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Afrikaans rules!

Week 23, Episode 46

After the scandalous revelation of Afrikaans' father, another breaking news follow. As it was recognized as a language only in 1925, Afrikaans turns to be the youngest language in the world! Now you know :)

Spoken mostly in Namibia (South Africa) and to a lesser extent in Botswana and Zimbabwe, the language itself is not that complicated. For example, the spelling is largely phonetic—you spell it as you say it, and the grammar rules are normally pretty straight-forward, with so very few exceptions.

Prepare yourself for another shock—the Afrikaans alphabet is identical to the English alphabet! Yes, like that of French! It means there are 26 letters, although letters c, q, x, z are rarely used, and with some rules for pronunciation you'll get to read Afrikaans right away.

Place an accent depending on which country the word was borrowed from. The choice is mostly between Germanic words—accent is on the first syllable—and Roman (read French) words—accent is on the last syllable. 

There are 3 written diacritics in Afrikaans: the circumflex (ˆ), the acute (') and the two dots, or trema (¨). The ˆ and ¨ are used to indicate a change in sound (and therefore, in meaning). The acute ' is used to indicate a stressed syllable.

Afrikaans has no verb conjugation; even better—in each tense all the verbs, including the verb "to be", have only one form for all the pronouns. How many tenses are we talking about? New wonder: just 3! Present, Past, and Future :) And forming them is, let me quote Timon, the meerkat (by the way, the word "meerkat", literally "lake cat", was borrowed into English from Afrikaans!), Hakuna Matata:

  • make no changes to a verb in the Present tense: Ek praatI speak,
  • use the particle het and attach the particle ge- to the "main" verb to form the Past tense: Ek het gepraat — I spoke
  • add the word sal before the "main" verb for the Future tense: Ek sal praat — I will speak.

Articles do exist in Afrikaans, but just two: indefinite 'n (eh) and definite die (dee). The article 'n is never written as a capital, even when it occurs at the beginning of a sentence, in which case the immediately following word is capitalized: 

'n Groot boom word geplant.

A big tree was planted.

A specific trait of Afrikaans is double negation. Not in English is translated by the double negative, nie ... nie (nee ... nee), in Afrikaans. It is important to place the first nie (or words like never, nothing, hardly, etc. instead) close to the verb which is negated and the second nie at the very end of the sentence. See here:

Die kinders wil slaap. The children want to sleep.

Die kinders wil nie slaap nie. — The children don't want to sleep.

There are a few occasions in Afrikaans where there is only one negative in a sentence, but these are exceptional uses. The general rule is to have two negatives.

As you can see, the Afrikaans grammar in many ways is simpler than that of the English language. That brings me to the ultimate boom of Afrikaans: I finally found a language easier than English! The only confusing part in its grammar may be the word order in subordinate clauses after certain prepositions, but it is managable and fast to get used to. All other rules are easy and clear!

Now, let's get to know Afrikaans words a bit better.

Sien jou later! (Seen yo lah-tehr) See you later!

" I am such a shocking article! Like me now! "

Discover more about Afrikaans and other languages at

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