5 surprising facts about Afrikaans

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Here are some weird and wonderful facts you may not know about this South African language.

1.       60% of Afrikaans speakers aren’t white.

What? Yes, it’s true. According to a study done in 2013 using data from the 2011 census, only 40% of Afrikaans speakers are white. The rest are from other races – black, coloured and Indian, the majority being coloured

2.       Before Afrikaans became official, it was considered a form of slang or “improper”.

Even though Afrikaans was distinctly different from Dutch because it uses words from Malay, African and French origin, it wasn’t recognised as an official language until 1925. Before this, it was often called “Kitchen Dutch” and it was considered a weak or mixed form of Dutch spoken only by uneducated people.

3.       It’s also spoken in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and – get this – Argentina!

Thought it was exclusive to South Africa? Think again. South Africa’s neighbours have a lot of Afrikaans-speaking nationals, especially Namibia. But surely the most interesting location is Argentina (more specifically Patagonia), where a small group of Afrikaans-speaking farmers reside. They are descendants of a group of about 800 families of Afrikaners who emigrated to South America between 1903 and 1909, after the Anglo-Boer War. Miraculously, the language has survived among a handful of them until now

4.       Afrikaans is part of the reason South Africa has 11 official languages.

One of the big discussion points when South Africa’s new regime was negotiated in 1992 was the status of the Afrikaans language. Afrikaner nationalists were adamant that it retained equal status to English, which is the language the ANC wanted to make the official language of the country. The ANC agreed, but couldn’t justify accepting only Afrikaans without including other indigenous languages. And from there South Africa’s inclusive approach to languages


5.       The first schools to use Afrikaans were Muslim and it was written in Arabic lettering.

In 1815, roughly 100 years before Afrikaans was declared an official language, it started replacing Malay in Muslim schools in Cape Town and was written in Arabic script. Many of the texts written in Arabic Afrikaans were translations of the Qur’an or other religious texts. Afrikaans as it is written today, with Roman script, only started appearing in newspapers around 1850.


·         To read more about arts festivals where you could experience Afrikaans, click here

·         To read more about the economic contribution of Afrikaans to South Africa, click here

·         To see more about Afrikaans in other countries, click here

Want to know more about Afrikaans – or perhaps test your Afrikaans skills? Go to Afrikaans.com. The site is also available in English. Just click on the top right button that says “English” to see the English content.

Sources: News24RapportMail and Guardian,  WikipediaAfktravelWikipedia


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