Afrikaans is an authentic indigenous language

03 Augustus 2017

Who speaks Afrikaans?

According to the 2011 census, Afrikaans is the third most spoken language in South Africa. It is spoken by about 13.5% of South Africans of ALL races – after Zulu (22.7%) and Xhosa (16.0%). There are seven million (m) mother-tongue Afrikaans speaking people of which 60% (4.2m) are non-white.
Census data: 2011

“Afrikaans is a language that has grown and developed from the South African soil, fed by the variety of languages and cultures in our country, rooted in the quest for an own identity and freedom. Its power and hope for the future have not been achieved through special privilege but rather by facing the future on equal footing with other SA languages in a quest for respect and equal rights." - Nelson Mandela: 1995


Join us on a short journey through Afrikaans

The story of Afrikaans is a rich and diverse one with a complex history and a sense of cultural distinctness.

Afrikaans is a creole language that evolved during the 19th century. The majority of its roots can be found in Dutch. While the rest is a mixture of seafarer variants of Malay, Portuguese and Indonesian and the indigenous Khoi-Khoin and San languages.

  • The first Afrikaans was spoken by the Khoi-Khoin in 1595 when trading with Dutch seafarers. They were forced to communicate in a language that would be understood by both parties. This initial Khoi-Afrikaans slowly replaced the Khoi-Khoin’s mother tongue.
  • In1671 visitors to the Cape remarked that the language spoken there did not sound like any European language.
  • In the 18th century, two groups of Afrikaans speakers moved inland. The Khoi who spoke Khoi-Afrikaans and a group of livestock farmers (Veeboere) who spoke Veeboer-Afrikaans. It was at this Frontier where a new language with its own identity originated – namely Afrikaans!
  • The 19th century marked an era when Afrikaans came in contact with English and the languages of the various black tribes. All of these languages played a role in the development of Afrikaans.

Afrikaans today

  • Afrikaans is the third largest language group in South Africa after Zulu and Xhosa (seven million Afrikaans speakers).
  • Afrikaans is also used in various other countries and continents.
  • Afrikaans literature is extensive and can compare with the best in the world, covering all spheres of culture, industry, science and technology.
  • At present Afrikaans boasts approximately 1 million words with neologisms being added regularly, like rymkletser (rapper), gladdejantjie (smoothie) and hommeltuig (drone).
  • The Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (WAT) (Dictionary of the Afrikaans Language) is the most comprehensive Afrikaans dictionary currently available. It is primarily aimed at Afrikaans usage today, although is yet incomplete due to the scale of the project.
  • The one-volume dictionary used in many households is the Verklarende Handwoordeboek van die Afrikaans Taal (HAT).
  • The official orthography of Afrikaans is the Afrikaanse Woordelys en Spelreëls, compiled by the Taalkommissie. (The updated 2017-edition is now available.)

Article by Hein Willemse, professor of Afrikaans, University of Pretoria.

Afrikaans belongs to all South Africans

The story of Afrikaans is a rich and diverse one with a complex history and a sense of cultural distinctness. Afrikaans, also known as Cape Dutch, is a West-Germanic language. In South Africa alone, Afrikaans is spoken by about 7 million as a first language and by approximately 10 million people as a second language. It is also spoken in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia as well as other continents as a home or second language.

After 1994 Afrikaans was one of the 11 official languages. In 2010 Prof. Kwesi Prah from Ghana described the development of Afrikaans as one of the three language wonders of the world.

Read more on the history of Afrikaans.

Watch this ...

Diana Ferrus' poems: "Afrikaans 'n versoeningstaal".

Afrikaans, it's a black language. Loit Sols & Churchil Naude.

Coloured Mentality: Is Afrikaans a White Language.

Newsroom: Debate about the Afrikaans language.

Afrikaans is not an endangered language - linguist.

Rimestein at work, making the people wise about Afrikaans.

Op pad met Afrikaans, Wanneer Afrikaans keffiyeh dra. (On the road with Afrikaans - when Afrikaans wears a keffiyeh)

Op pad met Afrikaans - V.I.T.O., die rymkletser van Okiep (On the road with Afrikaans - V.I.T.O. - rapper from Okiep)

Op pad met Afrikaans - Ysterman Beukes: Bergsig (Noord-Kaap). (Ons the road with Afrikaans - Northern Cape)