Language schools » List of Languages » Afrikaans


Afrikaans Language

Afrikaans is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in South Africa and Namibia with smaller numbers of speakers in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Due to the emigration of many White South Africans, there are an additional estimated 300,000 Afrikaans-speakers in the United Kingdom, with other substantial communities found in Perth, Australia; Toronto, Canada; and Auckland, New Zealand. It is the primary language used by two related ethnic groups: the Afrikaners (including Boers) and the Coloureds or kleurlinge/bruinmense (including Basters, Cape Malays and Griqua). These two groups are collectively known as Afrikaanses, roughly meaning "the language community of Afrikaans-speakers".

The name Afrikaans is simply the Dutch word for African, i.e. the African form of the Dutch language. The dialect became known as "Cape Dutch". Later, Afrikaans was sometimes also referred to as "African Dutch" or "Kitchen Dutch", although some now consider these terms pejorative. Afrikaans was considered a Dutch dialect until the late 19th century, when it began to be recognised as a distinct language, and it gained equal status with Dutch and English as an official language in South Africa in 1925. Dutch remained an official language until the new 1961 constitution finally stipulated the two official languages in South Africa to be Afrikaans and English (although, curiously, the 1961 constitution still had a sub-clause stipulating that the word "Afrikaans" was also meant to be referring to the Dutch language). The 1925 decision led Dutch to enter disuse and be replaced by Afrikaans for all purposes.

The Youngest Language in the World

The linguist Paul Roberge suggests that the earliest 'truly "Afrikaans"' texts are doggerel verse from 1795 and a dialogue transcribed by a Dutch traveller in 1825. Printed material among the Afrikaners at first used only proper European Dutch. By the mid-19th century, more and more was appearing in Afrikaans, which was very much still regarded as a set of spoken regional dialects.

In 1861, LH Meurant published his Zamenspraak tusschen Klaas Waarzegger en Jan Twyfelaar, which is considered by some to be the first authoritative Afrikaans text. Abu Bakr Effendi also compiled his Arabic Afrikaans Islamic instruction book between 1862 and 1869, although this was only published and printed in 1877. The first Afrikaans grammars and dictionaries were published in 1875 by the Genootskap vir Regte Afrikaners ("Society for Real Afrikaners") in Cape Town.

The Boer Wars further strengthened the position of the new Dutch-like language. The official languages of the Union of South Africa were English and Dutch until it was replaced with Afrikaans on 5 May 1925. This makes Afrikaans the youngest officially recognised language in the world.