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4 Reasons to Learn Afrikaans

December 7, 2019

If you know a bit about me, you’ll know that I’ve never met a language that I didn’t like. I fall in love quickly and want to learn them all! Over the years I’ve had a passionate affair with English, a lover’s quarrel with isiXhosa and a flirtation with Mandarin Chinese. But my one true first love will always be my native language, Afrikaans.

Afrikaans is often overlooked as an option for language learners, but (completely biased here) it’s actually a really fascinating and fun language to learn.

With just around 7 million native speakers, Afrikaans is one of the world’s youngest languages.

Afrikaans originated in South Africa in the 17th century with the arrival of Dutch settlers in the Western Cape region. The language evolved from European Dutch dialects and drew influences from indigenous South African languages, Malay, Portuguese and Indonesian. Although sometimes described as a Dutch-based creole, Afrikaans is recognised as a distinct language in its own right.

Afrikaans is spoken in South Africa and neighbouring Namibia and Botswana. You’ll also find large expat Afrikaans communities in places like Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

So, let’s get into it. Here are 4 reasons you should learn Afrikaans.

It’s easy!

Afrikaans is considered one of the easiest languages to master for English speakers. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) classifies Afrikaans as a Category 1 language, meaning you’ll need around 23-24 weeks (575-600 hours) to reach proficiency.

With no genders, no pesky verb conjugations and Germanic derived root words, you’ll be speaking the taal in no time.

I’m so impressed by Michael from the Polyglot Files’ Afrikaans accent!

It can help you learn Dutch

Afrikaans is a descendant or daughter language of Dutch. Although Afrikaans has borrowed from other languages such as Malay, Portuegese and French, around 90% of Afrikaans vocabulary is derived from Dutch.

This means there is a large degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages. As a native Afrikaans speaker,  I have very little problem with written Dutch and can generally catch the gist of conversations once I get used to the (to me) odd inflection. But beware, it is easy to be tripped up by false friends.

If your plan is to become a polyglot, Afrikaans is a good stepping stone to mastering Dutch and Flemish (and maybe even German at a bit of a push).

Experience the vibrant South African culture

If you’re planning a trip to sunny South Africa, knowing a bit of Afrikaans will instantly make you the most popular tourist in the room. Throw in some isiXhosa and we’ll practically hand you the key to the city.

Although pretty much everyone speaks English, knowing the local lingo will enrich your travel experience and may even get you invited to a lekker braai (a fun barbeque).

Access a whole new world of exciting literature

Afrikaans has a rich literary tradition. From the poetry of N. P. van Wyk Louw to the fast-paced crime thrillers of Deon Meyer, you won’t be wanting for good reading material. Drop me a line if you would like some book recommendations.

Where to learn Afrikaans

Sadly, there aren’t a lot of reliable resources for learning Afrikaans out there. Here’s what I’ve managed to find:

Teach Yourself Afrikaans Complete Course – the Teach Yourself series is generally quite well-received. While this may not be the best Afrikaans textbook out there, it has the benefit of being easily accessible on Amazon.

Afrikaanspod101 –  be aware that the hosts in some of the Afrikaanspod101 videos I’ve seen on YouTube speak with a South African English accent – not necessarily a train smash, since most South Africans are multi-lingual and speak with some sort of accent. It’s just not a native accent.

Easy Afrikaans – offers some basic free online Afrikaans lessons

LitNet – a treasure trove of Afrikaans reading material, including articles, opinion pieces, interviews, book- and film reviews, academic articles and educational resources. I write for this site, so you can find some of my work here.

Afrikaans with Lindie – Lindie Botes is one of my favourite language learning YouTubers. On this channel, she shares some fun Afrikaans lessons, interviews and some yummy traditional Afrikaans recipes.

What do you think? Would you like to try your hand at learning Afrikaans? If you have any questions about pronunciation or Afrikaans in general, feel free to get in touch!

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4 Reasons You Should Learn Afrikaans

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