Afrikaans:- the modern version of the language is much more than merely a Dutch derivative as some would suggest. Inextricably linked for the last century with the development and application of apartheid within South Africa, the immense reach and value of this language has often been overlooked within the wider political climate.
While the Dutch, who arrived in South Africa in 1652 and established a colony in Cape Town, are largely credited with the birth of the language, the version spoken today is an accumulation of many other influences. The Dutch dialect established after 1652 incorporated terms and phrases handed down from sailors who had been shipwrecked off the Cape coast after it became clear that the horn of Africa presented another viable trade route. The arrival of the French Huguenots in 1688 almost doubled the European population of the cape, and also naturally had an immense impact on the spoken language of the day. These phrases, of English, French and Portuguese origin, soon found their way into the Dutch dialect.
In addition, the language took on a more oriental flavour with the arrival of a slaves in the Cape, primarily of Malay extraction, but also from other eastern regions and nearby African islands including Madagascar.
This spiced the language considerably, and when the accents, dialects and phrases of the original inhabitants of the land were added to the mix, it became evident that Afrikaans was a completely different language to its Dutch parent.
The Hottentots, the original Khoi inhabitants, as well as the Xhosa and the Zulu people all contributed in their fashion to the language as it spoken today.
The struggle to gain recognition for Afrikaans as a written language was directed and carried out from the town of Paarl. The Guild of True Afrikaners (Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners) had its inaugural meeting here in 1875 with the aim to establish the new language of Afrikaans in a written form. The Afrikaans Language Monument was erected in 1975 in Paarl to honour the Afrikaans Language.
From this, three main dialects emerged, Cape Afrikaans, Orange River Afrikaans and Eastern Border Afrikaans. The Cape dialect is mostly enfused with the language spoken by the Malay slaves who worked in the Cape and spoke a form of broken Portuguese, the Orange River dialect developed with the influence of Khoi languages and dialects developed in the Namakwaland and Griqualand West regions and the Eastern Border Afrikaans evolved from the settlers who moved East towards Natal from the Cape.
As the language evolved, the white Afrikaans speakers distanced themselves from the predominantly English-speaking community. Believing themselves to be the true white owners of the land and rejecting any claims of the indigenous people, the Afrikaners pitted themselves against the English, culminating in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902.
The Afrikaners lost this war but embarked upon a ‘Kultuur’ campaign (Culture campaign) to promote the language.
When the Afrikaans-oriented National Party won the South African elections of 1948, the party introduced measures designed to leapfrog Afrikaans speakers over others in the country in the employment and business sector.
The National Party’s institution of Apartheid and decision to teach black children in Afrikaans only was an unpopular one and was the main reason for the Soweto uprising of 1976.
Unfortunately, the National Party’s ruthless Apartheid regime and simultaneous promotion of the language forged a link between the language and the political system that remains to this day.
Despite attempts to keep the language as one of only two official languages after 1994, the Constitutional Assembly in the newly-democratised South African republic chose to downgrade Afrikaans to only one of eleven official languages, its protected status a thing of the past.
Some Afrikaans Words
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|assegaai||Khoisan||spear||chana / china||Zulu – “umtshana” (nephew)||friend|
|karos||Khoisan||blanket of hides||fundi||Zulu – “umfundisa” (teacher)||expert on subject|
|kombuis||Seafaring Dutch||galley = kitchen||gogga||Khoisan – “xo-xon”||insect|
|piesang||Malay||banana||kraal||Portuguese – “curral”||cattle enclosure|
While you are visiting in South Africa you will meet a lot of people who seem to speak something very much like English – but not quite!
Some words to help you understand our language:
South African vernacular – mainly of Dutch origin, but has elements of French, German, Malaysian and several African languages.
Person mostly of Dutch descent, who can trace their heritage in this country back several generations, and speaking Afrikaans as a home language.
A small pick-up truck / utility vehicle.
Mountain. In place names it refers to a mountain range – Drakensberg – “Dragon Mountains”.
Not to be confused with “burg” in town and city names – from the Dutch meaning an administrative area – hence Burgemeester – Master of the Burg or Mayor. Also see “koppie“
Strips of sun-dried meat. Meat is salted, sun dried for a day, then dried in a shaded area. Originally a means of preserving meat – now Biltong is a local delicacy – to be eaten while watching rugby and drinking Zamalek.
Literally “lightning” – but can be used as in “I am going to bliksem you” meaning that someone is in immediate danger of being hit. Can also be used as in “You are a bliksem” meaning that the person is a scoundrel.
A recognised breed of South African dog.
The Springboks – our National Rugby Team
A dog of uncertain ancestry
Goodbye. Also used when raising glasses with a drink.
Swimsuit / Swimming costume
Stupid – also use to describe a person who is “not with it” – as in “I am a bit doff this morning” – i.e. I have not yet woken up properly
A dry watercourse. Can also refer to an erosion gulley.
An exclamation of surprise.
Used as in “oh flip” instead of “oh F@*!*'” – also used “let’s go for a flip” meaning a trip especially in an aeroplane.
Literally “fountain” or “spring” – often seen in place names. e.g. Bloemfontein – capital of the Free State – literally tranlates as “Flower Spring”
Can be a game as is normally understood – tennis or a board game – but is also used to refer to wild animals – as in “game viewing” or “game drive”. You go on a game drive to go game viewing to look at “big game!”
Literally “poison” – but can be used as in “you look very gif today” – you are very smart. Pronounced with a very guttural “g”.
A traditional herbal healer – not to be confused with a Sangoma who is a spiritual healer and diviner.
Is that so?
Yes. Also often heard in Ja-nee – Literally Yes-no. The expression of imminent agreement, but some thought must still be given to the matter
Another exclamation of surprise.
Jol / Jolling
A party, a get-together, having fun. “Let’s go and have a jol” – Let’s have some fun.
“I am in kak” – meaning that I am in serious trouble. (Sh1t). you can also speak “kak”.
A wooded ravine.
A goal scored in the game of football by Bafana Bafana – our national football (soccer) team.
Alcoholic drink distilled from whatever you can find – usually from fruit. The very potent, high alcohol content version is called “witblits”.
Medicine – from the Zulu “uMuthi”
A circular house with a thatched (grass) roof. This style has been adapted from the indigenous peoples of South Africa and is now a common feature at Game Lodges and in Game Reserves. A known landmark on the “Panorama Route” is the Three Rondawels – 3 hills resembling three houses situated in the Blyde River Canyon
Lierally – “to stir”. Also used as in “Ek gaan hom roer” – “I’m going to stir him” meaning I’m going get him to do something or get into action. Also a slang Afrikaans word for a rifle.
Literally “Red Neck” – a term originally from the Second Boer War (1899 – 1902) when the Afrikaners were fighting Great Britain for their independence. It was a derogatory term for a British soldier (Tommy) who got sunburned easily. Still used as a term to describe someone who is not Afrikaans speaking.
Shaman or traditional healer and diviner. Not to be confused with an Inyanga, who is a herbal healer
Exclamation of agreement, or also as in “Hey, that looks sharp” as a description of something that looks good – e.g. “That’s a sharp cherrie“. “Sharp-sharp” – I agree with you and will do everything as arranged.
Rivulet or stream – again often in town names.
A journey. From the Voortrekkers – the European Pioneers who settled in the interior of the country. “It is going to be long trek” – i.e. expect a long journey. Also used to mean “move house” – I am going to trek – I am going to move house
As in “tune me what you’re doing” – tell me what you are doing – “I’m going to tune him” – I am going to tell him something.
“Skin shoes”- an all purpose type of footwear, traditionally made with the leather of wild animals – Kudu leather was considered the best. Almost a trade mark of being a boer.
A traditional type of pastry made by deep-frying dough in boiling oil, and can be filled with savoury mince, or even a sweet jam.
Get lost in a not so polite manner. (B*gg*r off!)
Literally “white flash or white lightning”. A type of very strong mampoer – equivalent to “moonshine”