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Afrikaans: A (Brief) History

What do you think of when you think of South Africa? Some things that may come to mind include Cape Town, Nelson Mandela and the 2010 World Cup. South Africa, however, has an incredibly rich history that has influenced one of the official languages spoken there: Afrikaans. English is widely spoken in South Africa, of course, but this other (perhaps lesser known) tongue is also spoken by over 7 million people (native speakers). So what’s the story behind this language?
Afrikaans developed as a result of Dutch colonization of South Africa, and it’s a West Germanic language. Have you ever seen it in written form? It does look a lot like German and Dutch… For example, a simple “Hello” is “Hallo” in Afrikaans, Dutch and German. “My name is” becomes “Mijn naam is” in Dutch, “Mein Name ist” in German and “My naam is” in Afrikaans. Very similar indeed. This is so because it’s really a variation on a bunch of different Dutch dialects, and Dutch itself is, of course, a Germanic language.
But, if it’s so similar to Dutch, then what’s the difference? Well, the differences lie in the morphology and grammar as well as sentence structure, mainly. Spelling also marks specific Afrikaans pronunciation versus Dutch pronunciation. Grammar, phonology and orthography are complex, and this is definitely something else the language shares not only with Dutch but also with German!
So, as early as the 18th century, Afrikaans began its development into a full blown language. Even though it was regarded as “kitchen Dutch,” a derogatory way of referring to the new language meaning that it wasn’t as prestigious as Dutch itself or languages spoken in Europe / outside of Africa, it became standardized and also began to replace Malay as the official language for teaching in Muslim schools in South Africa as early as the beginning of the 19th Century. By mid 19th Century, the language started to appear in print in newspapers and books. Today, it’s not only spoken in South Africa but also in Namibia and Zimbabwe.