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A Backgrounder to Afrikaans

Afrikaans is a relatively young language, yet it is very old. With its roots in Medieval Dutch, Afrikaans and modern Dutch are roughly equidistant from Old Franconian and similar medieval Rhine valley dialects.

With the prominent influence of Africa from the Khoi people, and many non-ntative speakers who learned the lingua franca of the Cape, Afrikaans departed on its own in becoming a new language. (Click here to go to a more detailed description in the culture section.) Afrikaans vocabulary remained closer to the medieval languages, but Afrikaans simplified the grammar immensely. For example, German has three gender distinctions (DIE, DER, DAS), and Dutch has two (HET, DE). Afrikaans, like English, eliminated the gender distinction of nouns and uses only DIE as the definite article. Afrikaans does not conjugate verbs, except for two verbs: WEES (to be), and Hê (to have). There is only a present, a past and a future tense form

TO BE: Present--IS; Past--WAS; Future--WEES
TO HAVE: Present--HET; Past--HAD; Future Hê

Below is a map of linguistic dominance of the diverse languages in South Africa.

Afrikaans= Dark Blue   Xhosa              
= Red   Sesotho 
= Light Green
Zulu         
= Orange   English= Black   Seswati  = Brown
SeTwana= Light Purple   Northern Sotho= Yellow       



Present TensePast TenseFuture Tense
[I]

Ek is siek.
Ek drink medisyne.
[I]

Ek was siek.
Ek het medisyne gedrink
[I]

Ek sal siek wees.
Ek sal medisyne drink.
[YOU]

Jy is siek.
Jy drink medisyne.
[YOU]

Jy was siek.
Jy het medisyne gedrink
[YOU]

Jy sal siek wees.
Jy sal medisyne drink.
[HE/SHE/IT]

Hy/Sy is siek.
Hy/Sy drink medisyne.
[HE/SHE/IT]

Hy/Sy was siek.
Hy/Sy het medisyne gedrink
[HE/SHE/IT]

Hy/Sy sal siek wees.
Hy/Sy sal medisyne drink.
[WE]

Ons is siek.
Ons drink medisyne.
[WE]

Ons was siek.
Ons het medisyne gedrink
[WE]

Ons sal siek wees.
Ons sal medisyne drink.
[YOU plural]

Julle is siek.
Julle drink medisyne.
[YOU plural]

Julle was siek.
Julle het medisyne gedrink
[YOU plural]

Julle sal siek wees.
Julle sal medisyne drink.
[THEY]

Hulle is siek.
Hulle drink medisyne.
[THEY]

Hulle was siek.
Hulle het medisyne gedrink
[THEY]

Hulle sal siek wees.
Hulle sal medisyne drink.

It means that in German and Dutch you have to cope with many more variables to construct the same meaning. Afrikaans uses essentially the same vocabulary, but reduces grammar variables. Afrikaans and Dutch share between 95% - 99% the same vocabulary. There are some consistent spelling differences between the languages. As an Afrikaans speaker, I can immediately understand Dutch, yet I have found, the Dutch need a few weeks to be up to speed with Afrikaans.

Thus, if you are a scholar of European languages, Afrikaans would be a superb entrance to the Germanic world.

But that is certainly not all. Afrikaans is obviously also an African language. If you have an interest in things African, this is an exciting venture into an exotic part of the world. Much historical and anthropological research is available in Afrikaans. It is an academic language, and should provide you with superb resources. But, then there is the social aspect, the braaivleis (BBQ) African style, the humor, and access to the rich diversity of the peoples that speak the language.

How do I type accented characters in Windows or Mac?

Character PC: Alt + Num  MAC
Unicode
á Alt+160 ⌥ + E , A 00E1
â Alt+131 ⌥ + I , A 00E2
è Alt+138 ⌥ + `, E *
00E8
é Alt+130 ⌥ + E, E 00E9
ê Alt+136 ⌥ + I, E 00EA
ë Alt+137 ⌥ + U, E 00EB
î Alt+140 ⌥ + I, I 00EE
ï Alt+139 ⌥ + U, I 00EF
ô Alt+147 ⌥ + I, O 00F4
ö Alt+148 ⌥ + U, O 00F6
û Alt+150 ⌥ + I, U 00FB

FOR PC: With NUM LOCK on, hold down ALT key + num the number pad, e.g. 136 will result in ê.
FOR MAC: * (` key is in top left corner below ESC on us keyboard)

Other resources about the language: Please see Language Links

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