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Your Ultimate Afrikaans Pronunciation Guide

Knowing a language, but not how it’s spoken, is almost useless. The importance of correct pronunciation in any language is, therefore, a no-brainer—mispronouncing, or not knowing how a word is said, can cause grave misunderstandings and misinterpretations!

AfrikaansPod101 understands this and offers much guidance and many tools to ensure perfect Afrikaans pronunciation. For instance, we provide you with this free Introduction to the Afrikaans Writing System. When learning about pronunciation in Afrikaans language, it’s important to master this system, as Afrikaans is a phonetic language. This means that words are said the way that they’re written, with very few exceptions. In other words, there’s a strong correlation between the written language and how it’s spoken.

On a lighter note, to demonstrate the urgency of proper pronunciation, here’s the oft-quoted German Coastguard joke:

Just off the German coast, an English boat crew contacted the German Coastguard with a mayday.

  • English Captain: “Mayday, mayday, this is the UK Dreamboat and we are sinking! I repeat, we are sinking!”
  • Exasperated German Coastguard trainee, not very good at English: “But wot you sinking about?”

Download Your FREE Guide to the Afrikaans Alphabet!

If you want to master the Afrikaans language and become fluent, you must learn the Afrikaans alphabet letters first. And you need physical worksheets to practice on.

This eBook is a MUST-HAVE for all Afrikaans learning beginners!

FREE Afrikaans eBook

Download your FREE Afrikaans practice sheets PDF today and learn the Afrikaans language in no time!
This is a must-have guide for absolute beginners

1. Afrikaans Pronunciation & Writing System


1- Writing System

Before moving on to our Afrikaans pronunciation dictionary, here’s some information on the writing system. The Afrikaans writing system is based on the Dutch system, which is a West Germanic language and is spoken mostly in the Netherlands, Europe. Most, but not all, Germanic languages use the Latin alphabet (also called the Roman alphabet), which comprises twenty-six letters. 

According to Wikipedia, the Latin alphabet was originally adapted from the Etruscan alphabet during the seventh century BC. Since then, it has changed quite extensively and has been adapted for writing in many other languages.

2- Afrikaans Pronunciation

In Afrikaans, correct pronunciation involves speaking the way the words are written, as mentioned earlier. This is a trait of only some languages, such as Spanish, Dutch (from which Afrikaans is derived), and Arabic. This makes learning the language easy, because once you’ve memorized the alphabet and have a basic grasp of Afrikaans phonology, you should be able to read Afrikaans out loud like a native!

3- Afrikaans Phonology

Phonology refers to the study of a language’s sound system, and is vital to consider when it comes to pronunciation in Afrikaans language learning. Keep “phonology” in your pronunciation in Afrikaans vocabulary arsenal! 

Afrikaans has an extensive vowel inventory, which comprises ten monophthongs and seven diphthongs. The long vowels of Afrikaans are /e, ø, o, a /, and the true diphthongs are /əi, œy, œu/. The vowels are furthermore classified mostly according to the movements of the lips and tongue.

Afrikaans consonants are a more complex bunch. According to Taalport, consonant pronunciation is generally described in terms of the following:

  1. a) Place of articulation (or the position and movement of the tongue and lips when sounds are formed)
  1. b) Manner of articulation (or the type of airflow during articulation)
  1. c) Voicing value (or the nature of vocal cord activity during articulation) 

It can get complicated, but once you understand the basics, practice will make perfect! Phonology can also vary according to region, which gives rise to different accents in any language. Afrikaans is spoken with four accents in the country. These do differ a lot, but not as much as, for instance, Scottish English from American English. More about this later.

2. Why is Correct Pronunciation in Afrikaans Important?

Correct Pronunciation

Proper pronunciation is important, very important. Some say it’s even more important than getting the grammar perfectly correct! Why would this be?

1) Good Understanding 

If communicating with native speakers matters to you when learning Afrikaans, you need to be understood when you talk, and you need to be able to understand the native speakers. After all, without understanding, the purpose of language is null and void! In order to be understood, you need to be able to speak the language in a way that is familiar to native speakers, or at least recognizable by them. 

When learning to speak a new language, you will learn that the more you progress the more intricate it becomes! For instance, almost every language has vocabulary that may look the same in writing, but because the words are pronounced differently, they have very different meanings. This means that you may say a word in Afrikaans, and because of a slight change in pronunciation, the meaning of the word changes completely. Understandably, this can make for pretty embarrassing situations! At worst, your mispronounced Afrikaans will sound garbled to a native speaker. 

Knowing the nuances of how a word or letter is pronounced will also help you to understand spoken Afrikaans better.

No worries if this feels hard; you’re learning, and with our help at AfrikaansPod101, you will not have a problem with mispronunciation if you follow our advice and examples carefully.

2) Good Communication 

Not pronouncing Afrikaans or any other language correctly can lead to a lot of frustration because you’re unable to express what you mean, and you will not be understood correctly. Even if you have total knowledge of Afrikaans grammar, and can write it like a native, not knowing how to speak it properly will only make for very frustrating communication all around.

3) A Good Impression 

Even if you’re only a beginner, it is possible to speak any language correctly. This way, you are bound to make a good impression on native speakers, and when you’re more fluent, you will be likely to garner a lot more respect than a fumbling newbie speaker who doesn’t care much for correct pronunciation. 

People often have a lot of patience for someone who learns to speak a new language, but native speakers are more likely to address you and engage with you in conversation if you work hard on your accent. This is simply because you’ll be able to understand one another! So, proficiency in pronunciation can mean the difference between having none or plenty of Afrikaans speaking friends. It will also serve you well in the workplace, and make you popular with your Afrikaans speaking managers and employers or employees.

Learning to speak Afrikaans properly is also a sign of respect for not only the language, but also the native speakers and their customs. 

3. Top Mistakes to Avoid When You Learn Afrikaans Pronunciation

Improve your pronunciation!

Typical Afrikaans pronunciation mistakes are somewhat difficult to define, mainly because of three or four very distinct Afrikaans accents in the country. At least two of these are diverse dialects, of which neither is superior.

  • Standard Afrikaans is mostly considered “pure” Afrikaans, but this distinction is somewhat racially-based and, in fact, not entirely historically correct. You can usually detect this accent when Caucasian native Afrikaans speakers talk, and even Standard Afrikaans has slight variations. It’s found mostly inland.
  • Kaap Afrikaans is, in fact, the oldest Afrikaans dialect (with its own accent) in the country. The language was first spoken like this, and is still widely used among both Caucasians and people of color in the Western Cape province and Namibia. It lends much of its vocabulary to Standard Afrikaans, but has its own unique expressions and grammar. Some local South Africans consider this an inferior dialect, while others think it melodious and expressive. (This is mostly due to the country’s tumultuous and sad history of racial discrimination and oppression, which obviously affected language status as well.)
  • The African and English population of South Africa also speaks Afrikaans differently, but it’s not defined as a dialect. It’s more a form of broken Afrikaans with a strong accent. Further, it’s also many South Africans’ second or even third language. Unfortunately, African Afrikaans is also considered inferior by many locals.

Therefore, there’s a hurdle with identifying “mistakes” in Afrikaans pronunciation. What’s considered an Afrikaans pronunciation mistake in one dialect or accent, is another’s common way of speaking. Yet all variations are equally defendable and deserve their place. 

That said—internationally, Standard Afrikaans is recognized as the common language of usage, and is understood by most South Africans and Namibians. Identifying “mistakes” largely depends on the context in which you’re using Afrikaans. 

These are the two top mistakes foreigners, and even locals, make when speaking Standard Afrikaans, and the first has nothing to do with pronunciation:

1- Don’t Mix It!

If you want to impress locals with your good Afrikaans skills, especially in an academic or more formal environment where Standard Afrikaans is spoken, don’t mix your languages! Especially not with English. Due to South Africa’s eclectic demographic and colorful national identity, a lot of language contamination takes place; but in some circles, this is considered poor Afrikaans. 

For instance, don’t say:

  • Dis ‘n nice visit gewees!

“That was a nice visit!”

In this pronunciation in Afrikaans language example, “nice visit” is, obviously, an English phrase. The correct Afrikaans would be: Dis ‘n lekker kuier gewees! Or, more formal: Dit was ‘n aangename besoek gewees. 

The good news is that this is the most serious gaffe in Standard Afrikaans that would cause a frown among the language elite. The other common mistakes are pretty forgivable, because you’ll very likely be understood. Also, South Africans are down-to-earth; as a rule, they don’t look down their noses and frown upon mistakes of this kind.

2- Practice that “R”

Afrikaans shares this phonic trait with Scottish English and Spanish: The “r” is never silent, and is often referred to as a rolling “r.” It’s articulated by pressing the tip of the tongue hard against the palate, just behind the front teeth, and emitting an almost trilling sound. If you’re not used to it, such as most English-speaking natives, it can be pretty challenging to master. Try it now!

But how can you improve your Afrikaans to sound like a native?

4. Tips on How to Improve Afrikaans Pronunciation

Correct Pronunciation

Apart from enrolling with AfrikaansPod101 to master Afrikaans pronunciation (easily and in fun ways!), here are a few other ideas:

  1. a) Train your ear to accents and pronunciation by listening, over and over again, to Afrikaans music, the radio, and audio books or recordings. 
  2. b) Watch Afrikaans TV shows and movies, especially those with lots of close-up shots of the actors’ faces. Here you can watch how words are pronounced. Try to emulate the actors while watching—you’ll be surprised how much you pick up! Then, practice the same words while observing your own mouth in a mirror. Try checking out some of our recommended movies and recommended TV shows!
  3. c) Record yourself and compare the playback with the native Afrikaans pronunciation.
  4. d) Make friends with an Afrikaans native speaker, and ask them to assist you as you learn phrases in Afrikaans with pronunciation! Learning from another person will be helpful if they can demonstrate and explain how to use your tongue and mouth to pronounce Afrikaans words. This is true especially of the more difficult sounds and words that don’t have an English approximation.
  5. e) Don’t worry about making mistakes! Engage freely with native speakers (who will very likely appreciate and adore your efforts!) and practice, practice, practice…

Also, look at this cool list of Best Ways to Improve Pronunciation in Afrikaans and practice your Afrikaans immediately!

5. AfrikaansPod101 and Good Afrikaans Pronunciation

Correct Pronunciation

We hope you enjoyed learning about Afrikaans pronunciation with us! Which of our pronunciation tips do you think will help you the most? Is there anything you still struggle to pronounce? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to look at more of our pronunciation in Afrikaans lessons! 

As explained earlier, we’re well-geared to help you master this sonorous language. Using the latest in technology, such as our Afrikaans pronunciation app, you’ll have instant online access to thousands of recorded lessons. These are presented by friendly native speakers who let you hear exactly how the language is spoken. 

You may even choose to enroll in Premium PLUS, an option that offers you many superior benefits and numerous tools. The best of these, though, is that you get to have your own live teacher in this guided learning system! You’ll sound like a native in no time with their friendly help.

Enrollment opens a lifetime account, with numerous features (many of them free!), irrespective of the learning program you choose. These include the following tools to easily practice Afrikaans phrases and pronunciation:

1) The Afrikaans Core 100 Words List: Start by learning the most common and useful words in minutes.

2) An Afrikaans Key Phrases List: Quickly learn how to greet, introduce yourself, say no and yes—all of those important phrases and words!

3) An Online Afrikaans Dictionary: Absolutely essential when you quickly need to translate.

4) Thousands of culturally relevant lessons, recorded and downloadable.

5)Themed and targeted vocabulary lists that don’t overwhelm because they’re disjointed and not related!

6) A Word a Day: To keep your memory jogging and fresh.

Afrikaans is a pleasant, easy language to learn and use, and is closely related to Dutch. Once you’ve mastered Afrikaans, you’ll find Dutch very easy to master—two birds with one stone, almost! Don’t hesitate, and start to learn Afrikaans online for free with AfrikaansPod101. Consider our website a complete guide in Afrikaans language!

6. How to Download Your Free Guide to the Afrikaans Alphabet

Download Your FREE Guide to the Afrikaans Alphabet!

If you want to master the Afrikaans language and become fluent, you must learn the Afrikaans alphabet letters first. And you need physical worksheets to practice on.

This eBook is a MUST-HAVE for all Afrikaans learning beginners!

FREE Afrikaans eBook

Download your FREE Afrikaans practice sheets PDF today and learn the Afrikaans language in no time!
This is a must-have guide for absolute beginners

Log in with Your Free Lifetime Account and we’ll give you an instructional Afrikaans PDF that covers the letters of the alphabet, practice worksheets, and a quiz to test yourself with… — absolutely FREE!

3 Reasons to Learn Afrikaans Through PDF Lessons

Let’s now take a closer look at how studying Afrikaans lessons in PDF format can help you reach your dream in up to half the time of normal video or audio lessons!

① Saves Minutes on Your Data Plan

Learning Afrikaans through PDF lessons can dramatically reduce your data use. Once a lesson or tool is downloaded, you can then access it offline via your computer or smartphone any time or place regardless of Internet access. And once you’ve downloaded the Afrikaans lessons in PDF format, you can actually access them faster than logging in and trying to do so via a live site. So not only will learning Afrikaans using PDF lessons save minutes on your data plan—it will save you some significant time as well as the lessons add up!

② Print and Take All Afrikaans Lessons and PDF Tools With You Anywhere

Sometimes, a tiny smartphone screen just isn’t adequate, especially when you are trying to learn something new. The great thing about PDF lessons, tools or files is that they can be quickly printed and taken anywhere after you download them. In fact, printing out Afrikaans lessons in PDF format can actually save you time when compared to going through the material on a smartphone with a small screen—even with the extra printing time!

③ Great Study Tool to Boost Retention and Mastery

Studying video or audio lessons online is a great way to learn a language because students can play and rewind sections as many times as needed until the lesson is mastered. But when you review the same Afrikaans lessons again in PDF format, an incredible thing happens: your retention dramatically improves! Thanks to Time Spaced Repetition, seeing the information again in written format helps reinforce the information in your mind and improves both retention and recall. The benefits of learning Afrikaans using PDF lessons quickly add up to significant time savings for you, your data plan, and your dream of learning a new language!

Why are we giving it away?

Learning to read and write is a must for all beginners. Although you get video lessons on how to write in Afrikaans at AfrikaansPod101, you’ll still need physical worksheets to practice on. That’s why you’re getting this printable tutorial PDFs as a gift.

7. Related Lessons

How to Say Hello in Afrikaans
Do you know how to say hello in Afrikaans? It’s the most basic phrase that you’ll need to say and hear in everyday life. If you don’t know yet, learn 15 ways to say hello and greet others in Afrikaans. Why 15? The more variations you know, the more you can speak and the more fluent you become!
How to Introduce Yourself in Afrikaans
Can you introduce yourself in Afrikaans? Don’t worry! Check out the 10 Afrikaans Lines You Need To Introduce Yourself with this free Review Sheet. From “My name is…“ and “I live in…” down to “My hobbies are…” Just review the 10 lines. It will only take you 2 minutes. Then, introduce yourself in the comment section below!
Afrikaans Alphabet
Learn everything you need to know about the Afrikaans alphabet. At AfrikaansPod101, we introduce you to Afrikaans writing in simple, easy-to-follow steps, and you can ask for advice or help anywhere along the way. It is important to master the Afrikaans alphabet completely from the start.
How to Say Thank You in Afrikaans
Has anyone thanked you today? We will. Thank you for reading this article and learning with us! In fact, today, you’ll learn the many different ways to say “Thank You” in Afrikaans. It’s one of the most important Afrikaans phrases. Check it out and watch the video too to practice your pronunciation.

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