How to help your kids with Afrikaans essays


Previously we looked at how you can help your child with comprehension homework. This week we focus on writing Afrikaans essays.

Planning is the most important part of the writing process. With proper planning 80 per cent of the work is done. Different types of essays require different ways of planning. Let’s look at the narrative essay and the descriptive essay as examples.

Narrative essays

  • Every story needs characters, a place, time, reason and events. We therefore use the “Take 5” hand diagram.
  • Use your writing hand and trace your other hand on paper in pencil.
  • Each of the five fingers has one of the following headings: who, where, when, what and why.
  • Write two short sentences in the middle of the hand without any details about the subject of your essay. The five fingers constitute the required detailed content of your story.
  • The idea is to have a brief plan and use keywords. Then before you write the first draft of your story, you already have all the elements in place.

Descriptive essays

  • A descriptive essay is about something you see, hear, feel, smell or taste. So why not use your senses in planning it?
  • Here you can use the spider diagram. Place the word, idea or scene you have to describe in the middle.
  • Each spider leg represents a sense: sight, hearing, touch, feeling (figurative), smell and taste.
  • Now connect keywords to each sense. You can now decide if you want to use a combination of all six senses or only one or two.

When you write your essay, don’t write it completely in English. The next tip is meant specifically for Afrikaans first additional language learners (but it can also apply to English first additional language learners).

  • Plan your essay.
  • Start your first draft. Write IN Afrikaans as far as possible; when you can’t remember the Afrikaans word, you can write the word in English. The idea is to think IN Afrikaans as much as possible.
  • When you write your essay in English and then translate it, your syntax won’t make sense, because Afrikaans and English follow different sentence structures. Afrikaans follows the “stompi”-sentence construction. See below for what this means.
  • When you’ve completed the essay, use a dictionary to translate the English words.
  • When the words are translated and the word order has been checked, write your final draft as neatly and accurately as possible in your book.
  • Make sure your essay has a heading and that you’ve written the word count at the bottom. These two elements give you easy points.

My biggest wish is that parents and learners would come to accept that Afrikaans is not a difficult subject, provided the necessary assistance and support is available in primary school and time is devoted to laying a good foundation.

Parents, please make sure your child knows their sound alphabet, not the capital pronunciation alphabet. A child reads with the sound alphabet. Your child has to read. Watching TV every night, even if it’s an Afrikaans soapie, won’t improve your child’s Afrikaans. By writing down words on paper, developing a vocabulary and using new words their knowledge of the language will improve.

A great influence in homework (and more so homework help for your child’s second language) is your attitude as a parent. If you like the subject and feel equipped to help with homework for the subject, your child will be more receptive to achieve in the subject. Unfortunately the opposite is also true. If you don’t like a subject, don’t feel competent to help with homework and your attitude suggests it’s not important, you do as much damage as a bad teacher. Our children look to us and learn from us.

Take a look at Rodney Atkins’ music video for Watching You (

* The “stompi”-sentence structure is followed mainly in Afrikaans. This means the sentence has the following order: subject, first verb, time, object, manner, place, second verb, infinitive.

-Marelize Swanepoel

Marelize Swanepoel has been an Afrikaans teacher for eight years and is currently based at Welridge Academy in Weltevredenpark, Johannesburg. 

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