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Afrikaans Pronunciation

Proper pronunciation in the Afrikaans language is important for a number of reasons. You want to be able to sound like a native speaker, and you want others to be able to understand your words. Just as grammar is important, proper Afrikaans pronunciation is vital to knowing the language. It also helps you when you are listening to speakers of the language, so you can understand what it is that they are saying and so you can process it more quickly. Because native speakers speak very quickly, understanding pronunciation and being able to hear it will improve your grasp of what is happening with speakers around you.

Standard Afrikaans alphabet consists of twenty-six letters: six vowels and twenty consonants, which add up to 26 letters, just like in English. However, the combinations made and pronunciation can be different. Some sounds that exist in Afrikaans words simply don’t exist in English words. Furthermore, one of the main differences when compared to English is the diacritical marks on letters, such as ê. Sometimes the sounds of words in Afrikaans are close to German, sometimes to French and, often, very close to English.

In the mid- to late-19th century, more and more books written in Afrikaans started appearing. Many people consider the first authoritative text about Afrikaans and written in Afrikaans to be L.H. Meurant’s Zamenspraak tusschen Klaas Waarzegger en Jan Twyfelaar published in 1861.
Gradually the written language became standardized, and is now regulated by a government organization known as Taal Komissie. Many sounds from Dutch that were obsolete in Afrikaans were replaced, such as ch which became g, and ‘sch’ which became sk.

Afrikaans pronunciation, like English, can be irregular. The pronunciation is quite a challenge to master, but once learned, Afrikaans is one of the most melodic of the Germanic languages. The good thing is that Afrikaans is usually spelled the same way as it is pronounced, unlike English, French or its parent language Dutch.