The Afrikaans Language

Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch, because up to 95% of Afrikaans vocabulary is of Dutch origin. Therefore, Afrikaans belongs to the West Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family, along with English.

There are about 7.1 million native speakers in total, and in South Africa, up to 6.85 million native speakers. Afrikaans is the third most widely spoken language in South Africa, and majority of Afrikaans speakers reside in the western half of the country — in Northern Cape and Western Cape provinces. Afrikaans is the native language of about 61% of South Africans with Caucasian heritage. More than 75% of South Africans with non-Caucasian heritage speak Afrikaans, and out of these, about 4.6% are Asian South Africans, and 1.5% are Black South Africans. There are also about 10 to 15 million people who speak Afrikaans as a second language in South Africa.

Afrikaans developed from a vernacular of the Dutch language known as Hollandic, which is spoken in South Holland. Hollandic happened to be the main language of the Dutch settlers who settled in Cape Town of South Africa from the 18th century onwards.

Mutual Intelligibility

Although there is a high degree of mutual intelligibility between Afrikaans and Dutch, Dutch speakers might take some time to understand Afrikaans. On the other hand, speakers of Afrikaans might not be able to readily comprehend Dutch.

One of the major differences between the two languages lies in the spelling, grammar and morphology of Afrikaans. Compared to Dutch, Afrikaans has considerably more regular morphology, spelling, and grammar. The mutual intelligibility is more obvious in the written form rather than the spoken form of Afrikaans and Dutch. Nonetheless, Afrikaans also borrowed some lexicons and syntaxes from other languages such as Portuguese, Bahasa Melayu, the Khoisan languages, and the Bantu languages.

As Afrikaans evolved over time, there had been some simplifications in its spelling and phonology such that it became different to Dutch. One good example of such simplification is shown in the table below.

Afrikaans Alphabet & Writing Systems

Afrikaans Pronunciation (Consonants)

Afrikaans Pronunciation (Vowels and Diphthongs)

Difference Between Dutch and Afrikaans

Notice that Afrikaans looks phonetically simplified especially at the end of a word. The Dutch ‘w’ and ‘v’ which are usually found in the middle of some words were changed into the single sound and spelling of just ‘v’ in Afrikaans. Fricatives like ‘g’ and ‘ch’ in the Dutch language became a single sound ‘g’, with the exception when ‘g’ comes before ’s’, in this case, it becomes ‘sk’.

Another example is that in Dutch, the initial syllable ‘sch’ in ‘school’ becomes ‘sk’ as in skool in Afrikaans. When ‘g’ or ‘v’ appears between vowels in Dutch, they are dropped in Afrikaans, therefore, words such as ‘regen’ becomes ‘reën’, and ‘hoger’ becomes ‘hoër”. Furthermore, if ‘g’ appears at the end of a word in Dutch, then in Afrikaans, the ‘g’ is dropped as well, and the preceding vowel would be written with a circumflex. For instance, ‘zeg’ in Dutch is known as ‘sê’ in Afrikaans.

Difference between Dutch and Afrikaans

Examples of Sentences in Dutch and Afrikaans

Afrikaans Grammar

Afrikaans does not have grammatical gender. Simple past tense is dropped for all the verbs except for seven modal verbs. Afrikaans uses the present tense or the present tense based on context. There is also no distinction between the subject and object form of personal pronouns in the plural form. More examples are found below.

Afrikaans Verbs

The Afrikaans verb system is much simpler as compared to Dutch. Firstly, the simple past tense is not used except for eight basic verbs. Instead, the perfect tense is used. For instance, in Dutch, Ik keek simply means "I watched" in English, while in Afrikaans, one would say Ek het gekyk, which means "I have watched" in English. To an Afrikaans speaker, the sentence Ek het gekyk is still understood the same way as how one would say "I watched" in Dutch (Ik keek).

Ek het gekyk is noticeably similar to the perfect tense in Dutch, which is Ik heb gekeken, which means "I have watched" in English. While the Dutch uses the word heb, and in Afrikaans, het is the word used for the meaning of "have", both are not quite similar.

In a Dutch example, when a verb is conjugated for the 1st person singular, the sentence looks something like this Ik heb gekeken. Whereas when a verb is conjugated for the 3rd person singular, the sentence looks something like this Hij heeft gekeken.

In Afrikaans fro example, there is no conjugation involved for such verb, hence, Ek het gekyk. The word het  will always be ‘het ’. There is also no pluperfect tense for Afrikaans, such as the phrase ‘had watched’ in English. Instead, the perfect tense would be used.

Examples of Sentences in Dutch and Afrikaans (Part 2)

In Dutch, the subject pronoun is “we” but the object pronoun is “ons” (for the English word “us”). In Afrikaans, “ons” refers to both the subject and object pronoun.

In Dutch, the future tense is formed using the word “zullen” (shall) together with an infinitive, for this case, it is “leven” (to live). In Afrikaans, there is no infinitive, only a single verb form. Therefore, “sal” (shall) is placed together with a verb, in this case, it is “lewe” (live), to form a sentence in Afrikaans.