How to Learn to Speak Afrikaans
We would like people to speak the most beautiful language in the world -
Afrikaans. It is a language that changes all the time and continuously
1Be aware that Afrikaans is the language of many people in South Africa,
Namibia and expats in Anglophonic countries. Afrikaans is a young
Germanic language which has a much simpler grammar than English and
Dutch. It is not only spoken by (77% of all) coloured and (58% of all)
white people in South Africa, but also 11 different cultural groups speak
Afrikaans as a home, second or third language. Today, the Flemish, Dutch,
Germans, Anglophonic peoples, Swedes and even Polish and Russians are
rather keen to get in touch with what is known as the simplest Germanic
language in the world.<
2Use to good effect. Because Afrikaans sounds quite guttural, it is also
the perfect language to swear in! Lots of South Africans use it for this
purpose only! Which is kind of sad, but it is certainly a very expressive
language in other words. However, if the user are interested in learning
Dutch, Afrikaans makes an excellent basic stepping stone.
3Don't let people tell you that we greet with the following phrase?:
"Goeiem?re." Which means "good morning". Nobody says that anymore. It is
old-fashioned. When we greet someone we just say "Hallo" or "Hi" or
something similar like "m?re" which means "morning". Afrikaans has been
influenced a lot by English.
4Ask someone how he is: Hoe gaan dit? The "Hoe" is pronounced like "who"
in English and means "how". The 'g' sound in the beginning of "gaan" is
made in the back of the throat. That is the hardest sound in Afrikaans.
In order to pronounce this letter, make like a car that suddenly hits the
brakes on a gravel road. A scratchy sound, like if you've got something
stuck in your throat and want to get it out. after you think you've got
it try the whole word: "gaan". The 'aan' part is pronounced like "on" in
English. "gaan" means "goes" and can be used in all tenses which will
often require a prefix or suffix. Finally the word "dit" which means "it"
in English. "dit" is pronounced like the first syllable in the urban word
"ditto" so it's "dit"//"to" but only the first part. Also the 'i' is
pronounced "uh". Finally say the tree words in sequence: Hoe Gaan Dit?
Which if directly translated into english would basically mean "How Goes
It?" there you have it.
5Invest in a proper dictionary. The thicker the volume, the better.
English-Afrikaans, Nederlands-Afrikaans (better known as ANNA) and
Deutsch-Afrikaans bilingual dictionaries are already available.
Trilingual dictionaries for African languages-Afrikaans are also
available, though not very extensive.
6See if you can get a pronunciation and idiomatic expression dictionary,
or a bilingual dictionary that has idiomatic expressions in it. It is
important to know idiomatic expressions, otherwise you won¡¯t grasp the
humor. Luckily though, if you know Dutch, or know a few Dutch
expressions, most idiomatic expressions will be comprehensible. Also,
especially nowadays, people directly translate English proverbs.
7Get familiar with the tone of voice. You should listen to Afrikaans more
often. To give you some idea how an Afrikaans accent sounds like,
visithttp://af.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoofstadon the Afrikaans Wikipedia,
click on the speaker and read along [it's the voice of a 16-year-old
male]. In this way, you can read and listen to the article
simultaneously. As you would listen to Radio Nederland Wereldomroep just
to get familiar with the Algemeenbeschaafde Dutch accent ¨C use Radio
Sonder Grense (RSG)for Afrikaans. At the homepage, place the cursor
onLuister, and thenLuister Weer. ClickLuister Weer. You may select any
program that you think you will like (e.g.Die tale wat ons praat),
ignoreSleutelwoordandDatums; click on [SOEK] and click LAAI AF at any
particular day¡¯s topic you want. After the sound file has been
downloaded, you may listen for ¡À half an hour, at your own leisure, how
Afrikaans words are pronounced. Afrikaans is a fast language, which is
why you should be able to replay the podcast.
8Have some humour. The Afrikaans community is fueled by humor. Most of it
are puns (using Afrikaans idiomatic expressions and words), irony, rhyme,
similes, metaphors, exaggerations, understatements and innuendos. If the
Afrikaans speaking people start giggling or laughing when you speak
Afrikaans, don¡¯t take it personally or seriously at all ¨C if you are a
male, your voice tone might sound rather feminine (many don¡¯t articulate
deep and raspy enough from the throat, but speak softly from the front of
their mouths) or very awkward. If you are female, you probably used the
wrong expressions. You¡¯ll get the hang of it. Just keep on practicing.
9Don¡¯t be reserved, show emotion while talking. South Africa and Namibia
are sunny countries. Biometeorology and psychology has the theory that
the amount of sun exposure has a influence on human behaviour. In
parallel with other sunny Mediterranean South European and South American
peoples, Afrikaans speaking people are much, much less reserved and much
more talkative, emotional and interactive than Northern Europeans. If
they are happy, shocked, sad, frustrated, passionate or overjoyed, the
facial expression, voice tone, body language and hand gestures tells it
all. To show emotion is not a weakness, it shows you are human ¨C and is
therefore a virtue. They¡¯re not living in the science-fiction
10Defenestrate Gender and Age Egalitarianism Immediately! When it comes
to gender, Afrikaans and the Afrikaans culture (like most other African
cultures) has always been patriarchal. Some argue that the Afrikaans
culture is fundamentally based on religion, while others argue that the
lack of First World infrastructure and education cannot sustain
acculturation to First World countries; which also includes social
equality. Men have their traditional gender roles, and so do women.
Respect it. In modern South Africa, there are but a few Afrikaans
speaking feminists who want to change the image of Afrikaans culture,
though most Afrikaans speaking women (especially those inside a marriage)
complain:Vandag se mans is regtig pap! Waarom moet ¡¯n vrou altyd die
broek in die huis dra?(Today¡¯s men are utterly sloppy and pathetic! Why
should a woman always wear the trousers at home? [Meaning, why should
women fulfill traditional male gender roles at home?].) Keep this in mind
when speaking.Afrikaans doesn¡¯t have any gender for a neutral object,
such as a table, ship or car; just like English.Die/dit[the/it] is
used:Die motor wil nie vat nie. Dit werk nie.[The car won¡¯t start. It
doesn¡¯t work].However, if a gender must be added towards, say, a ship,
car or table, it is always masculine.Jy moet die tafel vernis / motor was
/ skip laat nasien, hy lyk verwaarloos.(You must varnish the table / wash
the car / service the ship, he looks dilapidated.)Any animal of which the
sex is unknown, is always masculine; an animal is not an ¡°it¡±.
¡°Daardie hond daar oorkant¨C het hy hondsdolheid?¡± [That dog over there
¨C does he have rabies?]Don¡¯t ever call someone on their first name,
unless permitted to do so.If a minor calls youoomortannie[literally
meaninguncleandauntrespectively], accept it with gratitude. It is a form
of respect. This title is usually given to someone who is 10 years older
+ than they are.In a business environment, the title
[Meneer(Mister),Mevrou(Mrs.),Mejuffrou(Miss)] comes first, followed by
the surname. If you don¡¯t know a woman¡¯s marital status, just
usedame[Dah-meh] (Madam). The register is formal at the first meeting,
but may become more informal as the business partners build a better
working relationship.Important ¨C Don¡¯t usejyenjou(informalyou) to
someone much older than you are. It is very disrespectful and the person
will most likely take it as an offensive gesture, for the two of you are
not from the same age group(Note1). In this case, try not to use any
pronouns at all, or useu(formalyou).(Note1) In Europe and other First
World Continents, there are less youth than elderly people. Therefore age
egalitarianism is being utilized (as the youth are the odd ones out). In
South Africa and other Third World Countries, there are less elderly
people than youth. Therefore, the hierarchal pyramid persists (as the
elderly people are the odd ones out).
11Pay a visit to South Africa (Western Cape rural area, the Northern
Cape), Southern Namibia or any Afrikaans speaking expatriate near you.
12The best way of studying the language is direct face-to-face
conversations. In this way, you will also get in contact with the
different Afrikaans dialects.
13Get rid of translated Graeco-latinized English words¡-
14Really, not only does it sound plasticky artificial, pseudo-
intellectual and pompous but it also says a lot about your limited
vocabulary and incompetence using a dictionary. Latinized words also
sound long (having too much syllables) and dreary. Rather use short
Germanic words and short sentences instead. Words that the typical man on
the street will understand. For example, don¡¯t useoffisieel(official)
instead ofamptelik, like inAfrikaans is ¡¯n amptelike taal van Suid-
Afrika.(Afrikaans is an official language of South Africa). For a list
for some of these words, go
Difficult for the English and Romance language speaker? Sure do. But
wait, there¡¯s another way out¡-
15¡-rather use English words in between, instead. What?! Yes! After all,
you¡¯re probably not going to be a news reader or television personality.
Perhaps an Afrikaans rock star... Afrikaans people use English words to
lubricate a sentence (make it speak more fluently and faster), or if an
Afrikaans equivalent term doesn¡¯t pop up that quickly. There is a
difference between formal office/document language and the informal
conversation language (diglossia). So, feel free. Most Afrikaans speakers
will notice you are not familiar with their language and won¡¯t bite your
head off. There are only a few cases of purists-extremists; but they are
only one in every ten thousand.
16Continue communicating in Afrikaans. If the Afrikaans speakers notice
that you are struggling with Afrikaans, they will automatically switch to
English (or maybe an African language you might know) ¨C they are only
trying to accommodate you. But you have to put your foot down and demand
Afrikaans. Otherwise, you¡¯ll never learn through trial and error.
They¡¯ll gladly help you.
17Listen to Afrikaans music. A large number of lyrics of popular songs
are available on the Net and some of the contemporary artists¡¯ music
videos are played on YouTube. On the sites you can also search for Kurt
Darren, Snotkop, Steve Hofmeyr, Juanita du Plessis, Nicholis Louw, Sorina
Erasmus, Chrizaan, Bobby van Jaarsveld, Chris Chameleon, Ray Dylan, Bok
van Blerk, Emo Adams, Arno Jordaan, Gerhard Steyn and Robbie Wessels,
Jay, Eden etc. Some of the other modern individuals and groups are Jack
Parow, Fokofpolisiekar, Die Antwoord, Die Heuwels Fantasties, Glaskas,
Die Tuindwergies etc. Since the early 2000s it seems as though everyone
has literally jumped on the bandwagon. Every week a new Afrikaans artist
arrives on the scene; and the Afrikaans music industry caters for almost
every genre, but most prominently the rock genre. The reason for this
fertile ground is because Internet piracy of Afrikaans music is
particularly very low, and, therefore, gives the artists the chance of
18Read some Afrikaans literature. Before television in 1976, the World
Wide Web in 1995, MXit in 2005 (a cellular phone chat application) and
especially Facebook, people either went to the theatres, cinemas
(aliasbioskoop) participate in sports or read books. There was a boom of
books especially from the 1950s ¨C 1970s, but interest declined onwards
as time progressed. The best sellers today are recipe books and Christian
literature, followed by romantic fiction, detective stories,
autobiographies and poetry. Schools are the major stimulators of the
children¡¯s literature book market, mainly because prescribed books for
the curriculum are being purchased. Because it is rather pricey (and
risky) today being an author in Afrikaans, most aspirant authors test
their skills on Woes.co.za. Have a look over there.
19Read some Afrikaans newspapers.http://afrikaans.news24.com/; Die
Burger.com (for Cape Provinces); Volksblad.com (for Free State) and
Beeld.com (covers the earlier Transvaal) has all the latest South African
and international news in Afrikaans. Republikeinonline.com.na has all the
latest Namibian and international news in Afrikaans. Though it should be
added that newspapers tend to be bugged by language errors, clich¨¦s,
jargon and Anglicism, it¡¯s a good way of picking up neologisms and to
get in closer contact with the Afrikaans speaking community.
20If you get the chance, watch some Afrikaans films
21After a film silence for almost 20 years, the revival of the Afrikaans
film industry officially kicked off since 2010. From January 2010Roepman,
Jakhalsdans, Ek lief jou, Ek joke net, Die Ongelooflike Avonture van
Hanna Hoekom, Liefling, Getroud met RugbyandPlattelandhas been released.
English subtitles included. Important: Though most of the films¡¯ setting
are in rural places (such a clich¨¦!), don't be fooled: the Afrikaans
community are well urbanized.
22Get to know Afrikaans slang. Get streetwise
23Relax! Other than the anti-egalitarianism issue, the Afrikaans
community is not fastidious about choice of words and are constantly
simplifying the rules. Enjoy!<
Here are 3 words and their pronunciations:
The first word is "Liefde" which means "love". You pronounce it like
this: the first part is "li", as in "lee", then comes "ef". The "e" comes
with "li" but the "f" you pronounce like you pronounce "f". The "de" is
easy: just pronounce it like "dugh".
"Sakrekenaar" is a long word but not that hard to speak, really. It means
"calculator". The first part, "sak," is like "suck". The the second is
"re" like "really". just take away the "ally". The third is "ke" like
"cool" just take away the "l". The last part is "naar" like "nuur".
Give yourself time. Learning a new language is hard and if you don't give
yourself enough time you're going to end up frustrated.
The next word is very easy. It is "Perd". It means "horse". You take the
word "pen" and then take the "n" away and it is "pe". It is the same as
the first 2 letters in "perd", then you pronounce the letters "rd" the
way you normally would.
How to Greet People in Afrikaans
How to Say Goodbye in Several Different Languages
How to Say Common Phrases in Multiple Languages
How to Say Thanks in Different Languages