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23 September 2014
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Afrikaans
Who do you speak Afrikaans with?
"I speak Afrikaans at work, but mostly at home. There's about 15 South Africans in my company so we speak it very often." Louise"It's not unusual for me to hear others speaking Afrikaans on the tubes - in fact, it seems more unusual not to these days." Megan"I do tend to speak English with my friends but the odd Afrikaans word always creeps in, like 'lekker' which means nice." HendrikAbout Afrikaans:
"All Afrikaners that have emigrated from South Africa or are working in Britain speak Afrikaans. Afrikaans originates from 17th century Dutch." Naas & AmandaHow you feel about speaking Afrikaans:
"I feel proud to speak Afrikaans but I do feel it is increasingly used as a tool of identity by the far-right back in S.A., so it does tend to be safer to just speak in English among everybody outside the family, whether they are white, black, coloured or Indian." Hendrik
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Afrikaans in the British Isles by Viv Edwards

An estimated 10 million people worldwide speak Afrikaans as a first language. Of those living in the UK, the largest population is in London. Because of the strong association with apartheid, many South Africans abroad feel ambivalent about the language. Although they are proud of their linguistic and cultural heritage, they are more likely to use English outside the family. However, the odd Afrikaans word - lekker (nice) - as cited by Hendrik above - inevitably creeps in.

Afrikaans comes from the Dutch word for African. Known first as 'Cape Dutch' and later as 'African Dutch', it emerged as the main means of communication between the indigenous Khoi and Bushmen and the people brought to the Cape area of Southern Africa by the Dutch East India Company. Although the majority were settlers from what is now the Netherlands, the newcomers also included Malay indentured labourers and slaves, French and Germans. While the most important influence on Afrikaans vocabulary comes from Dutch, loan words from the other languages are also very much in evidence.

It was only in the early twentieth century that Afrikaans was recognized as a separate language. Together with English, it has been one of the official languages of South Africa for over 50 years. In the post-apartheid era, it shares official status with English and nine African languages.


Your Comments
What is your experience of Afrikaans?

Katie- London
My boyfriend is S. African he teaches me Afrikaan, which is always good to know another language at first it was weird for me to learn it. It was funny however i have the hang of it and i feel confident in speaking to him in that language because i'm chinese therefore it was strange but now cos he's been teaching me i'm fluent at it too.

christine from Windhoek
The Afrikaans language is busy undergoing quite a revolution, with Afrikaans music becoming very popular in the southern African region, Afrikaans literature being widely read, and in our case in Namibia, having a very popular Afrikaans daily newspaper that has the highest distribution of all the daily newspapers. The language, and the people who speak it, are no longer perceived as exclusively linked to a discriminatory past, thanks to the efforts of many people who are doing their best to contribute positively to the new democratic society. I get a sense that many Afrikaans people outside SA or Namibia still hang on to a lot of the guilt, for something that their parents and grandparents did, while those living here have moved on already. In Namibia, the situation is very interesting, with Afrikaans most often being the street language among all the various cultures, even if it is a second or third language for many. English is our official language, but you often find that once the formalities of a ceremony is over, everyone will switch to Afrikaans for regular conversation. I am not sure whether it is the same in SA, but I know here with us in Namibia our transition to democracy was so quick and virtually problem-free. I do believe it is because of the Namibian people, who tend to be very relaxed and easy-going, and who often have so much in common beyond any cultural, colour or language boundaries that it is hard not to work together and become friends.

Carin from Cape Town
In response to Gill Johnson from London's comment: You can study in Afrikaans at a number of universities, both under- and post-grad. It depends on the university, but Pretoria, Stellenbosch and Potchefstroom Universities are only three examples. At Pretoria, some departments run two classes for each course - one in English, one in Afrikaans. Potchefstroom has introduced a very cool translation service, so that you can study in the language of your choice even though the classes are presented in English. Afrikaans as a tertiary education medium is coming under increasing pressure, though, and every now and again there are protests and debates about its place. I did my BA and Honnours degrees in Afrikaans, but I chose to do my Masters in English, because I would like to have it published and read overseas.

Edwin Cross from London
I read Afrikaans with equal facility to English - though not an afrikaaner. There are Afrikaans Churches [Gemeente] in London and elsewhere where the taal is very much alive.

Gill Johnson from London
I have a question. Is Afrikaans offered as a medium of learning for all subjects in universities in South Africa? i.e. can you chose whether you do your degree in English or Afrikaans or another official language?

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