As you explore the diverse landscape of Southern Africa, learning some Afrikaans phases will endear you even more with the locals. Here is everything you need to know.
While being able to speak Afrikaans is not essential when travelling around Southern Africa, as with any language, the locals will appreciate your effort in learning a few key Afrikaans phrases and pleasantries.
Where is Afrikaans Spoken?
Afrikaans is spoken mostly in southern Africa and is one of the 11 official languages of South Africa. Afrikaans is predominantly spoken in South Africa and Namibia. However, there are also Afrikaans speaker in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Germany, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the UK, the USA, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
With so many official languages in South Africa, it can we hard to know when to speak to someone on Afrikaans. Here are a few general rules to keep in mind. In provinces such as Free State, Northern Cape, and Western Cape (Cape Town) you will more likely come across Afrikaans speakers. While in KwaZulu Natal (Durben) and Gauteng (Johannesburg and Pretoria) you’ll find very few Afrikaans speakers.
History of Afrikaans
Afrikaans derives from Dutch which was brought to the Cape by Protestant settlers in the 17th century. In a sense, Afrikaans can be said to be both a pidgin and a creole language. Pidgins are a simplified form of language used amongst people who speak different languages and using vocabulary from those languages. When pidgins are learnt by children as a mother tongue, they become grammatically more complex, and are then called creoles.
Afrikaans is a creole in that it derives from Dutch (and German and English) and has borrowed much from the African and Malay languages. It is a pidgin in that its grammatical structure is much simplified from the Dutch and has adopted much vocabulary from all the languages with which it has been in contact.
Afrikaans has borrowed a lot of words from other languages it has been in contact. Afrikaans spelling is largely phonetic (spell it as you say it) and most of the vocabulary is, as Anglo-Saxon was, made up of compound nouns which can be translated literally and interpreted metaphorically. For example, a vacuum cleaner is a stofsuier, literally, a ‘dust-sucker’.
What makes Afrikaans so easy to learn is that it only has three basic tenses (not six like English) and very few exceptions to any of the rules. Knowing either German or Dutch will make it even easier to master the Afrikaans word order.
That one theory states that you need acquire only 300 words of a language to communicate in it.
Pronunciation and Accents
As mentioned earlier, Afrikaans can be pronounced as it is spelt. Afrikaans uses the same alphabet as English.
There are three written accents in Afrikaans, the circumflex (^), the acute and the two dots or trema (“). The ^ and ¨ are used to indicate a change in sound (and therefore in meaning),
hoe (how) → hoe (high)
se (the ‘s ending in English, showing possession)→ sé (say)
The acute ´ is used to indicate a stressed syllable, as in die (the) → dié (this)
Again, these words sound different, and as you see they have different meanings.
Afrikaans won’t look entirely foreign to you as you probably already know some words without realising it. British English absorbed numerous Afrikaans words primarily through the British soldiers who served in the Boer Wars from the late 1800s. Most of these words describe the African flora, fauna or landscape.
aardvark (literally “earth pig”)
aardwolf (literally “earth wolf”)
afrikaans (literally “african”, adj.)
apartheid (literally “apart-ness”)
boomslang (literally “tree snake”)
kommando (literally “commando”)
rand (literally “ridge”)
meerkat (literally “lake cat”)
spoor (literally “tracks” or “footprints”)
springbok (literally “jumping antelope”)
The Afrikaners place a lot of importance on courtesy and polite behaviour. When you meet someone or speak on the phone, your first question should always be Hoe gaan dit met jou? (How are you?)
The other person’s response will generally be Goed dankie. En met jou? (Good thanks, and you?) Their response to your politeness is another politeness! You would never just say Môre! (Morning!) and then hurtle into what you want to talk about.
Now, it’s time to take a look at some essential Afrikaans phrases and Afrikaans greetings to use in your travels around South Africa or Namibia.
For your free infographic, scroll down to the bottom of this article. Otherwise, let’s jump straight into some basic Afrikaans words.
Alles van die beste. Geniet dit! All the best. Enjoy!
Afrikaans Phrases for Travellers
Want the infographic to take with you? Scroll to the bottom on the page.
Excuse me (to get attention)
(to get past someone)
Asseblief / Jy is welkom
ah-seh-bleef / yay es vel-kom
My name is….
My naam is …
my naam es…
Pleased to meet you
0 nul nul
1 een een
2 twee tweeah
3 drie dree
4 vier fear
5 vyf fyf
6 ses ses
7 seve seea-va
8 agt aht
9 nege near-her
10 tien teen
Do you speak English?
Praat jy Engels?
praat yay enn-els
How are you?
Hoe gaan dit met jou?
who haan dit met yo
Would you help me please?
Kan jy my asseblief help?
kan yay may ah-seh-bleef help?
What’s your name?
Wat is jou naam?
vat es yo naam
What time is it?
Hoe laat is dit?
who laat es dit
What’s the weather like?
Wat maak die weer vandag?
vat maak dee veer fan-dah
How much does . . . cost?
Hoeveel kos dit?
who-feel kos dit
Where do I find . . .?
Waar kan ek … vind?
vaar kan ak … findt
Where are the bathrooms?
Waar is die toilet?
vaar es die toy-let
Do you have…?
Could you please talk more slowly?
Kan jy asseblief stadiger praat?
kan jay ah-seh-bleef sta-de-her praat
Could you repeat that, please?
Kan jy dit asseblief herhaal?
kan jay dit ah-seh-bleef her-haal
The menu, please
Die spyskaart asseblief
dee shpays-kart ah-seh-bleef
Ek wil graag….
ak vil hraah
Can I please have….?
Kan ek asseblief … kry?
kan ak ah-seh-bleef kray
Could you recommend something?
Kan jy iets voorstel?
kan yay eets for-stel
Another (beer) please
Nog ‘n bier asseblief
noh eh beer ah-seh-bleef
Verskoon my asseblief
fer-skoen may ah-seh-bleef
The check, please
dee reh-ken-ning ah-seh-bleef
A receipt, please
qwin-tah-se / stroh-key ah-seh-bleef
Enjoy your meal
Geniet jou ete
heh-net yoy ee-teh
When does it open?
Wanneer maak dit oop?
van-nee maak dit oo-ep
When does it close?
Wanneer maak dit toe?
van-nee maak dit too
Vuur! / Brand!
fuur / braandt
Get a doctor!
Kry ’n dokter
kray en dohk-ter
I am sick
Ek is siek
ak es sick
I don’t know my way around here
Ek ken nie my weg hier rond nie
ak knen nee may veh here rondt nee
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Over to you!
Which of these Afrikaans phrases do you find most useful? What other phrases or expressions would you like to know?
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.
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