The History of the Afrikaans Language
Afrikaans is a Germanic language and, more specifically, a West German language. It's pretty close to Dutch, German and Scandinavian languages, and, to some extent, to English, for significant historical reasons. Afrikaans was declared an official language of South Africa in 1925 and nowadays, is spoken by 10.3 million South Africans, as well as by a significant population of Namibia and neighboring Botswana.
There is a large global diaspora of South Africans, which means that Afrikaans is also spoken in many countries around the world. There are significant numbers of Afrikaans speakers in the UK, the Netherlands, Ireland, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as many other African countries. Historically, Afrikaans has also been spoken for over 100 years in the Chubut province of Argentina.
There are several different varieties of Afrikaans, but everybody can understand and speak to each other. Most notable is the Kaapse Afrikaans spoken mainly by the people of color in the Western Cape. In many ways, this dialect is closer to Dutch than standard Afrikaans, and a lot of speakers code-switch with English, switching between both languages in a single conversation. In the Northern Cape Province, the dialect of Afrikaans is often referred to as Oranjerivierafrikaans. There are also growing differences in the language spoken by the expatriate community abroad.
About the Country of Origin
Afrikaans is a language that originated from the Dutch settlers’ inability to communicate with the slaves they brought to the Cape Colony from other parts of the Dutch empire, in particular Malaysia and South East Asia. Dutch grammar was greatly simplified, and many loanwords were taken from Malay and indigenous African languages. The first ever written text in Afrikaans was a book about Islam, that was written using the Arabic alphabet in the 1830s. During the rest of the nineteent century, the language was standardized and in 1925, was formally recognized as distinct from Dutch when it was made an official language of South Africa.
Where is it Spoken?
There are about seven million people registered as native Afrikaans speakers all over the world. Most native speakers live in South Africa, and it's a recognized minority language of Namibia and Botswana. South African expatriate communities around the world speak Afrikaans as well, and communities in the Chubut province of Argentina have spoken Afrikaans for over 100 years.
Why is it Important?
The top five reasons to learn this language are...
- You can travel to more places and use your Afrikaans more often than you might expect. South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana all have Afrikaans communities and it will even be understood in places where they speak Dutch like the Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname, and parts of the Caribbean.
- When you speak Afrikaans, it is much easier to bond with locals. It will definitely help you make some friends in the local pub.
- By learning Afrikaans, you can get a deeper understanding of world history and culture.
- Knowing Afrikaans will help you learn other European languages such as Dutch, German, French, and English!
- Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in South Africa speaks English. Especially if you want to experience the real South Africa and get off the beaten track, speaking Afrikaans will help you tremendously.