Can Dutch People Understand Afrikaans?

dutch people understand afrikaans

Can Dutch People Understand Afrikaans?

Can Dutch People Understand Afrikaans?

(Last Updated On: December 1, 2023)


Afrikaans, spoken by at least 6 million people in South Africa, is a West Germanic language related to Dutch and German. However, not all Dutch speakers can understand Afrikaans and vice versa due to the differences in vocabulary and pronunciation between the two languages. As a South African city with a rich history, Cape Town played a pivotal role in shaping language policies in the Cape Colony, contributing to the development and preservation of Afrikaans as an essential part of South Africa’s linguistic heritage. Dutch speakers often complain that Afrikaans sounds like someone is drunk and too lazy to say some words correctly. Most Dutch speakers are bi-lingual, with almost 5 million speaking Dutch as a second language. You can tell whether someone understands Afrikaans or not if you talk to them in Dutch or Afrikaans. The “Kaap van Goeie Hoop” (Cape of Good Hope) boasts stunning landscapes and rich biodiversity, making it a captivating destination with its unique Afrikaans pronunciation echoing the coastal beauty.

Language Barriers

Though they’re both considered part of Low German, a dialect that uses intelligible grammar, linguists believe there are some significant differences between Afrikaans and Dutch. Because of its complex system of inflection, it’s thought that Afrikaans are somewhat more difficult for native speakers of Dutch to learn than vice versa. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

In the 20th century, the Afrikaans language played a crucial role in the cultural identity of white South Africans, evolving from a dialect into a standardized language that reflected the region’s unique heritage and linguistic diversity.

Intelligibility Between Dutch And Afrikaans

Dutch and Afrikaans are two closely related languages spoken in South Africa. They share many similarities, but there is also a lot of unintelligible vocabulary between them.

The Dutch language has been spoken in South Africa since 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck arrived at Cape Town as Governor-General for the Dutch East India Company (VOC). The first Afrikaans book was published in 1825, and today, Afrikaans is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. About 7 million people are estimated to speak Afrikaans as their mother tongue.

The following table shows some examples of common words that have different meanings in Afrikaans and Dutch:

AfrikaansDutchDoorDasEenbodA door is an opening, such as a window or door. In Afrikaans, this word means “a hole.” Een bode is a small hole, such as a hole in a wall. A doos is a box that is used to store things. In Afrikaans, it means “a bag.” EnkeleBoekEnkleinBokIn Afrikaans, enkele means “few”. Boek means “book.” Enklein means “small book.”

comparison afrikaans and dutch
afrikaans vs dutch

The Differences Between Dutch and Afrikaans

In 1961, South Africa became a republic, and the Afrikaans language included Dutch, which was later dropped in 1984. The Netherlands and South Africa share a colonial history and an official language, but that’s about it. The two languages bear little resemblance, which poses a significant problem for individuals who make regular cross-continental trips. Research on both languages can help you make sense of conversations between Dutch and Afrikaans speakers. Afrikaans is interesting because it is a South African language with Dutch roots. Here are some facts to keep in mind:

•Dutch is much more closely related to German than Afrikaans is. Many people have difficulty distinguishing between German and Dutch if they speak them quickly. The Dutch language is also similar enough to English that most English speakers should be able to understand written texts with minimal effort. The mutual intelligibility is more apparent in the written rather than the spoken form of Afrikaans and Dutch.

To a lesser extent, the Dutch government has recognized Afrikaans as a valuable medium of instruction in the Northern Cape, highlighting its importance in education and contributing to the region’s linguistic diversity.

Is it true that everyone in Holland speaks English?

Most people in Holland speak English but are much better at speaking Dutch. While many people living in other countries claim that they do not need to learn another language because everyone speaks English, it might not be as simple in your case. When visiting other countries that do not speak your native tongue, a little effort can go a long way. Understanding how to tell a new language will help you communicate and connect with others, even if it’s just basic conversation.

• Afrikaans’ closest relative is Malay, a language spoken in Malaysia and Indonesia. Most Afrikaans words are derived from Malay roots; some even sound like their Malay counterparts. For example, make means easy in both languages.

•Afrikaners—the descendants of early Dutch settlers in South Africa—still speak a version of their ancestral tongue known as Cape Dutch or Boerstaal. Many older Afrikaans speakers can understand some of these words, but they’re rarely used in modern-day conversation. English speaker often finds that the spelling of terms in Afrikaans is intuitive, and words can usually be sounded out to discover the proper pronunciation.

•Dutch and Afrikaans share several cognates, which are words that sound similar to one another even though they have different spellings and meanings. Hollandic is considered the daughter language of Dutch.

Origin Of Afrikaans

Afrikaans belong to the Indo-European language family’s West Germanic branch, along with English. The language is generally used in South Africa and Namibia. It is also spoken in Zimbabwe and Botswana, but not extensively. About 13.5% of South Africa’s population are native speakers of Afrikaans. The origin of Africans in South Africa has a deep connection to the rich culture and history of this beautiful country, where the sounds of Afrikaans pronunciation reflect the heritage of a diverse society.

In the 15th century, Afrikaans began to emerge as a distinct standard language, and its influence extended beyond South Africa, making it a crucial cultural link for white South Africans in both the country’s Western Cape and Eastern Cape regions.

Afrikaans developed from Hollandic (Hollands), a vernacular of the Dutch language spoken in South Holland. Hollandic was the primary language of the Dutch settlers in the country. It evolved through the 18th century.

It is considered a daughter of the Dutch language and was previously called Cape Dutch because the settlers were concentrated in Cape Town. Most of the language evolved from the combination of Hollands and Dutch Afrikaans. Many Colored and Afrikaners in South Africa spoke Afrikaans as their first language.

The vocabulary of Afrikaans comprises various adopted words. Some came from the Khoisan languages, German, Malay, Portuguese, and several Bantu languages, with about 90% to 95% derived from Dutch.

In the 21st century, language policies along the Orange River in South Africa reflect the ongoing efforts by the Dutch government to preserve and promote Afrikaans, showcasing its enduring significance and cultural richness in the region.

dutch and afrikaans

So Can Dutch Understand Afrikaans?

To a certain extent, yes. The languages are similar enough to understand most words and phrases if you were exposed to them enough.  That said, there’s an important distinction between understanding the language and being able to speak it yourself. When you learn a new language as an adult, your brain has to rewire itself for you to learn how to use your mouth muscles differently; because of that, native speakers of Afrikaans and Dutch can usually only pick up on individual words or short phrases.

Is Afrikaans in danger of dying out?

Meyrick Tree, also 24, a waiter and native Afrikaans speaker from Johannesburg, studied Afrikaans literature at university and suggests there may be a fundamental difference of opinion in the way people see the future of the language. “For people in Orania, the role of Afrikaners is to preserve the past.

Meyrick Tree, also 24, a waiter and native Afrikaans speaker from Johannesburg, studied Afrikaans literature at university and suggests there may be a fundamental difference of opinion in the way people see the future of the language. “For people in Orania, the role of Afrikaners is to preserve the past.

Afrikaans vs. Dutch

The Afrikaans language is a South African language spoken by about 10 million people. It is the official language of the Republic of South Africa and is also used in Namibia and Botswana. The Afrikaans language was initially based on Dutch, and it shares many similarities with other Germanic languages such as English, German, and Frisian.

The Afrikaans language is one of the few European languages that have survived colonialism without losing its identity. Today, Afrikaans is still widely spoken in South Africa, particularly in Cape Town, where it is known as Boerdeutsch. In addition, it is also spoken in Namibia and Botswana.

The grammatical gender of words in Afrikaans, much like in Dutch and other Germanic languages, plays a significant role in the language’s structure. Unlike some languages in South America, where grammatical gender often aligns with biological gender, Afrikaans, similar to Dutch, assigns gender to nouns without a strict correlation to natural gender. This system of grammatical gender in Afrikaans differs from that in languages spoken in South America.

In the 19th century, Afrikaans began to emerge as a distinct language from Dutch in South Africa, reflecting the unique linguistic and cultural developments of the time. By the 20th century, Afrikaans had evolved into a fully-fledged language with its own identity, separate from its Dutch roots, marking a significant linguistic transformation in the region.

In contrast, the Dutch language originated in the Low Countries region of northern Europe, and it is spoken in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and parts of Germany. The Dutch language is closely related to Flemish, but it differs significantly from French and German.

Dutch is also spoken in Suriname, Indonesia, Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten, and the Caribbean island of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Dutch is not a minority language in any of these countries. However, the number of Dutch people is declining in these places due to immigration.

similarities afrikaans and dutch

The Afrikaanse Taalunie (ATU)

The Afrikaanse Taalunie (ATUN), also known as the Afrikaanse Taalunie, holds a pivotal role in safeguarding and nurturing the essence of the Afrikaans language. Established with the aim of preserving the marked forms of Afrikaans, this national organization works relentlessly to ensure its recognition and continuation. The ATUN collaborates extensively with governmental bodies to advocate for the inclusion of Afrikaans as a prominent medium of instruction in educational institutions across Africa.

The efforts of the Afrikaanse Taalunie are widely recognized by entities like the NRC Handelsblad, a renowned Dutch newspaper, which has highlighted the invaluable contributions of individuals like Prys Jones, a dedicated linguist and scholar committed to the preservation and propagation of Afrikaans. Prys Jones’s tireless endeavors in the field of language advocacy have significantly contributed to the understanding and appreciation of Afrikaans as a vibrant and culturally significant language.

Afrikaans, stemming from its roots in 17th-century Dutch, has undergone a remarkable evolution over centuries, shaping its distinct identity primarily within South Africa and parts of Namibia. Its resilience owes much to the efforts of organizations like the Afrikaanse Taalunie, which tirelessly strive to ensure its resilience and relevance in contemporary society. The ATUN’s collaboration with the African government underscores its commitment to preserving the heritage and inclusivity of Afrikaans, a sentiment echoed even in the country’s national anthem.

The diverse and intricate history of Afrikaans is deeply woven into the fabric of South Africa’s cultural tapestry. It is a language that bridges communities, with its speakers encompassing a spectrum of ethnicities, including the colored South Africans—a group with a rich ancestry blending indigenous Xhosa and Khoisan roots with influences from European colonizers and individuals forcibly brought to the region. Nelson Mandela himself recognized the power of language, emphasizing the importance of linguistic connection: “If you speak to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head.”

Through the collaborative efforts of organizations like the Afrikaanse Taalunie, linguists like Prys Jones, and the collective appreciation for its diverse origins, Afrikaans continues to thrive as a language deeply embedded in the cultural identity of the region.

Linguistic differences between Dutch and Afrikaans

There are many linguistic differences between Dutch and Afrikaans, but the three most notable ones are the differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. Although Afrikaans is considered a daughter language of Dutch, the two languages are now quite different.

One of the most significant differences between Dutch and Afrikaans is their pronunciation. Afrikaans has undergone many changes in pronunciation since it split from Dutch. For example, Afrikaans has lost the Dutch guttural sound known as the “ch” sound and has replaced it with a more throaty sound. Additionally, Afrikaans has a lot of vowel sounds that Dutch does not have, and vice versa.

Another big difference between Dutch and Afrikaans is in their vocabulary. Although both languages have many words in common, many words are unique to each language. For example, Afrikaans has borrowed many words from other languages, such as Malay, Portuguese, and Khoisan languages, that Dutch has not. Additionally, many words in Dutch have no direct translation in Afrikaans, and vice versa.

Acknowledging the linguistic differences between Dutch and Afrikaans, various renowned publishing houses like Cambridge University Press, Amsterdam University Press, John Benjamins Publishing Company, and Walter de Gruyter contribute to educational resources by providing valuable materials that help students navigate the nuances of language, recognizing Afrikaans as a distinct medium of instruction and reinforcing its role as the unique voice of South Africa alongside Standard Dutch. TheWayback Machine serves as a digital archive, preserving linguistic works that showcase the evolution and divergence of these languages over time.

There are also many differences between Dutch and Afrikaans in terms of grammar. For example, Afrikaans has dropped the use of the infinitive and has replaced it with the gerund. Additionally, Afrikaans has a different word order than Dutch and uses different pronouns and verb tenses. These grammatical differences can make it quite tricky for speakers of one language to understand speakers of the other.

In conclusion, the comparison of Afrikaans and Dutch reveals numerous linguistic differences. These distinctions can present challenges for speakers of one language when trying to understand those speaking the other. However, with some effort and willingness, it is entirely possible to bridge these differences and achieve effective communication.


Is it easy to learn Afrikaans if you speak Dutch?

It depends on your level of proficiency in Dutch. If you are conversational in Dutch, you should find Afrikaans relatively easy to pick up. But if you are fluent in Dutch, you may need to spend some time before you start studying Afrikaans.

How similar is Afrikaans to Dutch?

Afrikaans and Dutch are both Germanic languages. They share a common ancestor, Proto-Germanic, which was spoken in the area now in Germany and parts of Scandinavia sometime around 300 BC. The two languages diverged sometime around the year 500 AD.

Afrikaans and Dutch are closely related because they were once part of the same language group. This means that the two languages share many similarities. Afrikaans and Dutch share about 90% of their vocabulary.

Can Dutch and Afrikaans speakers understand each other?

Even though Afrikaans and Dutch are two separate languages, they are still very close relatives. Therefore, most people who speak Afrikaans will be able to understand Dutch.

However, there are certain words that only native speakers of Afrikaans or Dutch would understand. For example, the term “klein” (minor) in Afrikaans and “klein’ (small) in Dutch mean something completely different. Similarly, the word “gebruik” (use) in Afrikaans means “to use,” while the word “gebracht” (brought) in Dutch means “to bring.”

What Are Some Famous Dutch People?

There have been several famous Dutch people throughout time. Here are some of them:

  1. Willem-Alexander – Prince of Orange (b. 1982) – Heir to the throne of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
  2. Queen Beatrix (1928–2013) – Former queen of the Netherlands. She was married to King Willem-Alexander.
  3. Princess Máxima (born 1988) – She is the current heir to the Dutch throne.
  4. Princess Margriet (1925–2015) – She was the first wife of Queen Juliana.
  5. Prince Bernhard van Oranje Nassau (1892–1980) – First cousin of Queen Wilhelmina.
  6. Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands (b. 1960) – He is the son of Princess Irene and Prince Claus.
  7. Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands (b 1950) – She is the daughter of Prince Bernhard.
  8. Princess Christina of Sweden (b. 1961) – She is the eldest child of Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel.
  9. Princess Astrid of Norway (b. 1975) – She is the youngest child of Crown Prince Haakon.
Questions? Get in touch 24/7

buy clomid online
where can i buy clomid online
Request quote
[brb_collection id="37019"]