In Dutch, the word “Afrikaans” means “African” in a general sense.
The term comes from the Dutch word Afrikaansch (now written Afrikaans) which means African. Before Afrikaans became official, it was considered a form of slang or “obscenity”. At this stage, before Afrikaans became a well-established written language, it was called Main Dutch or Dutch Cuisine. This is because it primarily acted as the spoken language for the people living on the Cape, and Dutch was used as the official and written language.
As the language developed further, whites of Afrikaans distanced themselves from the English-speaking community due to resentment following their defeat in the South African War of 1899-1902.
In 1910, there was a clear relationship conflict between Afrikaans speaking South Africans.
- The Youngest Official Language in The World
Afrikaans is the youngest official language in the world. Back then, it was still considered a part of the Dutch. Only in 1983 was Dutch removed as an official language of South Africa and Afrikaans took its place completely. In 1905, Gustav Preller decided to make Afrikaans the “white language” of South Africa. In 1925, Afrikaans was recognized by the South African government as an independent language, not just a slang version of Dutch. Although Afrikaans differs significantly from Dutch in the use of Malay, African, and French words, it was not recognized as an official language until 1925. Afrikaans was not considered a Dutch dialect until the beginning of the 20th century when it was widely known as another language.
- Afrikaans Is Considered a Dutch Daughter Language
Afrikaans is a version of Dutch that is derived from a South Dutch dialect introduced here in the 1600s. Over the centuries, it has collected many influences from African languages as well as European colonial languages such as English, French, and German. Afrikaans originated in Africa from its native language, Dutch, but is now spoken in places like Namibia, Botswana, and even Australia and New Zealand.
- Afrikaans-Speakers Understand Dutch better than Dutch-speakers do Afrikaans
Since it’s a daughter language that evolved from Dutch, Afrikaans speakers have a much easier time understanding their “mother tongue” than vice versa. The written language is mutually intelligible to a high degree. Afrikaans is now considered to be one of the standard languages in education and social life in South Africa, just like English and nine other languages. Afrikaans is the second most spoken and taught language, and many South Africans use it in their daily lives.
There are 12 million Afrikaans on all continents. There are more than 7,000 languages in the world, and Afrikaans is listed as the 140th largest language. There are only 5 languages in the world that can develop into advanced academic languages in the 20th century, and Afrikaans is one of them. In fact, of all the languages spoken in Africa, Afrikaans is the most geographically dispersed, which means you can find Afrikaans speakers almost anywhere.
- Other Languages Influenced Afrikaans
Although based on Dutch, Afrikaans has been influenced by a variety of languages
The development of Afrikaans was influenced by the languages of people brought to South Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries. Most Afrikaans words are of Dutch origin, but the languages of the enslaved Asians and Africans, as well as European languages such as English, French, and Portuguese, have greatly influenced the language. The Afrikaans dialect spoken today comes from Dutch, which was spoken by the first settlers in the 1600s. Afrikaans borrowed some lexical and syntactic borrowings from other languages such as Malay, Khoisan, Portuguese. It also borrowed dialects from French, German, the now mostly extinct Khoisan languages, varieties of Bantu mostly Xhosa and Zulu, Scottish, and Yiddish. Afrikaans has also been heavily influenced by South African English. For this reason, Afrikaans is often referred to as the “daughter language” of Dutch.
- The Dutch Despised Afrikaans at first
The first signs of a new language emerging in South Africa came in the late 17th century. In 1685, a Dutch East India Company official – H. A Van Rheede – wrote home complaining about a “distorted and incomprehensible version of Dutch” that was spoken in the Drakenstein Valley.
However, like most languages, Afrikaans is not just superficial. Afrikaans grew to become a cross-border language covering important language communities in Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. South Africa has 11 official languages, and 7 million of the country’s 50 million residents speak Afrikaans, which is the third-largest language after Zulu and Xhosa. It is the main language of the Western Cape and Northern Cape, and the most spoken language by white Afrikaans in farms and rural areas and many Muslim communities in South Africa.
- For several centuries, Afrikaans was only a spoken language
Although, as we already saw, Afrikaans started emerging at the end of the 17th century. It was used only as a spoken language. In writing, standard Dutch remained the norm. This remained the case until the mid-19th century. However, this youngest language to appear in Africa is currently spoken by about 6 million people, most of which are from South Africa and some from Namibia. It is the second most spoken language in the Western Cape and Gauteng. In addition to African countries, Zambia (96,000), Australia (43,700), New Zealand (27,400), the United States (23,000), Eswatini (17,000), and the Netherlands (14,300) also use it.
- There is a secret prison language based on Afrikaans
In South African prisons, a secret language is spoken among the prisoners. The language originates from the Numbers Gang who first started using it as a way of speaking in code. The language is based on Afrikaans but has heavy Zulu and Xhosa influences and is known as “sabela”. If you speak a mixture of English, Dutch, German, French, and Afrikaans then you speak Afrikaans. Many native speakers of Bantu and English also use Afrikaans as a second language. English and Afrikaans are spoken and taught in schools in the first and second languages, as well as many mother tongues that children learn on the street, or some schools also teach foreign languages.
- Afrikaans Remains Controversial
Since it is so closely connected to the repressive policies implemented by the National Party government, Afrikaans remains a controversial language in South Africa. This, among other factors, has led to the rise of English in the country. Some students still want to study in Afrikaans, but others prefer to be taught in English. South Africa’s Bill of Rights provides that everyone can be educated in the official language of their choice. Afrikaans education discourages many black South Africans as Afrikaans is not their preferred language.
- Afrikaans Popularity Grows Beyond Borders of RSA.
It’s not only the Republic of South Africa where Afrikaans is spoken. You can also hear it in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Australia, and New Zealand, although to a lesser extent. About 24 million people in the world can understand this language, and, as a rule, they are people from countries with similar languages or with a large community of expats from South Africa. These include the Netherlands, Argentina, Botswana, Belgium, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It is spoken throughout the country by people of all races.
The number of Afrikaans speakers in South Africa is growing. According to the 2011 census, 6.85 million people speak Afrikaans in South Africa, up from 5.98 million ten years earlier. Afrikaans speakers have higher employment rates than non-Afrikaans speakers, so using the language pays off. English and Afrikaans speakers (mostly black South Africans, Indians, and whites) are generally not very fluent in African languages but are fairly fluent in each of them.
Of the 4.9 million native-speaking South Africans, a third (33%) are white, a quarter (24%) are black, 22% are Indians and 19% are black South Africans. IsiZulu and isiXhosa are the most popular languages, while only one in ten people speak English at home, most of whom are non-white. The other most common home languages are Isikhosa (16%), Afrikaans (13.5%), and Sesotosa Leboa (7.6%).
- During the Apartheid Regime, Afrikaans was a Protected Language
The National Party considered Afrikaans a protected language and forced single-language education in the language. After the fall of Apartheid, it became one of 11 official languages in South Africa in 1994. In the post-apartheid period, South Africa lost the government’s preferential treatment of Afrikaans in education, social activities, media (television and radio), and general status in the country. It now shares its status as an official language with ten other languages.
Therefore, it is not surprising that sociopolitical history often portrays Afrikaans in the language of stubborn racists, oppressors, and nationalists. It certainly has Dutch elements because it was mainly used by Dutch settlers in South Africa. However, in the 18th century, it changed and evolved from elements of Dutch settlers and native Africans to today’s language.
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