Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Institute of Asian and African Studies


(Lecturer: Dr. Christfried Naumann)

Afrikaans is one of the major languages of South Africa (one of the 11 official languages since 1994) and is spoken by about 7.2 million as a first language and by about 15 million as a second language. The language is widely spoken in the Republic of South Africa (6.9 million native speakers/13.4%), Namibia (180,000/8.7%), Botswana (8,000/0.4%) and partly in neighbouring countries. In the Western Cape, the Northern Cape and in the south of Namibia it is the language of the majority of the population. It is also widely used in other provinces of South Africa, e.g. the Free State, the North West Province, Gauteng and Mpumalanga. In the core language area, Afrikaans, similar to the other South African lingua francas (above all Sotho/Tswana and Zulu/Xhosa), is used particularly in rural areas (i.e. in farm areas), while the centres of the largest cities are dominated by English (e.g. Cape Town, Johannesburg or Windhoek). Large diasporas are found in Australia (35,000), New Zealand (21,000), Great Britain and the USA (speaker numbers according to Wikipedia 2016).

Afrikaans is a Germanic language that evolved from the regional variety of Dutch ("Cape Dutch", ca. 17th - 19th century) and was noticeably influenced by the contact with speakers of South African and Southeast Asian languages (e.g. Cape Khoekhoe and Malay), so that it is also classified as semi-creole. However, it is still mutually intelligible with Dutch and Flemish. In the course of the 18th century, Cape Dutch developed distinctive features viz. the Dutch language. The first book in Afrikaans was published in 1861; the first grammar and the first bilingual dictionary followed in 1876 and 1902 respectively, and it was not until 1925 that it was recognised by the South African government as a language independent of Dutch.

During the apartheid regime (1948 - 1994), Afrikaans was massively promoted as the official language of South Africa besides English, and was enforced nationwide, partly against the will of the population, which was a trigger for protests (Soweto 1976) and led to the end of apartheid. That is why Afrikaans is still today negatively associated with the apartheid period. However, Afrikaans is the mother tongue of very diverse groups in the west of South Africa and thus reflects the history of the Cape region as a Dutch colonial area.

Three main dialects are distinguished: East Afrikaans (Oosgrens-Afrikaans), on which the written language is based, the (West) Cape Afrikaans (Kaapse Afrikaans) and the Orange River Afrikaans (Oranjerivierafrikaans), which was more strongly influenced by Khoekhoe-speaking groups.

Standard Afrikaans: En ek sê vir julle, wat soek julle hier by my? Ek soek julle nie! Nee, gaan nou weg!
Cape Afrikaans: En ik seg ve' djille, wat soek djille hie' by my? Ik soek'ie ve' djille nie! Nei, gaat nou weg!
Dutch: En ik zeg (tegen) jullie: wat zoeken jullie hier bij mij? Ik zoek jullie niet! Nee, ga nu weg!
German: Und ich sage euch, was sucht ihr hier (bei mir)? Ich will euch nicht! Nein, geht jetzt weg!

English: And I tell you, what are you looking for here (with me)? I do not want you! No, go away now!

Language course

The first two semesters of this course (taught in German) are also offered within the cooperative network Digitale Lehre afrikanischer Sprachen, so that this course takes place digitally (partly also in a hybrid form). The course is based on the textbooks Colloquial Afrikaans (Donaldson 2000) and Teach Yourself Afrikaans (McDermott 2005).


Donaldson, Bruce C. 1993. A Grammar of Afrikaans. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Donaldson, Bruce. 1994. Afrikaans. In Ekkehard König & Johan van der Auwera (eds.), The Germanic Languages, 478–504. London: Routledge.

Donaldson, Bruce. 2000. Colloquial Afrikaans: The Complete Course for Beginners. London: Routledge.

McDermott, Lydia. 2005. Teach Yourself Afrikaans. Hodder Arnold: London.
Roberge, Paul T. 2002. Afrikaans: considering origins. In Rajend Mesthrie (ed.), Language in South Africa, 79–103. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Translated with (free version)


Afrikaans in the WWW: s. Afrika im WWW/Afrikaans