Afrikaans, or South Africa’s Dutch?

Today, as our hopes are with Nelson Mandela who is spending his 95th birthday isolated in a Pretorian hospital room, I decided to show my respect towards him by presenting something “South Africa-related”. I have always been interested in the history of the Afrikaans language and the extent of its mutual intelligibility with the parent language, Dutch. For those of you who are even less familiar with the topic than I am, Afrikaans (or ‘Cape Dutch’) is actually a dialect of the well-known West Germanic language, which happens to be considered a separate standard language rather than a national variety for a number of historical reasons. So how has Afrikaans developed? And what makes it so unique?

In the late 17th century, South Africa was colonised by the Dutch who brought their language and other aspects of their culture to the area. During the 18th century, the Dutch language was significantly altered in South Africa due to factors such as the phonological capabilities of the inhabitants and the impact of the Khoisan and Bantu languages. To a lesser extent, the dialect also acquired some borrowings from Malay, Portuguese and South African English. The Dutch, however, considered it as being “beneath official Dutch standards” and referred to it as ‘Kaaps Hollands’ or mutilated, broken, uncivilised Dutch (according to Wikipedia). The worst insult was, however, the phrase ‘verkeerd Nederlands’ (‘incorrect Dutch’), which – in my opinion – did not sound very equitable from those who introduced the language in Africa. Up until the early 20th century the official language of South Africa was Standard Dutch, since the local variant was still thought to be a dialect. At this point, the term ‘Afrikaans’ came into use, soon replacing ‘European Dutch’ as the official language of the state. For a better summary of all this, please read ‘An Introduction to Afrikaans‘.

So let’s talk about the characteristics of this beautiful-sounding language. Firstly, it is worth noting that despite the influence of other languages spoken in South Africa, an estimated 90 to 95% of its vocabulary is of Dutch origin. However, it is not only the vocabulary of Afrikaans that must be taken into consideration: the language has its own morphology, spelling and even grammar. Secondly, Afrikaans is nearly as spoken as Standard Dutch, mainly due to the fact that the Dutch Cape Colony covered an incredibly large area and that the language spread across an even larger territory (including today’s Namibia and Botswana). Thirdly, Afrikaans is significantly regulated. Since the development of this daughter language did not occur simultaneously and in the same way in all parts of Southern Africa, Afrikaans was a collection of numerous separate dialects originating from Dutch. With the help of some linguists, the Cape Dutch dialects were standardised into one language, today’s Afrikaans.

I am sure that whoever has read the above introduction has at least one question regarding the similarity of Afrikaans and Dutch on their mind. It is even more certain that whoever has read it thinks I am the most boring person ever to have been born, but let’s concentrate on these two languages for now! So Wikipedia has an excellent article named ‘Comparison of Afrikaans and Dutch‘, which goes through quite a lot of differences in detail. Undoubtedly, some features of Afrikaans are quite funny. For instance, it uses regular patterns to simplify Dutch orthography, similarly to how I reformed French spelling by converting ‘y’ into ‘i’, ‘ou’ into ‘uu’ etc. at the age of 12. Although some of these modifications are a result of phonetic evolutions, in some cases it was just a matter of style. The Dutch ‘ij’ became ‘y’; the hard ‘c’ turned into ‘k’; the trigraphs ‘tie’ and ‘cie’ were both simplified to ‘sie’; ‘ou’, ‘ouw’, ‘au’ and ‘auw’ were all merged into ‘ou’ and voilà, it looks completely different! Since the phonology of Afrikaans also differs from that of European Dutch, modifying the orthography for this reason was necessary. This is why ‘ch’ and ‘g’, which are both pronounced /χ/ in Afrikaans, have been given the single grapheme ‘g’.

Another interesting observation is that the grammar of the Afrikaans language has undergone a lot of changes since its separation from Dutch. If I had to summarise the differences in two words, I would be likely to say “It’s simpler.” Afrikaans has no grammatical gender, so instead of having to decide on whether it should be ‘de’ or ‘het’ (or even ‘den’ in South Holland), the speaker can use ‘die’ whenever a definite article is needed. And one last thing: after having memorised the Dutch phrase “Ik spreek geen Nederlands” (“I don’t speak Dutch”) I was very surprised to learn that in order to say “I don’t speak Afrikaans” in the dialect, I would have to say “Ek praat nie Afrikaans nie”. Double negative? Using the same word before and after the… subject? Interesting!

There’s one more thing that really interests me, and regardless of whether it interests you too or not, I’ll write about it. Where does the remainder of Afrikaans vocabulary come from? First of all, it may be quite surprising that the word for ‘banana’ is ‘piesang’. It doesn’t sound similar to the Dutch ‘banaan’ at all, does it? As soon as the Cape Malay community formed in Cape Town, loanwords from Malay began to be used in not only Afrikaans, but other South African languages as well. But some of the more basic words are also strange for a Dutch-speaker: ‘insect’, for example, would be ‘gogga’, originating from the Khoisan word ‘xo-xo’. Other languages which have influenced Afrikaans (and South African English) to some extent include Portuguese and the Bantu languages, such as Zulu.

Enough about words, especially because this article seems to be too long already. But fortunately, we have just arrived at the most exciting part: mutual intelligibility. Alex Rawlings, a hyperpolyglot who speaks both languages concerned (and whom I have previously introduced in my article ‘Alex Rawlings, Europe’s human phrasebook‘) said the following in his 11-language video: “So I learned Afrikaans, as I wanted to see how Dutch had turned into another language. I find that process very interesting.” I find it interesting too, indeed. But that’s not the reason why this quote has a place in my article. I wonder how hard it was for Alex – or anyone who has gone through the process – to follow the route that connects Dutch with Afrikaans and become a confident speaker of the latter one after having built up some additional knowledge on top of what he had already learnt for Dutch.

All my respect goes to Wikipedia, as now I can be sure that there is a large degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages, which means that the speaker of one can understand text in the other one reasonably well. On the other hand, it does not matter which language is “one” and which is “the other one”: the intelligibility is mutual, but it tends to be asymmetrical. This is most visible in written form, as Dutch-speakers find it easier to understand written Afrikaans than the other way around. Surprising, isn’t it? We would expect it to be easier for an Afrikaans-speaker to understand Dutch because it is the parent language, from which the dialect has developed, whereas a Dutch-speaker is expected to struggle a little bit when they encounter words from Malay or Zulu in the framework of an Afrikaans text. The reality, however, is that since Afrikaans is far less complex than her mother and it applies clear patterns for the alteration of vocabulary items (e.g. ‘vogel’ becomes ‘voël’, ‘regen’ turns into ‘reën’), we may say that a Dutch-speaker is gifted with a simplified version of their language when having to understand Afrikaans. Wikipedia explains the fact that mutual intelligibility is asymmetric by stating that “Dutch-speakers are confronted with fewer non-cognates when listening to Afrikaans than the other way round.” Let me tell you something else: research proves that the intelligibility between Dutch and Afrikaans is better than between Dutch and Frisian, or between Swedish and Danish. So in other words, Dutch is closer to its daughter language which developed on another continent over 300 years ago than to a West Germanic language spoken in the Netherlands. They’ve grown up together, so how is this possible? Simply because Frisian is not close enough to Dutch. Afrikaans has developed from it, so they must be close, but a language belonging to another branch of the same family could be less intelligible with it, regardless of the geographical location in which they are spoken.

I know, I must finish this post by now, so I’ll try and keep it short. The very last issue I would like to talk about is whether the close relationship could have a negative impact on the speaker of both languages. By this I mean: is it easy to mix them up? Alex Rawlings, who has a habit of associating his languages with certain personalities, says “I rarely confuse Dutch and Afrikaans because, although the words are similar, their personalities are very different. I think Afrikaans is very poetic and expressive, while Dutch is more formal and reserved.” In my opinion, being aware of the phonological and orthographic differences is enough for a learner or speaker to keep their knowledge of the two languages separate and never get confused. Finally, I would like to show you a video in which a Dutch-speaking Flemish reporter interviews South African actress and fashion model Charlize Theron who, of course, understand him perfectly and gives her answers in Afrikaans. Who knows, in 10-20 years time I may be able to understand the conversation without subtitles!


31 thoughts on “Afrikaans, or South Africa’s Dutch?

  1. Always interesting ! I think it’s “verkeerd” rather than “veerkerd”. A point that linguists seldom mention is that some grammatical features of Afrikaans are IMO not the result of some pidginisation process but a legacy from South netherlandic (franconian) dialects since they exist in other Franconian dialects (ex: the ones spoken in the North of my region, Lorraine): among these are the partial suppression of the preterit by the composed past or the strange genitive construction with “se”.

    • Thank you very much for your comment! To be honest, I wrote a reasonably long paragraph as a response earlier this afternoon, but due to a server error I seem to have lost it. Anyway, sorry for the mistake. I don’t normally modify my posts after they have been published, but – considering that this is a foreign word – I corrected the spelling. It is indeed interesting that Afrikaans shares so many features with Franconian dialects, and that some of these features are not present in standard Dutch. While doing my research, I came across quite a few references to Flemish as a language closely related to Afrikaans. For instance, Wikipedia states that the double negative, which is of course present in the Afrikaans language, has vanished from standard Dutch, yet it still exists in Franconian dialects such as West Flemish. However, Afrikaans and West Flemish seem to use the feature differently. The former places the negative particles around the subject of the sentence, as in “Ek praat nie Engels nie”, whereas West Flemish particles surround the verb: “Ek ‘n praten geen Engels.” Although this was not part of my original answer, I have since replied to Alex Rawlings (the other comment) and invite you to read my paragraph so I don’t have to start writing about my confusion around the topic of how negative particles work in Afrikaans. But this was not the only mention of a Franconian dialect that I have found: the syllable-initial ‘sch’ of Dutch (/sx/ or /sç/) is written and pronounced as ‘sk’ (/sk/) in Afrikaans, and in Southern West Flemish too! I wonder how Cape Dutch can be closer to a Franconian dialect than its own parent language, European Dutch. Is it possible that the Dutch of the 18th century still had these features and was able to pass them on? This would explain how traces of these particular characteristics can still be found in dialects spoken in the Netherlands today. Thank you again, and I apologise for the strange sentences, but I didn’t manage to put as much effort into this as I did into the original one.

      • Thanks for your reply ! The so-called “Franconian” dialects extend from Central Germany up to the Netherlands, as Dutch is often counted among them. I know only a smattering of the three Franconian dialects spoken in the north of my region (Lorraine), as well as of Yiddish (which has its origins in the dialects spoken around Worms and Mainz), and that’s why I wanted to point out those facts. I don’t know the Flemish nor the South-Netherlandic dialects, but thy surely share common features with their southern neighbours. Let’s not forget that Dutch already existed as an official language in the XVI° century. IMO, that’s why it wasn’t “contamined” by innovations found in the dialects. The influence of (Huguenot) French on Afrikaans is often considered as low for most Huguenots gave up French after one generation, and the French words found in Afrikaans often already exist in Dutch. On the contrary, the influence of German (many Capetown settlers were German settlers, like the ancestors of President Krüger) might be greater (ex: “wurm”, while Dutch has “worm”) but is not always easy to detect.

  2. Good job, nice post! I’ve found that Dutch/Afrikaans speakers don’t understand each other as though they were speaking the same language, more that it’s very easy for one to learn to understand the other. In terms of the point you mention to do with reading text, perhaps Afrikaans looks very phonetically to a Dutch speaker (losing the silent ‘w’ and silent ‘n’, contracting the identical ‘ch’ and ‘g’ sound into just one ‘g’, etc).

    There are some interesting things that happen in Afrikaans however that don’t happen in Dutch. For example, the guttural ‘g’ in ‘berg’ becomes hard and like the English letter in the plural form ‘berge’, while in Dutch the plural ‘bergen’ is still guttural. I’d love to find out where that comes from!

    I’ve read that the double negative marker ‘nie’ ‘nie’ might be the influence of the Huguenot French immigrants, who came with ‘ne’ ‘pas’ and found a way to incorporate it into their new language.

    I guess another reason why I personally don’t find it a problem mixing up Dutch and Afrikaans is because (as you point out) the phonology is completely different. They’re pronounced in completely different parts of the mouth, and especially dialects like the Cape Coloureds’ sound a very long way away from the language being spoken on the streets of Utrecht!

    So are you going to learn Afrikaans now? 🙂 It’s great fun, and often more useful than you’d think in London!

    • Thank you! So there is a clear reason why some of the orthographic changes are referred to as ‘spelling simplifications’. In my opinion, these rules may have been set up at the time of the standardisation of Afrikaans, and may not have any natural origin. As opposed to this, the phonetically induced spelling differences are likely to have developed naturally. I agree with you on the possible origin of the two ‘nie’ particles that form the double negative. However, their use is still confusing to me. In one example that I’ve seen (“Ek praat nie Afrikaans nie”), they are placed around the subject of the sentence, while in another one, they surround the verb: “Hy sal nie kom nie, want hy is siek.” The sentence “Dis nie so moeilik om Afrikaans te leer nie” discourages me from spending more time with this mysterious feature, so I’ll move on.

      Interestingly, I have never thought of the French “ne … pas” as double negative, I simply accepted the fact that the negative is formed using two particles. Hungarian has an even more visible system of double negation, as you may have learnt already. Although we don’t place multiple particles around a verb, we do mark the negative more than once if pronouns are used. For example, Nem megyek sehová” means “I am not going nowhere” and Nincs ott senki” means “There isn’t nobody there.” They would sound quite strange in English… even though I live in East Anglia so I’m used to hearing multiple negation. So if you compare to the Hungarian examples, this quality of Afrikaans seems significantly less complex, doesn’t it? Anyway, thank you for your comment, my readers put much more trust in you than in me, so your opinion will be respected, I’m sure! 🙂 No, I have not thought of learning Afrikaans, despite the fact that I would love to be a speaker of this wonderful language. My time and capabilities are limited, so it may take a few decades for me to get to a point at which I can begin my Afrikaans “lessons”. Dankie dat jy weer!

  3. A great article! Makes me even more proud of my family;s language. It’s a shame Afrikaans is somewhat unknown to those who outside of the language community. But for those who do know, it is a fascinating language. One that has survived for years and will continue to strive!!

  4. Just a couple of thoughts: Seems to me that the double negative isn’t much of a surprise. In English, for example, many “substandard” dialects allow as many negatives as you want, each just reinforcing, rather than negating, the other. Her in Pennsylvania, US, I hear people say “I ain’t got none”, for example. My guess would be that the same may have been true in the Dutch of South Africa, and it simply became standardized – exactly what happened in French.

    Another thought: I was born outside Amsterdam andmy mother was from Zaandam, just north. In her dialect (and therefore mine) both g and ch are pronounced hard (as ch) and the same is true of s and z – just like Afrikaans! This is characteristic of the dialect of the northern half of North Holland. But, unless I am mistaken, southern Dutch doesn’t have this quality, which leads me to think that Afrikaans is basically based on the Dutch of the working classes of Amsterdam.

    • Dr. Boeree, grasias per tu comenta! I am amazed by how you linked Dutch dialects (and the origin of Afrikaans) to the social hierarchy in the Netherlands of the time. Also, I am glad that you have mentioned the pronunciation of ‘g’and ‘ch’ in Northern Dutch (Hollandic?) dialects, as my article seems to imply that Flemish is the closest relative of Dutch to still have this characteristic. Although you have a much better awareness of Dutch history, I agree with you that the dialect which was introduced to South Africans could be that of the Northern Dutch working class. Regarding multiple negation, the sentence “I ain’t got none” makes me think that the dialect of Pennsylvania shares some features with the Estuary English spoken in the East of England, where I live. I often hear double negation in sentences such as “I don’t see nobody” or “I ain’t wrote nothing” – where ain’t stands for haven’t, wrote is used instead of written and nothing is pronounced more like ’nuffin’. The dialect has a serious influence though: despite my strong Hungarian accent, I often find myself saying “I never did that today to emphasise the negative, but this has nothing to do with the issue of multiple negation. Please ignore my irrelevant comments, this is what I am like after a busy day!

  5. Just a precision : the French system is not really a double negation, but the result of a process during which the original negation has lost weight.

    Ex: “I see nothing”
    Lat : Nihil video
    Low Latin : Non video rem = “I don’t see thing”
    French : Je ne vois rien.
    Spoken colloquial French : J’vois rien.

    • Thank you very much for clarifying that! As I have stated in one of my previous replies, I prefer not to think of the French “ne … pas” or the Afrikaans “nie … nie” (and sometimes “geen … nie”) as double negation because in my view, the phenomenon is only present if a negative pronoun is used together with a negative particle. The Hungarian sentence “Nem megyek sehová” (which translates to “I do not go nowhere”) is clearly an example of double negation, as one of the negative particles is attached to a pronoun. In spoken colloquial French, would saying “Je ne vois rien” be a way of emphasising the negative? Thank you again!

      • <<<In spoken colloquial French, would saying “Je ne vois rien” be a way of emphasising the negative? Thank you again!

        No; we'd rather say "je ne vois rien du tout".

      • You’re right! It is not a double negation. Rather, it is a two-part negation in both French and Afrikaans. In Dutch we’d call it a “tweeledige ontkenning” instead of a “dubbele”.

  6. Thank you for this very interesting article! I’m always fascinated to learn how languages are related and how they evolve.

    • It would be pointless to maintain a blog without such a curious and grateful audience! Thank you for your comment, and I hope you’ll find my future posts equally interesting.

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  9. Your interest in these two languages is amazing! I am from South Africa and learnt Afrikaans in school (as a second language) and during that period I thought it was a totally dead and irrelevant language, however, after mindlessly looking at a pamphlet that was written in dutch, I was pleasantly surprised that I could understand 70-80% of it! This, without doubt, made me appreciate Afrikaans so much more, and as a result, I want to improve my Afrikaans and hopefully learn Dutch/Flemish. Thank you so much for this interesting article! I found it refreshing and far from being tedious.

    • Thank you very much Zey, I always appreciate such positive feedback! It is great to have readers like you who add something additional to my articles. Thank you for not contradicting me and saying that you cannot understand a single word of Dutch using your Afrikaans, that would have made all my research pointless! 🙂 So how is Afrikaans taught in South Africa? How do they “convince” you that paying attention in these lessons could benefit you in the future?

      • In South Africa we have to take an additional language and Afrikaans is an obvious choice (and in some cases the only choice). For some the motivation might be to obtain good marks. Others might have Afrikaans family. Also, the South African English and Afrikaans culture is quite mixed and you can easily find yourself in the middle of a lively group discussion taking place in Afrikaans–even though nearly all modern Afrikaners can speak English. Furthermore (although it is not so obvious and people will argue this point), it can sometimes help quite a lot in South African business (but not politics), where Afrikaners might like to mix their business with a bit of social. My father loves to pour a “knertsie” for him and anyone over on business.

        Regarding one of your earlier discussions: I always thought of the latter “nie” in a negative Afrikaans sentence as a useful (but arguably redundant) closure to a negative phrase. I see it as similar to a question mark for a written questions or “hey” in a colloquial spoken question. Here is some examples (I have put the closing “nie” in bold):

        E: “Afrikaans is not a difficult language to learn.”
        A: “Afrikaans is nie ‘n moeilike taal om te leer nie.”

        E: “He shall not come, because he is sick.”
        A: “Hy sal nie kom nie, want hy is siek.”
        Notice that the beginning phrase in this sentence is a negative statement and the follow up phrase is a regular statement.

        To express a double negative (in the logical sense of the term) in Afrikaans, you still have to end the phrase with a single closing “nie”:
        E: “So you don’t want to go to the party?! No, I do not nót want to go, I just rather want to sleep.”
        A: “So jy wil nie na die partytjie toe gaan nie?! Nee, ek wil nie nié gaan nie, ek wil net eerder slaap.”
        So it also doesn’t matter how many negatives we stack, the negative phrase still ends on a single closing “nie”.

        I hope my explanation casts some light on how we (as native Afrikaners) intuitively place our “nie”s.

  10. I think you can compare Afrikaans to Moldovan at a certain extent. They both were just political terms to use for dialects of the same language. But today, the main difference is that Afrikaans is widely considered a different language, while the name Moldovan fell intro disuse (after Moldova reverted to the name “Romanian language”).
    Honestly I think that its artificial separation from the Dutch language community will make Cape Dutch dissapear eventually (being replaced by English).

  11. I guess it’s a little late to post a reply but what-ever. I’m Afrikaans and I was wondering where my language comes from the moment I heard/read Dutch, German and even Swedish for the first time, since then I have been looking into the matter for quite sometime now and fell in-love with languages and the history of the languages and even the countries history. I really like this article you wrote just want to put that out there lol. I play online games and I’ve been told countless time by Dutch that I speak a “misvormde dialect” which means miss-formed dialect, though the Flemish and Germans have told me Afrikaans is nice. Personally I don’t mind Dutch or Flemish but for some reason Dutch sometimes sounds like French spoken fast to me. Also I did research on Dutch and I found that there was a lot of different Dutch dialects in the 1600-1750 around that time ’till they standardized Dutch… what I think is that a lot of words and dialects fell away or in other words got extinct. Which is also why we do not understand each other perfectly seeing that the Afrikaans people lost connection with the Dutch when the Dutch standardized their language. Meanwhile in SA we still had all those dialects together + the German and French people that converted to “Cape Dutch”. I also went to read Middle-Dutch, Old-Dutch or Old-Franconian I think they are both the same… Modern-Frisian, Old-Norse even and a lot more basically most of the Germanic Languages out there. I understood Middle-Dutch quite well I actually think I understood it better than modern Dutch though Old-Dutch was very difficult to understand Modern Frisian I understood quite well saw a lot of similarities in Afrikaans and with Old-Norse I understood every now and a then. In Old-Norse they say “Ek” for “I” in Afrikaans “Ek” also mean “I” and I think we say it the same depending on the Afrikaans dialect here’s the sentence I know it’s very different but still “Ek” = “Ek” Afrikaans: Ek is lief vir jou. Old-Norse: Ek elska þik. Ducth: Ik hou van je. German: Ich liebe dich. (I love you) looks to me that Afrikaans is a mixture of them all. Afrikaans also had a standardize in 1800+ that’s when the different spelling between Dutch and Afrikaans happened. There’s a lot more similarities that I came across in different Dutch dialects and other old/modern Germanic languages which is quite interesting. Sorry for the long comment xD

    • I am sorry to hear about your negative experiences with some of my fellow Dutchmen. Take it from me: There are many Dutch people who love the Afrikaans language, most notably Stef Bos who lives there part time. Still, there is also a lot of ignorance, since the connections between our peoples fell away. Don’t be discourages by a bunch of young gamer boys. What do they know!?

      On Facebook there is a closed group called “Praat met ons” where Dutch, Flemish, Afrikaans-speakers and others talk and share interesting topics in each other’s respective languages. Feel free to drop by!

  12. Hello…I am an American linguist but have had many Afrikaans speaking friends. I learned the language many years ago. I have found that a Dutch speaking person and I really have no problems at all in communicating. The very odd thing that happens though is that as we speak we begin to sort of “borrow” from each other, the Dutch person “Afrikaansising” his speech as I “Dutchify” mine. Funny, huh?

    • Hello, oh it must be awesome being a linguist. Languages really intrigues me that and the study of the human race (humanitarian) though I wouldn’t classify myself as any of it, it’s only a hobby. That’s quite interesting, the borrowing I guess that must be a sort of process/stage in a forming language especially the modern ones in Europe today. Yes, there is really, almost no struggle to understand each other Dutch & Afrikaans. I have spoken to a few Dutch here in Afrikaans and barely noticed a language barrier in fact I only heard by a friend that they were Dutch though I did hear that they spoke a little differently and obviously it’s the same way for them to me. I’ve never conversed intensely with a Dutch person to start borrowing each others words but I think it would be interesting.

      • It’s amazing how many Dutch, Flemish and South Africans are brought up unaware of each other’s language and culture. When I was in Paris 15 years ago there was this South African women and we regularly spoke Dutch and Afrikaans back and forth. I still had a hard time understanding her. Recently, my interest in Afrikaans has been awoken and I suddenly realize how similar our language(s) are! One just need to understand a few tricks like ‘oo’ is like ‘o-e’ and thus like ‘over’. Earlier I had to look at a word like ‘toorkrag’ a few times. Now I know I should just do ‘to-er-krag(t)’ ‘toverkracht’! It’s magic!

  13. Hi, I’m from South Africa and I also learned Afrikaans as a 2nd language at school.
    I’m living in Japan at the moment and I’ve noticed an odd parallel in the use of the word “né” and the particle “ね” in both Afrikaans and Japanese. They are both used at the end of a sentence when stating something to be agreed with a bit like “right?” in English. I noticed that you mentioned loan-words from Malay (“piesang” = “banana”). Do you think there might be any more distant loan vocabulary between Afrikaans and places further afield?
    Great post by the way.

  14. I’m a South African, and I would say that Afrikaans and Dutch are seperate languages.
    Like you said, Dutch simplified itself into Afrikaans. De and het became die. Is and ben became is. The list goes on.
    Because of these simplifications, an Afrikaans speaker can understand de and is, but not het or ben. In order for two dialects to be considered dialects, they must be mutually intelligible – which means that if a Dutch speaker can understand an Afrikaans speaker, and vice versa, Dutch and Afrikaans would be a part of the same language. While a Dutch speaker can understand an Afrikaans speaker very well (I assume), an Afrikaans speaker can’t understand a large portion of Dutch – therefore Dutch and Afrikaans are seperate languages, but in a very interesting way.
    I would compare myself (knowing Afrikaans) reading Dutch to myself (knowing English) reading Scots. With both I can understand the majority of words, even though they are spelt in a way that I am not familiar with – however some words, and phrases, are completely incomprehensible to me.
    A good example of true dialects are American English and South African English. Both are very comprehensible to each other (with the exception of words like trash can VS dust bin, and barbecue VS braai). As a speaker of South African English, I feel like American English is the “wrong” pronunciation, and I assume that the feeling is mutual.
    Just for the sake of interest, Scots is very similar to English, and is spoken in southern Scotland and parts of Nothern Ireland. It is largely comprehensible to English speakers, but provides several obstacles including unfamiliar spelling and now-unused words.
    For more info on Scots:
    Afrikaans is still a great language to know to make the learning of Dutch much simpler. After all, the only reason why Afrikaans speakers can’t fluently understand Dutch is because of changes in pronunciation, spelling and a few words.
    By the way, most Afrikaners say that they can understand the Flemish dialects of Flemish-Dutch better than the Dutch ones. Any ideas why?

  15. This post was interesting to me. I grew up in South Africa and had to learn Afrikaans as a second language at school, however outside of school I never spoke or used it. During a recent trip to the Netherlands, I was quite glad for it as I could still understand a lot of the Dutch that was being spoken, as long as I was familiar with the vocabulary, and the reading was incredibly easy (of course, knowing Swedish helps with this as some words in Swedish are similar to Dutch words but not the Afrikaans word).

    Anyway, I decided to start learning Dutch to a decent conversational level and thus came across this post. Cheers and carry on then!

  16. I’m a English speaking South Africa who speaks ‘passable’ Afrikaans as a second language. I’ve just watched a YouTube video of a speech in the Belgian parliament and found I could easily understand almost 80% of what was said immediately. I could understand much of the rest by slowing it down and the balance was clear through deduction.
    I’m sure that if my Afrikaans was better it would have been more.
    I don’t believe it would take very long for me to, at least, speak the Belgian Dutch/Flemish at a conversational level.

  17. After the “Tweede Taalbeweging” of 1876, standard Afrikaans grew fast. In 1910 my grandfather, who spoke fluent Dutch and English in addition to his native Afrikaans, gained a doctorate at the Free University of Amsterdam with a thesis written in Afrikaans, even though it had not yet even supplanted Dutch as an official language in South Africa! His motivation was to prove that Afrikaans had grown to the extent that it had reached the stage where it could handle highly intellectual subjects (in his case the agnosticism of the philosopher Herbert Spencer). Somehow he managed to persuade his professors to let him do this, and it worked. This development went on for many years, so that Afrikaans today is a complete technological and scientific language as well, and the process continues. In the seventies, for example, an Afrikaans engineer revised technical Afrikaans terms and found that there was no specific word for “fluid”, in the sense of hydraulic fluid. So he invented a new one, “fluide”, with an umlaut on the “i” and pronounced :”floo-eeduh”. BTW I suspect the double negative might come from the Malayu spoken by the early Muslims who came here. “Baie” (much) is certainly descended from “baiyang” and “chutney” is “blatjang”, derived from the Malayu “blachang”. And so on. There is more to our little language than meets the eye! Another Malayu import, I think, is the Afrikaans habit of using repetition-words for emphasis or to indicate urgency, such as “nou-nou” (now-now) or “gou-gou” (quickly-quickly), which is certainly Malayu in origin.
    Willem Steenkamp

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