Afrikaans language

Sep 25th, 2008, 05:50 AM
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Afrikaans language

I am leaving for South Africa in a couple of weeks. Landing in Johannesburg, tour of Soweto, safari at Kruger and then off to Stellenbosch and ending the trip in Cape Town. I have been studying Afrikaans. I have learned there are eleven languages as well as the street slang of sícamto that replaces tsotitaal. How usefull is it to know Afrikaans? How much english is spoken in South Africa?
Janetwh is offline  
Sep 25th, 2008, 06:45 AM
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Unless you are in the rural areas, if people speak Afrikaans, they speak English. Some old Afrikaans farmers don't but I doubt you will be interacting with them. A lot of Black South Africans only speak their ethnic tongue. As a tourist, it won't be a big problem. I worked in the rural KZN areas and had to have a translator.
kimwhits is offline  
Sep 25th, 2008, 07:02 AM
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English is almost universal in South Africa.

Afrikaans is fun to study (that is, if you like languages, which I do). I've lived in SA a few times on short work assignments, and found that the only people who speak Afrikaans but don't speak English, are some domestic workers in the areas around Pretoria. Everybody has to study English in school.

You'll get plenty of chances to use your Afrikaans in Stellenbosch, but fewer probably in Cape Town. The bi- and tri-lingual locals will assume that you speak English and will likely use it with you first.

Businesses might have signs in Afrikaans and English both, especially in Pretoria, and in smaller towns in the farmlands.
Celia is offline  
Sep 25th, 2008, 07:15 AM
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Yes, it is fun to study. I have it on my ipod and I have been practicing at the gym. Silently of course, but from the strange looks I receive occasionally I think I have been practicing out loud.
Janetwh is offline  
Sep 25th, 2008, 08:12 AM
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I'm Afrikaans, grew up in South Africa. There's no such thing that you'll only hear it spoken in Pretoria or rural areas. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Everybody understands at least Afrikaans or English, those who do not are usually new arrivals to the country. Do practice your skill. It'll give you new insights and open a lot of doors for you too. We are not all a bunch of racists hicks. There's a lot of people very proud of their language and a huge movement to save our language. My father has a masters degree in Afrikaans literature from Stellenbosch. It has a rich history and culture and you'll be hearing it spoken everywhere.
AK_gal is offline  
Sep 25th, 2008, 09:24 AM
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I wished I'd known some Afrikaans when I stayed at Tamboti, in Kruger. Everyone we approached would greet or ask us questions in Afrikaans. All I could do was look at them dumbly and say I couldn't understand. They would then talk to me in English, but the interaction just wasn't the same.

I'm sure they laughed at my pathetic attempt at a braai, too. At least the food was good.
Gritty is offline  
Sep 25th, 2008, 12:52 PM
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AK gal, I know that Afrikaans is more widely spoken than just in Pretoria. After I wrote my reply I realized that I made a mistake in editing and accidentally deleted a whole chunk of my original posting. What I meant to say was that I (I personally) never ran into anyone who didn't speak some English except in Pretoria, where the women who cleaned my apartment block spoke no English.

I'm sorry if you interpreted anything I wrote to suggest that I think Afrikaans speakers are in any way hicks or backward or racist. I do not think that. I know that Afrikaans is a language rich in history and culture. I have read some Afrikaans literature in translation and I appreciate it deeply. I have great respect for the Afrikaaner people. Unfortunately my Afrikaans is limited to greetings and a few words of everyday vocabulary; I don't know enough to read Andre Brink, for instance, in Afrikaans. Lucky for me he writes in English as well, no?

I'm impressed that there is a monument to the Afrikaans language. That tells me that its speakers recognize the unique value of language as a purveyor of culture.

Celia is offline  
Sep 25th, 2008, 01:22 PM
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I appreciate your reply. We do tend to get on the defensive rather quickly about our language because it has been attacked from all sides for the last 14 years. Make no mistake though, not all Afrikaans speaking people would appreciate being called an Afrikaner. For many people it conjures up excactly the image of an old, heavily conservative rural farmer who can't go to the trouble of learning English.

White South Africa is an experience that many people overlook or are just plainly not aware exists. If you know some Afrikaans, go to the effort and avoid the tourist traps and go to an Afrikaans bar or go to cricket match or go watch some rugby or just do somethng of the beaten path. Like I say, a lot of people assume that we are more British or something, then they go to South Africa and realize that couldn't be further from the truth!
AK_gal is offline  
Sep 25th, 2008, 03:04 PM
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hi, folks,

when we visited SA last year, [and being zero afrikaans speakers, regretably] what i thought I learnt was that contrary to my preconceptions, afrikaans was a language which grew in order to help the existing black and coloured populations communicate with the dutch settlers.

so it is widely spoken amongst many ethnic groups, not just "afrikaaners".

certainly around CPT and the garden route where we were, english was spoken almost universally.

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Sep 25th, 2008, 03:32 PM
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I don't think that it grew to help the black and colored. Back in the good old days of English colonialism, Afrikaans was derided as a backward language and anyone speaking it is stupid. That was one of the big reasons for the Great Trek in 1838. I think that previously, Afrikaans has been way more prominent than English, and that's why so many ethnic groups are far more fluent in Afrikaans than English.

The Cape coloreds are an interesting phenomenon when it comes to Afrikaans. They speak a very interesting dialect, and if you are not a native speaker, you don't have a clue what they're saying.
AK_gal is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 08:15 AM
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I think that it owes it's existance to the Malay slaves and the Coloured people. It was known as a "kitchen language"

When the hugenots arrived at the Cape the Dutch forced them to speak Dutch. When the English colonised they forced the Dutch to speak English. The Khoi and San were forbidden by both to speak their language.

africanj is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 02:45 PM
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Thanks, especially to africanj and AK_gal, for the insights and information.
DonTopaz is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 06:44 PM
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Actually, the entire Afrikaans language was known as "kitchen dutch."

Western Cape Afrikaans isn't so far removed that it warrants a new name. It's just a different way of speaking and especially pronouncing.
AK_gal is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2008, 05:57 AM
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Languages aren't "created" (except for possibly fanagalo); they evolve as people use them over time.

When the Dutch speakers came to Southern Africa, they spoke Dutch, of course. But because they weren't in daily contact with people in the Netherlands, their speech began to differ from that of Nederlanders, in both grammar and pronunciation. Words from the local languages became part of the daily speech of these Europeans, especially incorporating the local names for plants and animals unknown in Europe. Then when the Protestants were thrown out of Europe by the Edict of Nantes, many French Huguenots came to Southern Africa, and French words and grammatical structures became incorporated into the language of the local Europeans.

This evolving language, with its elements of Dutch, French, San, Khoi, and the Bantu languages, was certainly used in the Cape for communication between the different groups, but it wasn't planned for that purpose. It was just following the normal course of linguistic change, the same way that French and Italian and Spanish and Portuguese and Romansch all derived from Latin. The difference is that Afrikaans evolved more quickly than the Romance languages. And then its use in schools guaranteed its survival among a wider group of people than just the descendants of the early European settlers of the Cape.

Linguists don't quite know how to classify Afrikaans. Is it a European language? Its grammatical structure is quite close to Dutch and the Germanic languages. Is it an African language? All its native speakers live in Africa. Afrikaans is proof that language is a dynamic, living thing, defying scholarly attempts to classify it into an orderly scheme of things.
Celia is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2008, 07:02 AM
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Sorry to sound so geeky, but I think you are mistaking the 1598 Edict of Nantes (which gave some religious freedom to French citizens) with the 1685 Edict of Fontainebleau (which revocated the Edict of Nantes and resumed persecution against protestants, triggering the Huguenot migration to South Africa)
torrem is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2008, 01:06 PM
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Torrem, thanks for the correction. That's the kind of geekiness I really appreciate!
Celia is offline  
Oct 4th, 2008, 05:10 AM
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Isn't Afrikaans 15 languages ? I have visited the monument nr Paarl, its worth it.
braaiseason is offline  
Oct 4th, 2008, 03:21 PM
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It's not 15 languages. It's a completely developed, independent language. It had input from several different languages, but it stands completely on its own.

The Paarl monument is pretty cool, isn't it?
AK_gal is offline  
Oct 4th, 2008, 05:12 PM
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Very interesting topic and informative posts. Thanks, I have enjoyed reading this thread.
realoc is offline  

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