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How Long Will it Take to Learn Afrikaans? A Practical Guide!

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Hoe lank neem dit om Afrikaans te leer? (How long does it take to learn Afrikaans?) 

Well, it’s not possible to tell this with 100% accuracy, because the speed of one’s learning progress depends on a few variables.

Any answer to this question should probably start with the sober truth, though, which is that learning any new language (at least to a level of reasonable proficiency) normally takes many hours of study and practice. That’s simply the nature of language studies.

Of course, one can speed up the process with good learning tools and study habits. But mastering it overnight or in only a couple of weeks from scratch? That only happens in the movies.

Female Athlete on a Race Track Winning the Race

But don’t be discouraged! It is possible to be a winner at learning Afrikaans—in less time than you probably think, and also with a lot of enjoyment along the way. The secrets to learning while having fun include…well, you’ll have to read on for those.

You should also keep reading to find an approximate answer to our earlier question. Maybe you need an indication of how long it would take to learn Afrikaans for personal reasons. Or perhaps your employer, an employment agency, or a learning or government institution needs to know. No problem! This post is definitely for you, too. 

I’ll start with pointers regarding Afrikaans proficiency level tests, as your existing Afrikaans skills will determine how long you’ll need to keep learning to reach your goal. If you don’t know any Afrikaans, you can probably skip to the next part, where I will share other important influencing factors worth noting.
To conclude, I’ll briefly discuss a number of skill-level descriptors for the three basic proficiency levels, as well as appropriate learning tips for each level.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Afrikaans Table of Contents
  1. Proficiency Exams and Tests
  2. Which Factors Will Influence Your Afrikaans Learning?
  3. Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced & How to Learn Afrikaans Fast!
  4. Conclusion

1. Proficiency Exams and Tests

If you’re in the dark regarding your current Afrikaans skill level, no problem! You can easily enlighten yourself by taking an Afrikaans proficiency-benchmark test. Some of these are pricey, but they tend to be comprehensive and give detailed reports. Others are free self-assessments that should give you a basic indication of your ability.

Alternatively, you can complete the ILR’s downloadable and easy self-assessments for speaking, reading, and listening. This option is also free of charge.

Students Taking a Test in the Classroom

Or, you might want to consider enrolling in the Premium PLUS program from AfrikaansPod101, which starts with an online Level Assessment Test. The test results not only indicate your level of Afrikaans-language abilities—they’re also used to personalize your training. You’ll furthermore be assessed continuously along the way! 

Good, now that you’ve determined your Afrikaans proficiency level, let’s discuss other factors likely to determine how long it will take to learn Afrikaans. 

2. Which Factors Will Influence Your Afrikaans Learning?

So, how long will it take to learn Afrikaans? As said, this is really difficult to qualify, simply because it depends on a number of variables. Following are the most prominent ones to consider:

2.1 Your Needs

Why do you want to learn Afrikaans? For pleasure, work, or because you need to argue politics with your Afrikaans friends or colleagues

Depending on your existing proficiency, Beginner Level Afrikaans should be okay if you require some Afrikaans knowledge for your travels through South Africa and/or Namibia. If you’re in business and simply want to understand the discussions of your Afrikaans business partners after meetings, Intermediate Afrikaans should do. 

Obviously, these two levels will take less time to master than, for instance, Advanced Level Afrikaans, which is where your proficiency would need to be adequate for high-level conversations.

Being clear about why you’re learning the language will affect your commitment to your studies, as well as the time you’re willing to spend on them.

Young Tourist Couple with Hats and Sunglasses on, Studying a Map

2.2 Aptitude, Attitude, and Age

These three factors are indicators of what the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL) calls your “existential competence for learning a new language. This, in turn, will affect the length of your studies.

Determine your competency by considering the following:

  1. Aptitude: Are you fluent in more than one language? Were you raised bilingually? Did you show an aptitude for languages from an early age? What is your existing level of education? Do you know how to use a bilingual dictionary? Are you internet-, computer-, and smartphone-literate? Answering these questions will give you an indication of the ease with which you’ll be able to handle new information. 
  1. Attitude: How motivated are you to study? How bold are you in your approach to learning? The student who learns effectively is willing to take risks and initiative in their learning process. For instance, they’re willing to approach a stranger to chat in Afrikaans and are okay with making mistakes when conversing with a native speaker.
  1. Age: If you haven’t studied for years, it may influence how long it takes you to learn Afrikaans. However, if this is really a concern—do not worry! It’s possible to stretch and exercise rusty cerebral muscles at any age. (In fact, it’s advisable! Research has suggested that learning a new language could be one of the best ways to rejuvenate gray matter.)

2.3 Your Native Language

If you’re a native English and/or Dutch speaker, you’re in luck. These are historically West-Germanic languages, so they have the same linguistic roots. (This is truer of Old English; Modern English is much more creole.) This matters because Afrikaans is mostly derived from Dutch.

Research has demonstrated that English and Dutch natives should be able to acquire Afrikaans much faster than native speakers of Mandarin or Hebrew, for instance. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has been the center of foreign-language training for the U.S. government for approximately a century now. Drawing on their studies and training experience, the Institute calculated the time it would take for a native English speaker to master any language to the standard of a European highschool student of foreign languages. (This is a level close to AfrikaansPod101’s Level 3 or 4.)
The Institute organized their data regarding European languages into four categories of difficulty. Those listed in Category I, including Dutch, will take approximately 24 to 30 weeks to master, according to the FSI. Since Dutch is the root language of Afrikaans, the time it would take to master is therefore comparable.

Female Tutor or Teacher Writing Words on a Board with White Chalk

2.4 Study Method

Your study method will also influence the length of time it could take you to master Afrikaans. Different methods include:

  1. Self-study and practice.
  2. Attending regular classes or taking classes with a private language tutor (virtual or otherwise).
  3. A trusted, established online learning platform (such as this one) with plenty of study material and tools to help you progress from one level to the next.

Each method has limitations that could create stumbling blocks for effective learning. I would suggest that you take control of your learning process by combining methods 1 through 3, if you want to learn Afrikaans fast and effectively.

Let’s take a look at how this can be done.

3. Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced & How to Learn Afrikaans Fast!

These three basic language levels are normally subdivided for better discernment of your abilities. These subcategories might include Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate, Upper-Intermediate, and Advanced.

In the following sections, you’ll find elementary pointers for speaking proficiency based on ACTFL guidelines.

3.1 Beginner Afrikaans

Teacher Teaching Two Toddlers in a Classroom

Reaching the higher end of the Beginner Afrikaans level will probably take between 80 to 100 hours of class time and practice.

Basic Level Descriptors: At this level, you have zero to elementary Afrikaans ability. You know or can do the following (or less).
Speaking: Your vocabulary is limited to immediate survival needs; you can respond to simple questions and can ask memorized ones, but are understood only with difficulty by native speakers. You cannot partake in conversations. At the high-novice level, you are, for instance, able to introduce yourself like this: Ek is Maria Ricci. Ek is Italiaans. (“I am Maria Ricci. I am Italian.”)
Reading and Writing: You can read and write lists and notes with single words and short sentences, and can fill out simple forms.
Listening: You can understand simple key words and phrases in context, as well as memorized, well-known commands and questions such as: Wat is jou naam? (“What is your name?”)

Tips to Boost Beginner Learning

Nobody is born able to speak a language. As we grow and develop, we learn it through observation, repetition, and play. This is a brilliant formula to copy as you learn to speak Afrikaans!  

  • For instance, listen to native Afrikaans speakers as they talk and observe their lips and mouth as they pronounce words. You can do this either in person or by watching a recording such as this YouTube video. Through visual and aural observation, you’ll learn how certain sounds are formed.

To cover repetition, you could use a language app (like this one) on any mobile device. Listen to and repeat vocabulary and short phrases out loud when you’re driving alone, for instance, or listen to recordings like a podcast over and over again on the bus or subway. (A podcast is called a potgooi in Afrikaans, and it literally means “to throw a pot”!) You could also make your own flashcards with key vocabulary and important phrases, to be kept with you and practiced out loud as often as possible. Do it in front of the mirror for best results!

  • Also, download language gaming apps for kids and play away—on the subway or bus, during tea breaks, over weekends—any moment you have free time and need to relax a bit!

However, it would be best not to do this on your own. As I suggested earlier, enrolling with an established online language learning platform is likely to speed up your learning considerably. For instance, take a look at this bite-sized lesson for Absolute Beginners (only three minutes long!) to learn the basic vocab and phrases you need for self-introduction. What elevates our platform from the common offering on the Net is that it gives you much more than merely a recorded dialogue.

In addition to hearing how Afrikaans natives introduce themselves and being able to read the dialogue vocabulary in a downloadable PDF, you also get access to lesson notes on how to use what you learned in a cultural context, as well as complete, downloadable lesson transcripts. As if that’s not enough, you also get access to flashcards and a slideshow with each lesson, plus the option to test yourself with a quiz.

Impressive, eh?! What I also really like is that the enrollment costs don’t break the bank and the platform offers several upgrade options (also at reasonable prices).

3.2 Intermediate Afrikaans

As mentioned, to reach a high-intermediate level of Afrikaans could take you between 24-30 weeks.

Basic Level Descriptors: At this level, you have some Afrikaans proficiency. You know and can do the following (or slightly less).
> Speaking: You can easily converse about routine tasks and familiar topics in social situations with people of similar Afrikaans abilities. You can describe and narrate in all major tenses, but not all the time. You’re understood by native Afrikaans speakers unaccustomed to non-native speech, although your mistakes will be evident. You would, for instance, probably get the Afrikaans double-negative wrong: Ek is nie honger. ❌ / Ek is nie honger nie. ✅ (“I am not hungry.”)
> Reading and Writing: You can meet practical needs, such as reading and writing simple and short messages, letters, and notes. You can ask and respond to simple questions in writing on topics limited to personal or social needs.
> Listening: You can understand medium-length sentences on familiar, everyday topics. You understand one utterance at a time in one-to-one conversations, as well as simple announcements and messages. You rely heavily on paraphrasing, restatements, and contextual clues. You are, for instance, able to understand announcements like this: Ons sal vertrek om agtuur moreoggend. (“We will leave at eight o’ clock tomorrow morning.”)

Tips to Boost Intermediate Learning

Don’t ditch the observe, repeat, and play activities of the Beginner Level! Simply increase their difficulty by a notch or two.

Also, by now your Afrikaans reading proficiency should be better. Still in the spirit of playfulness—why not read Afrikaans children’s stories? Start with very easy ones, such as those made available by the South African national government’s Department of Basic Education. They’re completely free and available in downloadable PDF form.

Also explore the links on this site for more free storybooks. Read them out loud to your tutor or to a native Afrikaans friend who can check your pronunciation. 

Verna Vels wrote timeless and wonderful Afrikaans children’s books, as does Philip De Vos, so be sure to look for their work. However, we have excellent translations of books by the beloved Dr. Seuss and Richard Scurry as well. Challenge your limitations by listening to Afrikaans children’s stories and repeating them in Afrikaans to a (preferably native) Afrikaans speaker.

By now, a good language school or online learning platform will have introduced you to some grammar too. A great example of what you can expect in this regard is the AfrikaansPod101 lesson Mind Your Manners in South Africa. You’re presented with a culturally relevant dialogue introducing the topic, to which relevant vocabulary, cultural insights, and a lesson about the basic Afrikaans sentence structure are added. All of this is available as an audio or PDF download, too. Really a great deal!

A young woman reading a book on the bus

Studeer Afrikaans enige plek, enige tyd. / “Study Afrikaans any place, any time.”

3.3 Advanced Afrikaans

To reach this level in Afrikaans will probably take you between 50-60 weeks, depending on your study methods.

Basic Level Descriptors: At the advanced level, you have good Afrikaans proficiency. You know and can do the following (or slightly less).
> Speaking: You can easily participate in conversations on diverse topics. You use descriptions and narration in all the major tenses, and can handle situations of unexpected complexity with ease. You have a good generic vocabulary and are easily understood by native speakers.
> Reading and Writing: You can write routine informal (and some formal) correspondence, plus factual narratives, descriptions, and summaries. You use all the major tenses in narration and description, and can paraphrase for clarity. You demonstrate good control of generic vocabulary and are understood even by natives not used to non-native writing.
> Listening: You can understand the main ideas in conversations of personal nature or about a variety of general-interest topics (e.g. the news, instructions, anecdotes, etc.). You compensate for any limitations by using real-world knowledge and contextual clues.

Tips to Boost Advanced Learning

At this level, you should be able to communicate with relative ease in Afrikaans, which will expand your scope of learning opportunities. Now it would benefit you to expose yourself as much and as often as possible to situations where Afrikaans is used by natives.

If possible, watch Afrikaans TV and movies on Showmax, an online video-streaming service similar to Netflix. (Also refer to our articles Showmax South Africa and Afrikaans Movies & Shows and Popular South African TV Shows to Help You Learn Afrikaans! for lists of must-watch shows.) Some movies and shows have English subtitles. 

A young girl watching a movie on her iPad

Kyk Afrikaanse rolprente met én sonder onderskrifte. / “Watch Afrikaans movies with and without subscripts.”

As you approach the advanced level, you should cement your understanding of compound sentences and expand your vocabulary. AfrikaansPod101 has plenty of lessons that can help you do this (like this one on the Top 10 Activities in South Africa). These lessons follow the same format: a dialogue with relevant vocabulary, lesson notes with cultural insights, plus a downloadable transcript.

Don’t stop reading, though! A host of brilliant Afrikaans writers is just waiting to be discovered. 

  • Dip your toe into the waters of excellent Afrikaans fiction, such as the crime novels from the keyboard of Deon Meyer—erstwhile journalist-turned-bestselling-author. His books were translated into many languages and a couple even made it to the big screen. 
  • Remember the Oscar-winning film Tsotsi from 2006? Read an Afrikaans translation of the book the movie was based on, by one of our greatest authors and playwrights, Athol Fugard
  • I don’t love reading romance novels; they’re a bit sentimental for my taste. Yet, the likes of Ena Murray, a prolific romance writer, used to be very popular. She’s no Charlotte Brontë—think more Daphne du Maurier—but her work is easy to understand. Eleanor Baker and Maretha Maarten’s novels are also from a bygone era but still popular. For more modern female fiction, consider books by Chanette Paul, as well as award-winners Sophia Kapp and Marita van der Vyver
  • Nataniël is one of the most prolific South African artists. He’s a popular singer-songwriter, comedian, fine artist, kitchenware designer, chef, published author, and TV personality! This hugely talented performer’s short stories and poetry are favorites too, also very entertaining. Previously-mentioned Philip de Vos is another Afrikaans author who delivers absolutely delightful comedic limericks and poetry for adults.
  • Lovers of serious poetry, take a moment to enjoy the work of Petra Müller (Winderige Lente / “Windy Spring” is a personal favorite); Ingrid Jonker; Antjie Krog; and newcomer Koleka Putuma.

For non-fiction, consider reading Afrikaans online newspapers and magazines. Or get busy on Afrikaans biographies of our luminaries, such as ‘n Lang Pad na Vryheid (“A Long Road to Freedom”), an autobiography by Nelson Mandela. Alternatively, choose any topic of interest and search online for an Afrikaans book on it. (Our botany is beautiful and diverse, and of particular interest in this regard. For instance, the fine bush, or fynbos, is native only to this country.)

For interesting non-fiction podcasts, consider Jacques Bassons’s Klipkouers (Lit. “stone chewers”), or Willim Welsyn’s Wat (“What”), and Bouer Bosch’s Narratief (“Narrative”).

3.4 Master it Faster: How to Learn Afrikaans Fast!

Wondering how to learn Afrikaans faster? No matter your current level, applying one or all of the following principles is guaranteed to turn your studies into a fun activity every day. Enjoyment should also speed up your Afrikaans learning.

Keep it Playful! 

A popular quote about the importance of play for learning has been doing the rounds for ages. It’s attributed to child-development expert Dr. Karyn Purvis, who allegedly said:

 “Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain—unless it is done with play, in which case, it takes between 10 and 20 repetitions!”

Dancers from the Kenyan Maasai Mara tribe in traditional gear playing with children.

In alle kulture was spel was nog altyd een van die beste leerwyses. / “In all cultures, play has always been one of the best ways to learn.”

As much as I want this to be true, I cannot find any scientific substantiation for this claim. Apparently, Purvis did say this, but she took the source for the quote with her to the grave, according to her colleagues. 

Yet, in many indigenous cultures, it’s implicitly understood that children learn best during play, which is why they are seldom barred from adult activities. This is the experience of any parent too, worldwide! It’s furthermore a quality we never lose, because adults tend to enjoy playful activities much more than classroom-style education or training. This enjoyment helps us to focus better and it amps up our motivation to study. 

As said, online gaming is a great way to play and learn. Consider, for instance, this vocabulary builder with its simple audio and reading games, suitable for Beginner and Intermediate learners. 

It would be even better to create your own fun, though!

Keep it Creative! 

In order to play, you’ll need to flex your creativity muscles. This can be easily accomplished these days! For instance, record yourself reading, singing, or acting in Afrikaans and perhaps start your own YouTube channel—just for fun! This could also be an interesting way to record your progress. 

Alternatively, create an Afrikaans card game with vocab flashcards or design a board game, for instance. 

Creative writing in Afrikaans is another option. Keep it super simple at first by making drawings of Afrikaans vocabulary that makes up a story — think comic strip.

You could also paint, draw, or digitally decorate that Afrikaans poem or inspirational quote you want to memorize. Hang your artwork in a prominent location.

Or, go old school by creating simple Afrikaans greeting cards for friends or family. Think of cutting letters from magazines or newspapers to form the words, for instance. The possibilities are endless—the only secret is to keep it fun and engaging.

Study with a Buddy!

Shared experiences are always more enjoyable and motivating, so try to study with a friend. Or, search the Net for an online conversation buddy. Read Afrikaans to one another, create silly Afrikaans recordings together—have fun!

A young man and woman taking a class together

Studeer Afrikaans saam met vriende vir beter resultate! / “Study Afrikaans with a buddy for better results!”

Bravo to the Binge!

Binge-watching Afrikaans TV series, movies, and shows, and regularly listening to good-quality Afrikaans music are excellent ways to train your ear to the natural sound of the language. These activities will be especially good for Intermediate students who want to amp up their learning. It’s also fun! Create a playlist of your favorite Afrikaans music (there are loads of songs on YouTube, iTunes, and Spotify) and listen on repeat.

Refer to our article The Best Videos to Learn Afrikaans on YouTube for some viewing and listening ideas. Some movies and songs have English subscripts, so even Beginners can enjoy this activity. Great for a relaxing weekend with your study buddy.

Memorize, Moviestar!

I studied French at school and our clever teacher had us memorize the lyrics of Gilbert Becaud’s soulful Et Maintenant (“And now…”). I can still sing along lustily—en français! From a French Christian Bible, I memorized the beautiful Psalm 23, Le Seigneur est mon berger (“The Lord is my shepherd”), another favorite to recite. Even if you don’t completely understand the grammar yet, memorizing quality text will help you to internalize how the language is used. 

Start by memorizing your favorite Afrikaans lyrics to belt out karaoke-style. Consider especially the work of artists Refentse, Tasché Burger, Chris Chameleon, and Coenie de Villiers—their Afrikaans pronunciation is impeccable and the music beautiful. 

Or, memorize a poem you can recite with feeling, such as Louis Leopold’s Op my ou ramkietjie (“On my old ramkietjie). This one would be easy for Intermediate learners to memorize, as it was turned into a song (which you can listen to here). Video record yourself and put your heart into it! 

Guy listening to music with headphones on, singing along and enjoying himself

Memoriseer die lirieke en sing jou gunsteling Afrikaanse liedjie gereeld! / “Memorize the lyrics and often sing your favorite Afrikaans song!”

Think in Afrikaans!

Since we’re always chatting with an Invisible Other in our heads, the conversation can just as well be in Afrikaans. For a real vocabulary booster to expand your inner talk, look around you wherever you find yourself and name objects in your surroundings in Afrikaans. Repeat these words to yourself silently in your head till you can use them easily and naturally in sentences. (An online bilingual dictionary will come in handy here.)

Immersion is Ideal!

Of course, if you really want to speed up your Afrikaans proficiency, nothing beats full immersion. This means that you could, for instance, take a working or volunteer holiday to South Africa or Namibia, and insist that your hosts and/or employers address you only in Afrikaans. The cities are pretty Anglicized, so investigate opportunities in towns and rural areas. 

Or, especially if you’re living in a large city in your own country, seek out an Afrikaans expat community and make new friends! 

4. Conclusion

So? What do you think? How long will it take to learn Afrikaans, if you had to venture a guess? Let us know in the comments.

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 too—two birds with one stone, almost! Don’t hesitate, and start learning Afrikaans online for free with AfrikaansPod101.com.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Afrikaans

About the author: Christa Davel is an experienced bilingual (Afrikaans and English) freelance writer and editor, and is currently based in Cape Town, South Africa.

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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The Most Common Afrikaans Language Learning Mistakes

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We tend to experience mistakes as either Tyrants or Teachers. Sometimes, we make regrettable mistakes that we berate ourselves over; other mistakes slide off us like rainwater.

In Afrikaans, we have a popular idiom: Probeer maak die beste geweer. (Lit. “Trying makes the best gun.”) This roughly means that you won’t know if you can hit a target unless you shoot!

Woman with Gun

The secret is simply to not give up, no matter how often you repeat a mistake in Afrikaans! We understand this very well at AfrikaansPod101.com.

Dig into this guide to avoid making any of these common Afrikaans language mistakes!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Afrikaans Table of Contents
  1. Vocabulary and Grammatical Mistakes
  2. Pronunciation Mistakes
  3. Spelling Mistakes – Compounds and Emphasis
  4. Other Common Afrikaans Spelling Mistakes
  5. Why Afrikaans Mistakes are Nothing to Worry About
  6. The Many Ways AfrikaansPod101 Can Help You Correct Afrikaans Mistakes

1. Vocabulary and Grammatical Mistakes

There are a number of mistakes in Afrikaans concerning vocabulary and grammar that you should keep an eye out for.

1.1 Don’t be English!

One of the biggest Afrikaans mistakes is to use English syntax or English idiomatic language

Don’t beat yourself up about this, though! The truth is, very few native speakers are educated (or stuck-up!) enough to not engage in some serious language mixing themselves.

English is, after all, one of our national languages, and South Africa is very English in culture. So, this cross-pollination is to be expected.

Three Women Chatting

However, if you want to be taken seriously by the academic intelligencia, then try your best to avoid this. You will undoubtedly hear your Afrikaans friends say:

  • Dit was baie nice gewees! 
    “That was very nice!”

Or, translating “I was like so pissed off with him” to Ek was soos in so kwaad met hom gewees. The errors include using a very modern English interjection (“like so”), and the preposition met, instead of vir. The correct Afrikaans translation would be: Ek was so kwaad vir hom gewees.

By all means, you can talk like this too, if your audience is young and casual. Our young people, especially, talk like this. 

But if your goal is to impress your Afrikaans academic friends or colleagues, then ditch Anglicizing the language.

The following are very popular English terms to pepper your Afrikaans with. Depending on the situation, slang is quite acceptable in our society.

English NounsCorrect Afrikaans
“boot” (not the shoe)kattebak
“cubbyhole”paneelkissie
“show”vertoning, opvoering
“song”liedjie, lied
“jam” (confectionary)konfyt
“lift”hysbak
“movie”film, rolprent
“poet”digter
“chips” (crisps)aartappelskyfies
“fabulous,” “amazing,” “awesome” (pronouns)fantasties, wonderlik, asemrowend

1.2 The pesky plurals

Afrikaans is a bit more difficult than English when it comes to indicating plurals. In English, you just add an “s,” most of the time. Think “one car” but “two cars.” Or “one tree” but “two trees.”

This rule works for some words in Afrikaans. For example: een meisie vs. twee meisies (“one girl” vs. “two girls”) or een seun vs. twee seuns (“one son” vs. “two sons”).

There are very few exceptions to this rule in English. But Afrikaans is a whole different kettle of fish. For the plural, we often modify the noun, and there are plenty of exceptions to the rule of simply adding an “s.” Confusion about this can lead to many mistakes in Afrikaans!

Many Trees in a Forest

For instance, saying booms instead of bome (“trees”) won’t work in Afrikaans. And saying vliegtuigs or vliegtuige instead of vliegtuie (“airplanes”) will earn a few smiles from your Afrikaans friends.

It’s best to dig in and master Afrikaans grammar! 

2. Pronunciation Mistakes

For starters, see this lesson about Afrikaans pronunciation. This will give you a good idea of a broader range of pronunciation issues.

You’ll soon see that Afrikaans pronunciation can be a bit tricky. We have a few uncommon sounds that have no approximates in, for instance, English.

The most common pronunciation mistake Afrikaans learners make is definitely with the pesky “r.”

2.1 The Afrikaans R—Don’t roll with it

Like in some other languages, Afrikaans has trilled Rs. This trilling sound is called the “dental and alveolar tap or flap” or an “alveolar consonant.”

Closed Mouth with Scribbles

It’s made like this: 

  • Lightly press the tip of your tongue against the front edge of your hard palate, where the alveoli are situated. (The alveoli are the sockets of your superior, or front, teeth.) 
  • Your tongue tip should be close to your two front teeth, but not touching them
  • Now, say “t” (like in “train”), but push air through the opening between your tongue tip and your front palate.
  • Your tongue will slightly contract and change position and shape—not a problem. If you’re doing it correctly, your tongue tip will trill.

This is quite a difficult skill to master at first, and we understand that. Trilled Rs definitely don’t have the same sound as the gentler-sounding rolled R common in English pronunciation. 

You won’t sound like a native if you roll your Rs in Afrikaans, but we won’t berate you!

Learn more about pronouncing consonants in Afrikaans with our recorded lessons by native speakers, like this one: The Pronunciation of Consonants in Afrikaans.

2.2 Those difficult diphthongs

The Google dictionary defines a diphthong as a sound formed by the combination of two vowels in a single syllable. When pronouncing a diphthong, the sound begins as one vowel and moves toward the other (as in “coin” and “loud”).

Afrikaans has a few diphthongs of its own that non-native speakers find challenging to pronounce:

IPA Phonetic SymbolAfrikaans DiphthongEnglish Translation
ɪøseun“son”
ɪəmeet“measure”
œimuis“mouse”
ʊəstoot“push”
ɔigoiing“burlap”
œːbrûe“bridges”

To master these, you’ll probably need to learn from a native! Consider signing up for your own Afrikaans tutor with AfrikaansPod101 for nearly constant guidance.

2.3 The guttural G

This is another sound in Afrikaans that learners find difficult!

The “g” is pronounced in the back of the throat for most Afrikaans “g”-words. This sound is called a “fricative,” meaning that it’s produced by passing air through the partly constricted opening of your throat.

The only English approximation is “loch,” as in the Lochness monster. However, don’t pronounce it as “log,” or worse, “lock!” 

Make the sound you would if you had a fishbone stuck in your throat. Or if you were emulating an angry, hissing cat—there, you got the Afrikaans G!

Angry Hissing Cat

2.4 Emphasis is everything

Where you put the emphasis in a word can change its meaning in Afrikaans. This is especially true of compounds.

The part of the compound with the emphasized syllable holds an important focus for the meaning of the word.

For instance, a native will say mieliepap (“grits,” or literally “cornmeal porridge”), with the emphasis on the first syllable. Mielies are corn, which is used to make cornmeal. 

So, by emphasizing this syllable, the exact meaning is conferred—i.e., it’s not porridge made with oats, sorghum, rice, etc.

Sample: Ek eet mieliepap.
Translation: “I eat grits.”

  • If you pronounce the word with the emphasis on the second syllable, you’ll probably not be understood. Mieliepap just sounds funny.

  • Emphasis on the third syllable will sound like you split the words. This will change their meaning. (Splitting the words changes “cornmeal” to “corn” in meaning. And “porridge” changes to “a pulp” in meaning. Not a combination of mielie and pap you’re ever likely to use! Think: Hy slaan die mielie pap. / “He beats the corn to a pulp.”)
Grits

3. Spelling Mistakes – Compounds and Emphasis

Let’s start with a spelling mistake in Afrikaans that trips up native speakers, too: when to join words and when to separate them.

3.1 To join or not to join? — Compound words in Afrikaans

This is an important Afrikaans mistake to avoid, because splitting words that belong together can completely change the meaning of what you’re writing.

Afrikaans language tutors often preach that the rule of thumb is to compound. They’ll tell you that your spelling will, more likely than not, be correct. 

And they’re right! 

Take, for instance: vinger + nael (“fingernail”). This is correctly spelled vingernael. 

Also, tafel + poot (“table leg”), which gets written as one word: tafelpoot.

Female Hand with Fingernail

Exceptions

There are exceptions to the rule, of course. For instance: skool + visse (“shoal of fish”). Joining these two words would completely change the meaning of the word. (Skoolvisse is not incorrect, but it would be a neologism—a newly created word—that’s rarely used. It would refer to fish belonging to a human school.)

Another exception is mediese fonds (“medical aid”). In Afrikaans, like in English, it’s incorrect to join these two words, and it should never be written that way.

Tip: For the more advanced Afrikaans students—a linguist once gave me a tip about compound words in Afrikaans. He pointed out that these, or other words that get written together, are always pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable.

3.2 Sometimes it’s good to split…

Splitting words sometimes changes the meaning legitimately.

Take, for instance, the word opsoek.

This means “looking up someone or something,” like from a directory or at a specific address. Pronounce it with the emphasis on the first syllable.

Sample: Ek gaan my niggie opsoek. (Stress the first syllable when pronouncing.)
Translation: “I’m going to look up my cousin.”

However, splitting the words will turn them into a known term: op soek. This means “to look for someone or something.” (Here, again, pronunciation is important. The emphasis will fall on the second word, which changes the meaning somewhat.)

Sample: Ek is op soek na my niggie.
Translation: “I am looking for my cousin.”

Woman Waving Hi

As you can see, opsoek and op soek are closely related, and the difference in meaning is nuanced. Let me explain by adding context in an example situation.

You, chatting with your partner at the breakfast table: 

  • Ek gaan my niggie Riana opsoek vandag. 
    “I’m going to look up my cousin Riana today.”

Also you, addressing the guy who opened the door at your cousin’s last known address: 

  • Ek is op soek na my niggie Riana. 
    “I’m looking for my cousin Riana.”

4. Other Common Afrikaans Spelling Mistakes

The following mistakes are even common among native Afrikaans-speakers! Avoid embarrassment and impress your Afrikaner boss or friend with your superior spelling skills!

This list is not exhaustive, and you’ll see that some are loan words from other languages.

Mistake in AfrikaansCorrect Afrikaans SpellingTranslation
agressieaggressie“aggression”
asperineasperien“aspirin”
AustralieAustralië“Australia”
brocollibroccoli“broccoli”
burgermeesterburgemeester“mayor”
cappucino / capucinocappuccino“cappuccino”
deurgansdeurgaans“throughout”
defnitiefdefinitief“definitely”
dieëtdieet“diet”
Epos / epose-pos“email”
geintereseerd / geinterresseerdgeïnteresseerd“interested”
graffitti / grafiti / grafittigraffiti“graffiti”
herhinderherinner“remind”
huistoe / winkeltoe / skooltoehuis toe / winkel toe /  skool toe“going home / to the shop / to school”
ingeneur ingenieur“engineer”
interresantinteressant“interesting”
JapanneesJapanees“Japanese”
knië, kniee knieë“knees”
kominukasie / komunikasiekommunikasie“communication”
komittee, kommitee, kommitteekomitee“committee”
leêr lêer“file”
nogalsnogal“kind of”
NamibiaNamibië“Namibia”
ommelet / omelletomelet“omelette”
onmiddelikonmiddellik“immediately”
satelietsatelliet“satelite”
sedertiensedertdien“since”
waardeur / wardeerwaardeer“appreciate”
yogurtjogurt“yogurt”

5. Why Afrikaans Mistakes are Nothing to Worry About

Apparently, children and Nobel Prize winners have a specific trait in common: they don’t allow mistakes to throw them off course.

Girl Learning Chemistry

And it makes sense! Think of how you learned to speak your native tongue. It took many adorable mistakes (and even more tries) before you started sounding human. 

But you didn’t give up just because your speech wasn’t perfect after the third try! You kept at it and now you can speak fluently.

Expect to make many Afrikaans language-learning mistakes. Learn to love them for the teachers they are—over time, they will disappear. Almost like they’re friends for a season.

However, there’s nothing wrong with being prepared! So, while this list of common mistakes in Afrikaans is not exhaustive, we hope that it will help you master the language. That’s our main aim at AfrikaansPod101!

In fact—ask us in the comments if you’re wondering if something is a mistake in Afrikaans! We’d be happy to help you this way.

6. The Many Ways AfrikaansPod101 Can Help You Correct Afrikaans Mistakes

With AfrikaansPod101.com, you’ll be learning with the best team!

Sign up for a free online course now, and create a lifetime account. You’ll have access to the following and more:

What’s not to love?!

If you’re serious about your learning, make use of our three different learning plans.
We’ve got you covered!

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Afrikaans Keyboard: How to Install and Type in Afrikaans

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You asked, so we provided—easy-to-follow instructions on how to set up your electronic devices to write in Afrikaans! We’ll also give you a few excellent tips on how to use this keyboard, as well as some online and app alternatives if you prefer not to set up a Afrikaans keyboard.

Log in to Download Your Free Afrikaans Alphabet Worksheet Table of Contents
  1. Why it’s Important to Learn to Type in Afrikaans
  2. Setting up Your Computer and Mobile Devices for Afrikaans
  3. How to Activate an Onscreen Keyboard on Your Computer
  4. How to Change the Language Settings to Afrikaans on Your Computer
  5. Activating the Afrikaans Keyboard on Your Mobile Phone and Tablet
  6. How to Practice Typing Afrikaans

1. Why it’s Important to Learn to Type in Afrikaans

A keyboard

Learning a new language is made so much easier when you’re able to read and write/type it. This way, you will:

  • Get the most out of any dictionary and Afrikaans language apps on your devices
  • Expand your ability to find Afrikaans websites and use the various search engines
  • Be able to communicate much better online with your Afrikaans teachers and friends, and look super cool in the process! 

2. Setting up Your Computer and Mobile Devices for Afrikaans

A phone charging on a dock

It takes only a few steps to set up any of your devices to read and type in Afrikaans. It’s super-easy on your mobile phone and tablet, and a simple process on your computer.

On your computer, you’ll first activate the onscreen keyboard to work with. You’ll only be using your mouse or touchpad/pointer for this keyboard. Then, you’ll need to change the language setting to Afrikaans, so all text will appear in Afrikaans. You could also opt to use online keyboards instead. Read on for the links!

On your mobile devices, it’s even easier—you only have to change the keyboard. We also provide a few alternatives in the form of online keyboards and downloadable apps.

3. How to Activate an Onscreen Keyboard on Your Computer

1- Mac

1. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard.

2. Check the option “Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in Menu Bar.”

3. You’ll see a new icon on the right side of the main bar; click on it and select “Show Keyboard Viewer.”

A screenshot of the keyboard viewer screen

2- Windows

1. Go to Start > Settings > Easy Access > Keyboard.

2. Turn on the option for “Onscreen Keyboard.”

3- Online Keyboards

If you don’t want to activate your computer’s onscreen keyboard, you also have the option to use online keyboards. Here’s a good option:

4- Add-ons of Extensions for Browsers

Instead of an online keyboard, you could also choose to download a Google extension to your browser for a language input tool. The Google Input Tools extension allows users to use input tools in Chrome web pages, for example.

4. How to Change the Language Settings to Afrikaans on Your Computer

Man looking at his computer

Now that you’re all set to work with an onscreen keyboard on your computer, it’s time to download the Afrikaans language pack for your operating system of choice:

  • Windows 8 (and higher)
  • Windows 7
  • Mac (OS X and higher)

1- Windows 8 (and higher)

  1. Go to “Settings” > “Change PC Settings” > “Time & Language” > “Region & Language.”
  2. Click on “Add a Language” and select “Afrikaans.” This will add it to your list of languages. It will appear as Afrikaans with the note “language pack available.”
  3. Click on “Afrikaans” > “Options” > “Download.” It’ll take a few minutes to download and install the language pack.
  4. As a keyboard layout, you will only need the one marked as “Afrikaans.” You can ignore other keyboard layouts.

2- Windows 7

  1. Go to “Start” > “Control Panel” > “Clock, Language, and Region.”
  2. On the “Region and Language” option, click on “Change Keyboards or Other Input Methods.”
  3. On the “Keyboards and Languages” tab, click on “Change Keyboards” > “Add” > “Afrikaans.”
  4. Expand the option of “Afrikaans” and then expand the option “Keyboard.” Select the keyboard layout marked as “Afrikaans.” You can ignore other keyboard layouts. Click “OK” and then “Apply.”

3- Mac (OS X and higher)

If you can’t see the language listed, please make sure to select the right option from System Preferences > Language and Region.

  1. From the Apple Menu (top left corner of the screen) go to “System Preferences” > “Keyboard.”
  2. Click the “Input Sources” tab and a list of available keyboards and input methods will appear.
  3. Click on the plus button, select “Afrikaans,” and add the “Afrikaans” keyboard.
Adding a system language

5. Activating the Afrikaans Keyboard on Your Mobile Phone and Tablet

Texting and searching in Afrikaans will greatly help you master the language! Adding a Afrikaans keyboard on your mobile phone and/or tablet is super-easy. Just make sure to type “ë” and “ê” correctly!

You could also opt to download an app instead of adding a keyboard. Read on for our suggestions.

Below are the instructions for both iOS and Android mobile phones and tablets.

1- iOS

  1. Go to “Settings” > “General” > “Keyboard.”
  2. Tap “Keyboards” and then “Add New Keyboard.”
  3. Select “Afrikaans” from the list.
  4. When typing, you can switch between languages by tapping and holding on the icon to reveal the keyboard language menu.

2- Android

  1. Go to “Settings” > “General Management” > “Language and Input” > “On-screen Keyboard” (or “Virtual Keyboard” on some devices) > “Samsung Keyboard.”
  2. Tap “Language and Types” or “+ Select Input Languages” depending on the device, and then “MANAGE INPUT LANGUAGES” if available.
  3. Select “Afrikaans” from the list.
  4. When typing, you can switch between languages by swiping the space bar.

3- Applications for Mobile Phones

If you don’t want to add a keyboard on your mobile phone or tablet, this is a good app to consider:

6. How to Practice Typing Afrikaans

As you probably know by now, learning Afrikaans is all about practice, practice, and more practice! Strengthen your Afrikaans typing skills by writing comments on any of our lesson pages, and our teacher will answer. If you’re a AfrikaansPod101 Premium PLUS member, you can directly text our teacher via the My Teacher app—use your Afrikaans keyboard to do this!

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Names and Terms for Families in Afrikaans

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Family is important in every culture, no matter what size or form it takes. Interaction with this group of people gives us our first relationship lessons in life. If these are disrupted, it can have an impact not only on all of our other relationships and the way we bond with others, but also how we see and experience ourselves.

At AfrikaansPod101, we’re aware of how important it is to know how to talk about families in Afrikaans. That’s why we’ve crafted this insightful article about Afrikaans words for family and family in Afrikaans culture, just for you!

What is the role of family in your culture? And how important is family to you personally? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section!

Table of Contents

  1. Family in Afrikaans
  2. Immediate Family in Afrikaans
  3. Extended Family in Afrikaans
  4. Afrikaans Terms for Marriage or Extended-Family Relationships
  5. How AfrikaansPod101 Can Help You Learn Afrikaans Family Terms

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1. Family in Afrikaans

Family Words

Family is a strong institution among most of the Afrikaans-speaking people of South Africa, with differences that largely depend on culture. South Africa hosts a very diverse people, with multiple cultures within its borders. Afrikaans is but one of eleven nationally-acknowledged languages. In Afrikaans, the term “family” (familie) tends to refer to relatives and extended family, while the nuclear family is called a gesin.

1- How to Use:

Afrikaans: Ons gesin gaan vandag strand toe.
Translation: “Our family is going to the beach today.”
Context: Use when the family unit consists of either a couple or single parent with their offspring.

OR

Afrikaans: DIe familie kom kuier elke Sondag.
Translation: “The family comes to visit every Sunday.”
Context: This can refer to either adult or child siblings of the parents, and/or grandparents, relatives, and extended family.

1.1 Families of European South Africans

Among Afrikaans-speaking Caucasians, families are modeled after the typical European or American family, with a great variety in expression. Tolerance for non-traditional families depends on social circles or where you live—in some areas of the countryside, for instance, small-town mentality will frown upon same-sex, single-parent, or even mixed race/culture families. In the cities and more populated areas, though, diversity is much more tolerated and accepted.

1.2 Families of African or Mixed-Race South Africans

Among Afrikaans-speaking people of color (which is not a derogatory term in South Africa, by the way), family tends to be a more important institution. This is not only, but strongly, due to cultural traditions steeped in a native philosophy that’s popularly called ubuntu.

Ubuntu is a Nguni Bantu term, meaning “humanity.” In Zulu, ubuntu is explained with the phrase Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, which literally translates as: “A person is a person through other people.” It’s understood that a person’s humanity and identity is shaped by, and sustained through, their relationships and connections with other people. Ubuntu has become a popular philosophical term which indicates the belief in “a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.” Of course, this includes the family.

2. Immediate Family in Afrikaans

Parent Phrases

“Close family” in Afrikaans refers to the nuclear family, as previously explained. Sometimes, this includes great-grandparents and grandparents, especially if they all live together.

The Afrikaans people love to use diminutive nouns to express endearment. Look for the suffixes –tjie or –ie—they’re everywhere!

Here’s our guide to help you learn family words in Afrikaans for those closest to you!

1- Great-grandmother

Formal: Groot-grootmoeder literally means “big-big mother.” People normally use this term with a possessive pronoun, not as a form of address. Such as in My groot-grootmoeder is siek. Translation: “My great-grandmother is ill.”

Informal: Oumagrootjie. This is used as above. Simply replace grootmoeder with oumagrootjie for a more informal term, which is used more often.

Form of address: To address their great-grandmothers, Afrikaans-speakers often use the same term as they do for “grandmother,” which is ouma, simply because it’s easier. Yet, some prefer to call this matriarch Oumagrootjie, and it’s not incorrect.

2- Grandmother

Formal: Grootmoeder, which means “big mother,” is used as in the previous example, normally with a possessive pronoun in more formal settings, and not as a form of address. Such as in: Haar grootmoeder is ‘n afstammeling van President Jan Smuts. Translation: “Her grandmother is a descendant of President Jan Smuts.”

Informal: Ouma means “old mother” and is used as a noun like above, but more informally. It’s the equivalent of an English “grandma.” This is also the most popular way to address a grandmother from either side of the family. Such as in: Ouma, ek is lief vir jou! Translation: “Granma, I love you!”

Common Terms of Endearment: Oumie or Oumsie.

Other Uses: Sometimes, the words ouma or oumatjie are used in reference to an elderly lady who’s not a relative. Such as in: Die oumatjie wat melktert verkoop op die mark is so vrolik. Translation: “The little old lady selling confectionery at the market is very joyful.”

Grandmother with Flowers

3- Mother

Formal: A “mother” in Afrikaans is a moeder. Again, this is mostly used as a noun, and is a slightly formal term, such as in: Haar moeder is gister oorlede. Translation: “Her mother passed away yesterday.” It’s not a common form of address, but it’s not incorrect to use it this way.

Informal: Ma or Mamma, which translates as “Mom” or “Momma.” As above, these are used as nouns in a more informal setting. They’re also interchangeable and the most commonly-used terms of address that Afrikaans children or offspring use. Such as in: Ma/Mamma, hierdie nagereg is wonderlik! Translation: “Mom/Momma, this dessert is wonderful!”

Common Terms of Endearment: Moekie or Mammie or Moedertjie

See those diminutives?! These mostly translate as “Mommy.”

4- Daughter

Formal: A “daughter” in Afrikaans is dogter. This phrase is used, like in English, to indicate female offspring, as in: Marietjie is my dogter. Translation: “Marietjie is my daughter.”

Informal: There’s no distinction between formal and informal nouns with regards to offspring in Afrikaans.

Common Forms of Address: Parents address their children by their names or pet names. There’s no form of address to indicate family relations pertaining to children.

Grandmother with Granddaughter

5- Granddaughter

Formal: Kleindogter is a literal translation of “little daughter.” It’s used as a noun, such as in English, to indicate relation: Marietjie is haar kleindogter. Translation: “Marietjie is her granddaughter.”

Informal: There is no distinction between formal and informal nouns with regards to grandchildren in Afrikaans.

Common Forms of Address: Grandparents call their grandchildren by their names or pet names, as there’s no form of address that indicates this type of family relation. Afrikaans for “grandchildren” is kleinkinders [plural] or kleinkind [singular].

6- Great-granddaughter

Formal: “Great-granddaughter” in Afrikaans is klein-kleindogter, and it literally means “little-little daughter.” This term is used as a noun, such as in English, only to indicate relation: Sy klein-kleindogter is baie mooi. Translation: “His great-granddaughter is very pretty.”

Informal: There’s no distinction between formal and informal nouns with regards to great-grandchildren in Afrikaans.

Common Forms of Address: Great-grandparents call their great-grandchildren by their names or pet names, as there’s no form of address that indicates family relations of this kind.

7- Sister

Formal: Suster is normally used only as a noun, such as in English, to indicate a sibling relationship: Sy suster is baie suksesvol. Translation: “His sister is very successful.”

Informal: Sus or Sussie. To indicate rank in family, the younger or youngest sister is often called kleinsus or kleinsussie, translating as “little sister.” An older sister is called ousus or grootsus, which translates as “older/big sister.” These are used as nouns, but they are also common forms of address.

Common Terms of Endearment: Siblings mostly call one another by their names or pet names, or sus. Sometimes, a sister and/or daughter gets called Sussa.

Grandmother, Mother, Daughter

8- Great-Grandfather

Formal: Groot-grootvader literally means “big-big father.” As in the case of its female equivalent, this is a noun, not a form of address. For example: Sy groot-grootvader se plaas is deur familie geërf. Translation: “His great-grandfather’s farm was inherited by the family.”

Informal: Oupa-grootjie translates as “grandpa-big.” Like its female equivalent, this is an informal term for “great-grandfather.” Use as above, just replace groot-grootvader with oupagrootjie.

Common Terms of Endearment: To address their great-grandfathers, Afrikaans-speakers often use the same term as for “grandfather,” which is oupa, simply because it’s easier. Yet, many do prefer to address this patriarch as oupagrootjie, and it’s not incorrect.

9- Grandfather

Formal: “Grandfather” in Afrikaans is grootvader, which literally means “big father.” Like its female equivalent, this term is used as a noun, not a form of address. It gets used this way: Sy grootvader aan moederskant is van Frankryk. Translation: “His maternal grandfather is from France.”

Informal: A “grandpa” or “grandfather” in Afrikaans is called an oupa. It’s used as above, but in more informal settings (and literally translates as “old father” in English). So simply replace grootvader with oupa. This is also the most popular way to address a grandfather from either side of the family, such as in: Jou baard is so mooi, Oupa. Translation: “Your beard is lovely, Grandpa.”

Common Terms of Endearment: Oupie or Oupatjie or Oups

Other Uses: Sometimes, the words oupa or oupatjie are used in fond reference to an elderly person who’s not a relative. Such as in: Die oupatjie wat vrugte verkoop op die mark is so vriendelik. Translation: “The little old man selling fruit at the market is very friendly.”

Father and Baby Son

10- Father

Formal: “Father” in Afrikaans is vader. It’s used the same way as its female equivalent, moeder, but mostly as a noun, not a form of address (unless the relationship is very formal). It’s most commonly used as a religious term for Father God, such as in Ons Vader wat in die hemel is… Translation: “Our Father in heaven…”

Informal: Pa or Pappa. When referring to a father, the word pa is used, such as in: My pa is baie ryk. Translation: “My dad is very rich.” Both are used as terms of address, too.

Common Terms of Endearment: Pappie or Paps

11- Son

Formal: A “son” in Afrikaans is seun. It’s used, as in English, to indicate an offspring relation, as in: Trevor is my seun. Translation: “Trevor is my son.”

Informal: There is no distinction between formal and informal nouns with regards to offspring in Afrikaans.

Common Ways of Address: Parents address their children by their names or pet names. There’s no term of address to indicate family relations pertaining to offspring. However, some Afrikaner parents address their son as seun, such as in English and American cultures.

Grandfather with Grandson

12- Grandson

Formal: A “grandson” in Afrikaans is a kleinseun, and it’s literally a translation for “little son.” It’s used as a noun, such as in English, to indicate relation: Trevor is haar kleinseun. Translation: “Trevor is her grandson.”

Informal: There’s no distinction between formal and informal nouns with regards to grandchildren in Afrikaans.

Common Terms of Endearment: Grandparents call their grandchildren by their names or pet names, as there’s no form of address that indicates family relations.

13- Great-grandson

Formal: Klein-kleinseun, literally translates as “small-small son.” It’s used as a noun, like in English, to indicate relation, as in: Sy klein-kleinseun bly in Tzaneen. Translation: “His great-grandson is living in Tzaneen.”

Informal: There’s no distinction between formal and informal nouns with regards to great-grandchildren in Afrikaans.

Common Terms of Endearment: Great-grandparents call their great-grandchildren by their names or pet names, as there’s no form of address to indicate family relations.

14- Brother

Formal: Afrikaans for “brother” is broer. It’s used as a slightly more formal noun to indicate sibling relation, as in: My broer bly in Skotland. Translation: “My brother lives in Scotland.”

Informal: Boet or Boetie. Translation: “Bro.” These are used equally as forms of address and as nouns.

Common Terms of Endearment: Boeta. Also, when Afrikaners like you, you could well be addressed as Boet (even if you’re not related), especially in informal situations, like chatting around the signature braaivleis vuur (somewhat similar to a barbeque). Braai-ing is a famous South African form of social catering, and families often hold them at gatherings.

Family Get-Together Lunch

3. Extended Family in Afrikaans

As mentioned, the nuclear family (mother, father, and offspring) is called a gesin in Afrikaans. Other family (grandfather, grandmother, aunt, uncle, etc.) are usually referred to as familie.

These are the Afrikaans terms for relatives.

1- Uncle: Oom

Like the English “uncle,” oom is the title for the maternal or paternal brother and extended family of the parents.

Example: My Oom Kobus ry ‘n Mazda.

Translation: “My Uncle Cobus drives a Mazda.”

Children always use this term to address or refer to any adult male other than their father. In colloquial, informal Afrikaans, many adult Afrikaners also use the term to address or describe any male much older than themselves, irrespective of relation.

Example: Die oom eet ‘n koekie.

Translation: “The (uncle/old man) eats a cupcake.”

2- Aunt: Tant or Tante or Tannie

Tant or tante are the more formal nouns or forms of address for an older female relative.

Example: Tant Bettie verjaar vandag.

Translation: “It’s Aunt Betty’s birthday today.”

The diminutive, tannie, is the most commonly used term to describe or address the maternal and paternal sister/s (aunt/s) and extended female family members of both parents. Tannie is also used to address or describe any older female. Children always use this term for any adult female other than their mother.

Example: Die tannie koop piesangs.

Translation: “The (older lady/aunt) buys bananas.”

Cousins Playing with Laptop

3- Cousin: Neef or nefie AND nig or niggie

Neef or nefie AND nig or niggie are all Afrikaans terms for “cousin.” These terms are used to describe the offspring of maternal and paternal siblings, meaning the children of related aunts and uncles. The terms are specific, and commonly only used to describe true relatives in modern times.

Neef is slightly more formal than nefie, and is used to address and describe the male cousin.

Example: Neef Pieter is terug in die Kaap.

Translation: “Cousin Peter is back in the Cape.”

Nig or niggie is the form of address (and noun) for the female cousin.

Example: My niggie Susan kom by ons kuier.

Translation: “My cousin Susan will be visiting us.”

4. Afrikaans Terms for Marriage or Extended-Family Relationships

Fortunately, these terms are more fixed, and indicate the specific extended-family relationships between people.

Newlyweds at Wedding

1- Husband and Wife: man en vrou OR eggenoot en eggenote

In an Afrikaans married couple (getroude paartjie), a husband is simply called man, and a wife is simply called vrou. These are the most commonly used terms, and they’re only distinguishable from “man and woman” (man en vrou) when a possessive pronoun is used (sy/haar/my, which is “his/her/ in English).

Examples: Sy vrou staan op. AND Haar man werk by die bank.

Translations: “His wife gets up.” AND “Her husband works at the bank.”

There are other, slightly more formal terms too: eggenoot (masculine) and eggenote (feminine). They’re used exactly the same way as man and vrou.

2- “Mother-in-Law” and “Father-in-Law”: Skoonma and Skoonpa

These terms for inlaws are used exactly the same way as in English. They translate literally as “clean mom” and “clean dad,” but this doesn’t hold any significance in their meaning!

Example: Haar skoonma dra ‘n pienk rok vandag.

Translation: “Her mother-in-law is wearing a pink dress today.”

3- “Sister-in-Law” and “Brother-in-Law”: Skoonsuster and Swaer

Skoonsuster translates literally as “clean sister,” but, again, that’s not what it means. It means “sister-in-law,” and an informal term is skoonsus.

Swaer is the term for “brother-in-law” and it’s a homonym for the Afrikaans word swaar, which means “heavy.” This is exactly what some Afrikaners affectionately call their brother-in-laws: Karel is my naaste heavy. Translated: “Carl is my closest brother-in-law.”

5. How AfrikaansPod101 Can Help You Learn Afrikaans Family Terms

Family Quotes

We hope that we helped you expand your family in Afrikaans vocabulary, and that you now have a better idea of what family in Afrikaans culture looks like.

AfrikaansPod101, with its innovative online learning system, stands out among online learning platforms to help you master Afrikaans easily! Why not test it—quickly learn Must-Know Terms for Family Members in Afrikaans. Our lessons are culturally relevant, meaning they’re tailored not only to increase your language skills, but to also inform you of Afrikaner culture, such as the Afrikaans family structure.

When you sign up, you get instant access to tools like:

1- The Afrikaans Core 100 Word List
2- A new Afrikaans word to learn every day!
3- An extensive vocabulary list, regularly updated
4- A free Afrikaans online dictionary
5- Monthly video talks and shows to help you learn easier and faster, and stay motivated
6- Easy and fun ways to cement your new vocabulary by placing it in context, such as this recorded lesson about possessive pronouns called Who’s in These Family Photos?

Further speed up your learning with the help of a personal tutor, who will first assess your current Afrikaans language abilities to personalize your training and tailor it to your needs.

Hard work always pays off, and to help you in this, AfrikaansPod101 will be there every step of the way toward your Afrikaans mastery!

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