characterized by simpler grammar, with much fewer cases and using the past tense in a simpler form than in the Netherlands. It is also worth noting the differences in vocabulary resulting from the influence of other languages on Afrikaans.

Afrikaans as a language of ethnic minorities

Afrikaans is spoken by various ethnic groups in South Africa, including Afrikaners (descendants of Dutch, German and French colonists) and Cape Malayans, whose ancestors were displaced from Indonesia and Malaysia during colonial times. This language is an important element of the culture and identity of these minorities, and its knowledge can help in understanding their history, customs and values.

Grammar and structure of the Afrikaans language

Afrikaans has a simpler grammar than the Dutch language from which it is derived. This language has no coincidences, and the past tense is often expressed in simple forms. In addition, Afrikaans also has a combination of verbs and prepositions, creating specific grammatical constructions. Thanks to simplified grammar, Afrikaans can be easier to learn for people who speak Polish.

Afrikaans in South Africa

Afrikaans is one of the eleven official languages of South Africa and is spoken by about 13.5% of the country's population. It occurs both as a mother tongue and as a second language for many South Africans. Afrikaans is also important as an administrative, judicial and educational language. This language is used in various sectors of society, such as the media, literature or music.

Understanding the Afrikaans language by Dutch speakers

People who speak Dutch can usually understand Afrikaans largely due to their common roots. Although grammatical and lexical differences exist, many words and constructs are similar or identical in both languages. Thanks to this, people who know Dutch have an easier start in learning Afrikaans. 


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Influence of other languages on Afrikaans

Although Afrikaans is mainly derived from Dutch, it also has influences from other languages such as English, Portuguese, Malay, and the African languages Bantu and Khoisan. The influence of these languages is evident primarily in the Afrikaans' vocabulary, which contains many borrowings and neologisms. Many of these words have been so well adapted to Afrikaans that they are now difficult to recognize as coming from other languages.

Afrikaans Dialects

In Afrikaans, several dialects differ mainly in pronunciation, vocabulary, and some grammatical constructions. The most famous dialects are Kaaps (from Cape Town and the surrounding area), Oranjerivier (from the Oranje River region), Zachodni (from the Western Cape province) and Wschodni (from the Eastern Cape province). Despite these differences, Afrikaans dialects are relatively understandable to those familiar with standard Afrikaans.

Afrikaans in Namibia

Afrikaans is also spoken in Namibia, serving as an auxiliary language. In Namibia, Afrikaans is the second most popular language, after Oshiwambo. During the apartheid period, Afrikaans was one of the official languages of Namibia, but after the country gained independence, it lost its status to English. Afrikaans users also live in other countries, such as  Botswana or Zimbabwe. Smaller communities in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Canada also use it.

Afrikaans in Media and Culture

The Afrikaans language significantly impacts the development of media and culture in South Africa. In this country, numerous radio and television stations and publishers publish books and magazines in the Afrikaans language. In addition, this language has its own literary tradition, including poetry, prose and drama. It is also worth mentioning music in which Afrikaans plays an important role, especially in genres such as pop, rock or alternative.

The Afrikaans Language in Education

In South Africa, Afrikaans plays an important role in the education system. It is taught both as a mother tongue and as a second language for many students. In schools and universities, you can meet subjects taught in Afrikaans and curricula developed in this language. In recent years, however, due to increasing globalization and the growing importance of the English language, there has been a decline in the number of students choosing Afrikaans as a language of instruction.

The Afrikaans Language in Sport

The Afrikaans language also plays an important role in the world of sports in South Africa. Many sports teams, especially in rugby, have Afrikaans as their primary language of communication. In addition, in the sports media in South Africa, you can often find reports from competitions, interviews with players and articles written in Afrikaans.

The Impact of Politics on Afrikaans

The history of Afrikaans is closely linked to South African politics, especially apartheid, which lasted from 1948 to 1994. The introduction of apartheid has made Afrikaans a tool of discrimination and social segregation. After the end of apartheid, Afrikaans remained one of South Africa's official languages, but its role in public and cultural life declined. In recent years, however, there has been an increase in interest in the language, both in South Africa and abroad.

Afrikaans and Bantu Languages

Although Afrikaans is primarily derived from Dutch, it is also influenced by Bantu languages such as isiXhosa and isiZulu. These influences can be seen in the vocabulary and structure of some sentences. It is worth noting that the Bantu and Afrikaans languages also have common features, such as the richness of words describing colours or agglutination.

Afrikaans Language and Literature

Afrikaans literature has a rich tradition that dates back to the early 20th century. The most important Afrikaans authors are C.J. Langenhoven, Elisabeth Eybers, and André P. Brink. The works of these authors include various literary genres, such as poetry, novel, drama or essay. In the Afrikaans literature, one can notice the influences of both European and African cultures, as well as topics related to the history and society of South Africa. 


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Essential Afrikaans Dictionary




yes ja
no nee
please assblief
thank you dankie
I'm sorry jammer
good morning goeie môre / goeie middag
good evening goeie naand
goodbye goodbye
good night totsiens
hi hallo
how are you?  Hoe gaan dit?
well goed
My name is... My naam is....
I don't understand Ek verstaan nie



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