Afrikaans, also known as Cape Dutch, is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in South Africa. Even though “The Rainbow Nation” of South Africa has 11 official languages, Afrikaans is a widely spoken language that dates back to 17th-century Dutch.
Among South Africa’s official languages, Afrikaans and English are the only two Indo-European languages. Although Afrikaans sounds similar to the Dutch language, it is incredibly unique in its sound system and use of case and gender distinctions.
Origins of Afrikaans
Afrikaans is spoken in a few Southern Africa regions, including South Africa, Namibia, and to a lesser extent Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. The language evolved from the Dutch vernacular of Holland and was spoken by Dutch settlers before it gained distinguishing characteristics during the 18th century. As a daughter language of Dutch, Afrikaans is the youngest Germanic language in existence and also happens to be one of the youngest languages across the world.
It is estimated that up to 95% of the Afrikaans language is of Dutch origin, including words adopted from other languages like German and Khoisan.
There are roughly 7 million native Afrikaans speakers in South Africa, making it the country’s third-most-spoken language. Globally, it is estimated that between 15 and 23 million people speak Afrikaans.
Spelling in Afrikaans is mainly phonetic, so words are generally pronounced the way they are spelled. Most Afrikaans words can be translated literally and interpreted metaphorically. For example, a flask is called a “koffiekan”, which literally translates to “coffee can”.
💡Fun fact: There’s an age-old theory that states you only need to learn 300 words of any language in order to communicate in it!
Three main Afrikaans dialects probably existed after the Great Trek in the 1830s, a historical event in South Africa’s history. The three dialects were predominantly split up between the Northern Cape, Western Cape, and Eastern Cape.
The Northern Cape dialect could have been influenced by contact with Dutch settlers and Khoisan people, while the Eastern Cape dialect was influenced by the Dutch and Xhosa tribes.
The Western Cape dialect is also known as Kaapse Afrikaans (Cape Afrikaans) and is still widely used in the Cape Peninsula in South Africa. Even though the dialect was once spoken by all population groups, the Western Cape dialect is now almost restricted to the Cape Colored ethnic group that lives in and around Cape Town.
Afrikaans is a language that uses just three tenses, making it one of the easiest languages to learn. What makes it special and unique, though, is its funny phrases. Sadly, other languages like French, Italian, and Spanish are much easier to learn because there is an abundance of resources to help foreigners pick up these languages, the same which cannot be said for Afrikaans.
But with the interest of raising awareness of this relatively young and exciting language, Day Translations called on one of its in-house Afrikaans team members to help collate a list of common Afrikaans expressions that might just spark your interest in the language!
Here’s a look at some everyday Afrikaans phrases and idioms you’re likely to hear while visiting South Africa!
Translation: Now Now
Meaning: In a little while, later,
#2 Hang aan ‘n tak!
Translation: Hand onto a branch
Meaning: Just wait a second
#3 Jakkals trou met wolf se vrou.
Translation: The fox is marrying the wolf’s wife
Meaning: This expression is used to describe the weather phenomenon where the sun shines while it’s raining at the same time.
#4 Twee rye spore loop
Translation: Walking on two lines
Meaning: To be intoxicated
#5 Alle grappies op ‘n stokkie
Translation: All jokes on a stick
Meaning: All jokes aside
#6 So ‘n bek moet jem kry
Translation: A mouth like that needs jam
Meaning: Said when someone says something very witty, sharp, or accurate.
#7 Die aap uit die mou laat
Translation: Letting the monkey out of the sleeve
Meaning: Spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag
#8 Jy krap met ‘n klein stokkie aan ‘n groot leeu se bal
Translation: You’re using a short stick to scratch’s a big lion’s private parts
Meaning: You’re pushing your luck or looking for trouble
#9 Die bobbejaan agter die bult uit haal
Translation: Fetching the baboon from behind the hill
Meaning: Preempting problems that haven’t happened yet and possibly causing them to happen
#10 Dit is ‘n feit soos ‘n koei
Translation: It is a fact like a cow
Meaning: A fact you cannot argue with