Are Afrikaans and Dutch languages ​​understandable for both sides

About the Afrikaans language

Afrikaans is one of the eleven official languages ​​spoken in South Africa. It is also spoken in Botswana and Namibia, where it is a recognized minority language. The roots of this language lie within the West Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages, as Afrikaans is a further development of New Dutch, as it was used in Holland in the 17th century. Accordingly, it is also known as Cape Dutch or Colonial Dutch.

Do you want to learn Afrikaans? Then order your Afrikaans express course now or get your free demo version!*

The origin of the Afrikaans language

Afrikaans is the traditional Boer language in South Africa. Since these took a separate development from the former motherland, the Netherlands, this also took place in the linguistic framework. This makes Afrikaans a so-called extension language. This technical term describes languages ​​in which, on the one hand, there is a close proximity to neighboring languages ​​from which they have developed, but which, on the other hand, have developed independently as a subspecies in terms of establishing themselves as the language of high literature, administration, non-fiction and science. Afrikaans made a corresponding career above all in terms of an administrative language. It goes back to Dutch colonists. They founded Cape Town as early as 1652 as a branch of the Dutch East India Company and a stopover on the sea route to India and other parts of East Asia.

In the following decades, more and more Dutch settled as so-called Trekburen (train builders) in the closer and wider area of ​​Cape Town. Through the contact with the Nama tribe, who ran cattle in these areas, there was a first change in the Dutch spoken by the Boers in the form of a reduction in flexion. In order to make it easier for the locals to understand themselves, grammatical forms of Dutch were gradually simplified.

Since the Cape Colony came under British administration from 1806, there was constant linguistic competition between English and Afrikaans within the colony. Since English was a high-level language, it enjoyed a much higher reputation. This development also meant that more and more terms borrowed from English found their way into Afrikaans. At that time, Afrikaans was still considered a mere Dutch dialect. This only changed when the publishing of dictionaries and grammar textbooks in Afrikaans began in the mid-1970s. On May 5, 1925, Dutch was finally abolished as the state language in South Africa and Afrikaans was instead manifested as the official language alongside English.

Afrikaans today

Afrikaans is spoken by a total of almost seven million native speakers. This corresponds to a quota compared to the total population of around 13.5 percent. In addition, there are almost seven million second speakers and between 12 and 16 million additional people who have knowledge of different levels of Afrikaans. The speakers are mainly found in the white and colored parts of the population. Among these, the proportion of native speakers among whites is 61% and among colored people in the region of 76%. From a geographical point of view, the provinces of South Africa in which the language predominantly occurs are mainly in the western parts of the country on the Western Cape and the North Cape.

In addition, Afrikaans is increasingly spoken in the former South African provinces of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State as well as in the Eastern Cape Province. The proportion is particularly high within and around the cities of Cape Town and Pretoria. The language has its third geographical focus in Namibia. With 200,000 native speakers, Afrikaans is around 11 percent of the total population. In the case of Namibia, however, the importance of the language as a so-called lingua franca or lingua franca between the different parts of the population is more decisive.

Differences to Dutch

A fundamental difference between Afrikaans and Dutch is that in the South African sub-form, the spelling is much more oriented towards the pronunciation of the individual words. In Dutch, for example, a distinction is made between g and ch, while in South Africa both forms have been merged and only the g is still in use. While in Dutch the night is called “night”, in Afrikaans it is translated as “nag”. In South Africa, too, consonants are usually not followed by a t. While the Dutch mean light for “light” or “light”, South Africa speaks of “lag”.

On the other hand, purely graphical distinctions have been retained in the cases y and ei as well as in the letters v and f. In Afrikaans, the inflection of verbs is also greatly simplified, which does not have different endings for different cases. The conjugation of the verb “work” is as follows: ek werk - I work, jy werk - you work, hy werk he works, ons werk - we work, julle werk - you work, hulle werk - they work. In addition, there is only one linguistic form of the past in Afrikaans with the perfect, which also contributes to a clear simplification of the language. While in Dutch the phrase “I worked” can be translated in the past tense with “ik werkte”, in Afrikaans there is only the translation “ek het gewerk”.

Further differences to the Dutch language result mainly from the high number of loanwords from other languages, which have found their way into Afrikaans mainly from the English language.


Do you want to learn Afrikaans? Then order your Afrikaans express course now or get your free demo version!*


Additional links on learning Afrikaans:

Afrikaans lesson for beginners