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How Hard is it to Learn Afrikaans?

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This is not an easy question to answer! How hard it is to learn Afrikaans depends on a few things, really.

Afrikaans is the world’s youngest official language. Known as “Cape Dutch” or “Colonial Dutch” back in the day, Afrikaans was only considered a “real language” in the previous century. Over the years, it has been influenced by many other languages, including Arabic, French, and Russian. So it can appear pretty daunting to learn!

However, AfrikaansPod101 is an easy way to learn Afrikaans because we simplify the learning steps for you. We introduce many simple but effective ways to learn Afrikaans while having fun at the same time! And our blog posts are informative and culturally relevant, such as this one on Afrikaans Etiquette in South Africa, and this one on Learning Dates in Afrikaans.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Afrikaans Table of Contents
  1. Is Afrikaans Hard to Learn?
  2. Reasons Why Afrikaans is Easy to Learn
  3. Reasons Why Afrikaans Can Be Difficult to Learn
  4. How to Learn Afrikaans with AfrikaansPod101 – Fast and Easy Ways at Your Fingertips!

1. Is Afrikaans Hard to Learn?

Hard for whom? 

If your own language has Germanic roots, then no, it’s not that difficult at all. In fact, you may find it much easier to master than other languages, in most respects. 

Afrikaans is the fourth most-spoken Germanic language in the world, preceded by English, German, and Dutch. It’s the majority language of Namibia and South Africa, estimated to be spoken by over 20 million people. This number includes second-language speakers.

Given Afrikaans’ roots, if you can speak Dutch, you’ll find that learning Afrikaans is quite a lot easier, too. The languages are very closely related, even though they differ in grammatical structure. Dutch is the older and, in some respects, more intricate of the two.

Dutch Cultural Symbols Shoes and Tulips

Let’s look at what makes Afrikaans hard to learn for so many people, and a few ways it might be easier than English.

2. Reasons Why Afrikaans is Easy to Learn

Compared to English and most other languages, Afrikaans is simpler in many ways. 

Here are some examples of things that make Afrikaans so easy to learn.

2.1 Inflections /Infleksies

Generally speaking, Afrikaans has fewer inflections than most European languages. According to Writing Explained, inflections are the changes made to verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc., depending on what is being expressed (number, gender, case, voice, and so on).

Young Smiling Male Student Learning Language in Front of Laptop with Earphones

These changes can be anything from a simple letter to a more complex affix. An affix is a morpheme (one or more letters) that you can add to a word to change that word’s meaning to some extent. Such as the genitive ‘s to indicate possession (“America’s finest”), the plural “s” to indicate numbers (“husbands”), the comparative “-er” to indicate degree (“faster”), and so forth.

The best-known difference compared to English is probably the fact that Afrikaans verbs don’t conjugate for subject. This is really super-uncomplicated and very easy to learn and understand!

Conjugations are a subset of inflections that occur only in verbs. Afrikaans is very simple that way because, irrespective of the noun, the verb remains the same. It only conjugates for tense, mood, aspect, and voice. 

Following are two examples of Afrikaans verb conjugation. You’ll see that the verb remains the same, irrespective of noun number and gender.

2.1.1 Verb Conjugations – Simple Present Tense / Werkwoord Verbuigings – Teenwoordige Tyd

AFRIKAANSENGLISH
Ek isI am
Jy isYou are (singular)
Hy/sy isHe/she is
Julle isYou are (plural)
Hulle isThey are
Ons isWe are
Dit isIt is

2.1.2 Verb Conjugations – Simple Past Tense / Werkwoord Verbuigings – Verlede Tyd

AFRIKAANSENGLISH
Ek wasI was
Jy wasYou were (singular)
Hy/sy wasHe/she was
Julle wasYou were (plural)
Hulle wasThey were
Ons wasWe were
Dit wasIt was

Afrikaans only has a simple past tense, a phenomenon not found in other Germanic languages. For instance, in English, we have “I was ill” and “I had been ill.” In Afrikaans, the past remains simple: Ek was siek.

2.2 Gender Classification / Geslag Klassifikasie

Just like English, Afrikaans nouns are not gendered. Therefore, there’s no noun classification or corresponding verb conjugation like in, for instance, French and Italian.

2.3 Definite & Indefinite Articles / Bepaalde & Onbepaalde Lidwoorde

Afrikaans is as easy as English regarding the use of different articles. (In fact, it’s a bit easier, because there’s only one indefinite article in Afrikaans.)

AFRIKAANSENGLISH
Bepaalde lidwoorde: die/hierdie/daardieDefinite articles: the/this/that
Onbepaalde lidwoord: ‘nIndefinite articles: an/a
Note: The indefinite article ‘n ALWAYS gets written like this, even at the start of a sentence. In this case, the second word in the sentence (the noun it refers to) starts with a capital letter. 

Like this: ‘n Hond sit voor die deur.





A dog sits in front of the door.
Cute Puppy Sitting in Front of Blue Wooden Wall or Door

2.4 Questions Starting with a Verb / Vrae Wat Met ‘n Werkwoord Begin

Question words are pretty common in most languages, and Afrikaans is no different. However, sometimes questions that are about an action start with a verb instead of a traditional question word. English is more complex in this way compared to Afrikaans, as two or more verbs are needed: “Do/does” + Verb. 

In most instances, this is not the case in Afrikaans. Depending on what it is we want to say, only one verb is necessary in simple questions.

Afrikaans: Waai die wind?
English: “Does the wind blow?”

or

Afrikaans: Werk die plan goed?
English: “Does the plan work well?”

or

Afrikaans: Is die man siek?
English: “Is the man ill?”

or

Afrikaans: Was die maaltyd smaaklik?
English: “Was the meal tasty?”

Happy People at Dining Table, Making a Toast

2.5 Spelling / Spelling

Over the years, Afrikaans spelling has been adapted from Dutch and simplified. For instance: the Dutch mij (“me”) became my in Afrikaans. The pronunciation of zon (“sun”) became son in Afrikaans. English-speakers find many Afrikaans words intuitive and easy to learn.

Afrikaans does pose some challenges, however. So, why is Afrikaans so hard to learn despite the simpler aspects we covered above?

3. Reasons Why Afrikaans Can Be Difficult to Learn

First, let’s clarify this—no language is objectively easy to learn. Asking: “How hard is it to learn Afrikaans?” is the same as asking: “How hard is it to learn the piano?” Learning the piano may be comparatively easier than learning the oboe, for instance, but it still requires a lot of work and effort. If you want to become good at it, it’s going to take effort and commitment. 

At AfrikaansPod101, we know this, which is why we keep our lessons short and accessible—not to mention fun and tailored to your personal needs.

Let’s look at the ways in which Afrikaans is slightly more complex than other Germanic languages.

Asian Girl in Classroom Looking Unhappy

3.1 Afrikaans Negation / Afrikaanse Ontkennende Vorm

This is probably one of the better-known syntactic properties that poses challenges when learning Afrikaans: the so-called “double negative.”

Afrikaners need to make very sure that you get it when they say “No!” A simple word won’t do, nope; we have to repeat ourselves. The basic principle is this: Add a second ‘negation word’ in the final position. This means that a second nie (“no”) is added after the verb, noun, or clause.

Here are a few examples:

Afrikaans Ontkennende Vorm – Double NegativeEnglish
Ek drink nie alkohol NIE.“I don’t drink alcohol.”
Sy kan nie Afrikaans praat NIE.“She can’t speak Afrikaans.”
Hulle is nie so arm NIE.“They are not that poor.”
Wie het nie opgedaag NIE?“Who didn’t arrive?”
Moenie dit doen NIE!“Don’t do it!”

This rule doesn’t apply in simple statement sentences.

For instance:

Afrikaans Ontkennende Vorm – Simple NegativeEnglish
Ek drink nie.“I don’t drink.”
Sy praat nooit.“She never talks.”
Die kat hardloop nie.“The cat doesn’t run.”

Another way in which Afrikaans is slightly more intricate is the way nouns inflect for numbers.

3.2 Numbers / Syfers

In Afrikaans sentences, the noun inflects for numbers with a few suffixes, such as: “-s” / “-e” / “-te.”

AFRIKAANSENGLISH
Singular: meisieSingular: “girl”
Plural: meisiesPlural: “girls”
Singular: hondSingular: dog
Plural: hondePlural: dogs
Singular: koffiebekerSingular: “coffee mug”
Plural: koffiebekersPlural: “coffee mugs”
Singular: landSingular: “country”
Plural: landePlural: “countries”

3.3 Afrikaans Trilled “R” / Trillende Afrikaanse “R”

Learning to speak Afrikaans correctly comes a bit difficult for English-speakers. It’s easy to spot a non-native speaker by this one trait only: they battle with their Rs! 

Unlike the guttural R of the Dutch and the French, and the rolling R of the English, the Russian and Afrikaans trilling R is formed in the front of the mouth. This is done by pressing the tongue firmly against the little ridge behind the upper front teeth, like when you form a “t.” Then, air is pressed over the tip of the tongue so that the tongue trills. Not easy to master, but neither is it impossible!

What makes things even more complex is that phonology, or the way the Rs are pronounced, differs by region. Learn a bit more about that in this pronunciation article

But don’t despair. Like learning how to drive, cook properly, or fix a car, learning to speak Afrikaans just takes commitment and a bit of effort. And we have your back all the way!

Woman in Car with Driving Instructor

4. How to Learn Afrikaans with AfrikaansPod101 – Fast and Easy Ways at Your Fingertips!

We hope you enjoyed our article about the difficulties of learning the Afrikaans language! Do you feel more confident about learning now, or are there still some things you feel unsure about? Feel free to ask us in the comments!

Also, let us make it easier for you with our innovative approach to language-learning. You can expect the following when you enroll:

  • Many free online tools upon subscription to make your life easier while learning to speak Afrikaans. For instance, this free Afrikaans dictionary
  • Thousands of lessons tailored to meet you at your level of language proficiency, while giving you enough content to help yourself straight away, such as this free list of Afrikaans Key Phrases
  • Several learning options that suit your pocket and your language needs. For instance, fast track your fluency with access to your own online teacher.

Make your Afrikaans learning experience much easier today by enrolling with us at AfrikaansPod101!

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