Official Start of Afrikaans Language Challenge

Written by Dyami Millarson

Today is a beautiful Saturday; the sun is shining, there is white snow outside which is reflecting beams of sunlight into our living room making it brighter than usual and this joyful weather at the beginning of the year seems an excellent opportunity for announcing the beginning of something new.

The view from the window of our living room on Saturday 13 February 2021.

After careful deliberation at the beginning of this year about learning Afrikaans, I have decided to go for it. This article marks the official beginning of my Afrikaans language challenge. In my article celebrating the fact that our blog had reached 3,500 WordPress followers, I alluded to the potential of comparing Afrikaans and the Frisian languages. I needed some time to prepare for my Afrikaans language challenge because I wanted to carefully consider the planning of my language challenge as well as collect all the materials that I will be using for my language challenge. There is the following saying in Frisian: In goed begjin is in daalder wurdich. It means literally: A good start is worth a dollar. Another variant of this saying in Frisian goes as follows: In goed begjin is de helte fan it wurk. This may be translated as: A good start is 50% of all the work. Both variants of this saying exist in Dutch as well. In any case, this saying is a good reflection of the traditional Frisian/Dutch work ethic and it offers an explanation for why I put so much thought and effort into the preparation for my Afrikaans language challenge.

My three main questions for myself about the Afrikaans language challenge were as follows: (1) why do I want to learn Afrikaans, (2) what do I need or at least what materials can I find for learning Afrikaans and (3) for how long will I be studying Afrikaans intensively? While others have focused on studying the connection between Dutch and Frisian and the connection between Afrikaans and Dutch, the connection between Afrikaans and Frisian has not been focused on that much. Comparing Frisian and Afrikaans has been done en passant, but it has not been made the main focus of research efforts. Pairing the Frisian languages and Afrikaans should be at least as interesting as pairing Dutch and Frisian or Dutch and Afrikaans. I deem it unfortunate that this pair has been overlooked for so long and I aim to make my contributions to correcting that. The linguistic comparison between Afrikaans and the Frisian languages, particularly those of the Netherlands, will be one of the research interests of Foundation Operation X going forward. The first step in the right direction for correcting the linguistic error of overlooking the Afrikaans-Frisian pairing will definitely be the intensive study of the Afrikaans language over the course of a few months. Extensive knowledge of Afrikaans is, in my estimation, a prerequisite for the comparative study of Afrikaans and the Frisian languages.

These are the materials that I will be using for studying Afrikaans:

  • A Grammar of Afrikaans (1993) by Bruce C. Donaldson
  • Colloquial Afrikaans (2000) by Bruce Donaldson
  • Teach Yourself Afrikaans (2010) by Lydia McDermott

My Afrikaans language challenge will last 2-3 months. The intended outcome of my Afrikaans language challenge is that I will be able to easily write articles in Afrikaans and speak the language fluently, and therefore the success of my language challenge can be measured or assessed by the degree of my ability to speak and write the language. I have always aimed to become like a native speaker as fast as possible; whenever I undertake a language challenge, I want to integrate as fast as possible with the community of speakers that uses the target language in their daily lives. My wish is to make writing and speaking Afrikaans just as natural to me as Dutch and any of the Frisian languages.

44 comments

  1. I am, I confess a tad ambivalent about Afrikaans as a language. I’m English but my father was a lecturer at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland during the 1970s, and I was sent to a boarding school in South Africa for 3 years. Afrikaans was a compulsory subject – fail and you couldn’t matriculate. It was also inextricably linked with the ruling Nationalist Party and the apartheid regime and learning it objectively as just another language was almost impossible. I did not have a happy time at that school. I rebelled massively and eventually got to go to a school in Swaziland and do A’ levels.

    I found myself picking up bits of Russian recently when working alongside Latvians, Lithuanians Poles and Ukrainians, but they all hated Russian for similar reasons I hated Afrikaans even though it was the only language they shared. I never have managed to learn a second language and have a great deal of admiration for any one who has.

    I understand 50 years on times have changed, and appreciate your linguistic reasons for learning Afrikaans so beste wense with your endeavours!

    Liked by 4 people

    • It is unfortunate that you had such a negative exposure to the language and couldn’t learn it on your own terms!

      Compulsory education itself is a strange thing. Legally speaking, education is a human right and I do not think there is any reason to disagree with that because learning in life is an adaptive strategy, but making it compulsory doesn’t seem to be a protection of one’s human rights.

      Like compulsory education, compulsory subjects aren’t exactly positive promotions of the things they purport to protect. Many local languages have died thanks to the national language being made compulsory while local languages were/are banned from schools.

      From a research point of view, researchers have been interested in the Dutch-Afrikaans connection, but since Frisian languages are also spoken in the Netherlands and since these languages are closely related to Dutch thanks to existing in proximity to Dutch, the Frisian-Afrikaans connection should not be overlooked.

      I wish you all the best with learning Russian, I might learn Russian myself one day as well, I find it a very intriguing language and despite the animosity and ambivalent feelings towards Russian due to its inextricable ties with the Soviet regime, there is certainly great potential in being able to communicate with a huge amount of different peoples. One day the Russian language may hold less sway over Eastern Europe, but it is today still very much an important lingua franca in the East. Russian is particularly interesting for me because it will give me access to many minority languages that are spoken in Russian-speaking countries.

      I hope you will stay interested in our language-learning endeavours and if you want to share your language-learning methods or questions with us, please do so because we are very eager to listen to the things you might wish to share with us!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting! I grew up in a home of a first generation American Armenian and married a Paraguayan native Spanish speaking engineer and am very ashamed to say I only recognize a few words in each language! Blessings on your journey of learning !

    Liked by 2 people

  3. All the best in learning Afrikaans. It’s my mother tongue, and even though I married an English man, I speak Afrikaans to our kids, and 50/50 Afrikaans and English with my husband. We’re currently living in India for almost 4 years now, and their languages are very difficult to learn, so I know maybe 5 Hindi words…. Afrikaans is a beautiful language, and with you knowing or speaking Dutch ( from what I gathered) it will be quite easy, my grandparents were Dutch, so I can understand it, and my kids are also learning Dutch at the moment.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I would encourage you to write to me in Afrikaans because you may aid my efforts of studying the language in doing so! Many speakers of Frisian who have a Dutch-speaking spouse choose to speak Frisian to their kids. Multilingualism is something they will certainly benefit from later in life. Others who didn’t grow up multilingually usually experience this as a loss later in life, because they would have liked to be able to speak the languages of their parents. I will do my best to learn Afrikaans as fast as possible. Ek wil in Afrikaans aan jou skryf. (My vocabulary is very limited at this point even though it is already better than yesterday, I have been studying Afrikaans vocabulary diligently for this reason, otherwise I will stay forever unable to express myself.) I hope to be able to write in Afrikaans to you soon!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sal beslis in Afrikaans terug skryf. Dit sal makliker gaan hoe meer jy daaraan blootgestel word. Ek is trots Afrikaans en so ook my kinders, alhoewel my jongste net Engels praat, omdat ons vir 4 jaar nou in Indië bly, was hy net aan Engels blootgestel deur familie hier, en alles om ons is Engels… En Sidra my familie kontak maak, praat hul met him Engels omdat hy so met hulle praat 🤦🏻‍♀️. Hy verstaan 100% Afrikaans, weier net om dit te praat 😂. Sterkte vir jou en mag alles goed gaan met die nuwe taal wat jy leer!

        Like

    • Your support means a lot to me! I believe lifelong self-improvement is very important, our blog is essentially a self-improvement blog. Saving languages is not just about helping others, but it is also about improving ourselves, because we can’t help others properly if we do not improve ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Very interesting! I dabbled with Afrikaans a bit (American and my native language is English). I feel more “affection” for it than Dutch, for as a foreign visitor in the Netherlands, I picked up on the pressures and the sometimes vicious biases leveled against Frisian. Anyways, I noticed a few shared words between Frisian and Afrikaans that did not appear to exist in Dutch… but, I’ll again emphasize the word “dabbled” here. 🙂 Very curious about what you will discover! Sterkte!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hello, ek is Baie bly om te hoor van jou nuus. Dit maak my gelukkig om te hoor omdat ek ‘n tweede taal Afrikaans sprekende vrou is. My eerste taal is Engels. Ek het nie ‘n kaans om Afrikaans te praat of te skryf vir 40 jaar. My problem is… Ek kan nie my grammartika goed onthou nie. Jy is my aanspooring! Ek gaan ook probeer Afrikaans te leer. Ek wens jou die allerbester. 💪😀👌

    Liked by 5 people

    • Afrikaans is ‘n pragtige taal, dankie vir hierdie vriendelike boodskap! We can surely inspire each other by studying Afrikaans diligently. 😀 Please keep writing in Afrikaans, it is very good for me as well!

      Like

  6. Alles van die beste met jou Afrikaans (all the best with your Afrikaans) I’m a South African, grew up in the Apartheid days in South Africa and did Afrikaans at school as my 1st language. Like Ryepress mentioned, unfortunately the Afrikaans language had its negative connotation because it was associated with the Apartheid government. I think it’s great that you learning Afrikaans, I’m fluent in English and Afrikaans and are looking forward to your blog on Afrikaans and the Frisian language connection. I must admit that I don’t know anything about Frisian and Afrikaans connection, thank you for highlighting this. I’m looking forward to learning more 😊

    Liked by 5 people

    • You may write to me in Afrikaans from now on, I will try my best to understand what you are saying. Afrikaans has received a bad rep because it is perceived as an oppressor language, basically the language of some stubbornly oppressive boers. I think that is why it is vital to study it objectively, it might dispel quite a few myths about the language itself.

      Afrikaans is a language that is used for expressing people’s emotions of love, mourning the death of a loved one, expressing joy about marriage, congratulating a woman on the successful delivery of her newborn; it is a language in which entire lives have been lived and are still being lived, and so it is not a one-dimensional, black-and-white reality that defines Afrikaans as a language, it is a language that is associated with a complete lifestyle encompassing the birth, marriage and death of its speakers and whilst representing the entire life cycle of its speakers, we should study it as the complex entity that it is and appreciate it for all its aspects which reflect the complexity of the lives of Afrikaans speakers.

      Furthermore, our objective work may help to divorce Afrikaans from politics and help people, including ourselves, to appreciate the language based on its own merits. We do not talk about politics here and we will keep our blog avowedly apolitical; this is the consensus of our team because we do not want to make this blog a political battlefield. I decided to take on Afrikaans fully knowing that it is a diplomatic minefield, but I have navigated such minefields before; I can handle it. Somewhat similarly to Afrikaans, Frisian has received a bad rep in the Netherlands because it is perceived as the language of a bunch of stubborn farmers or “eigenwijze boeren” as we would say in Dutch (by the way, Frisian being a single language is an outdated idea which is unfortunately held on to tenaciously and our research work is aimed at correcting that wrong perspective on Frisian, which is actually a set of distinct languages).

      Liked by 4 people

      • Ek waardeer jou aanmerkings… I revert to English because I struggle to express this… I hope it will be a restorative experience and process for many people. I look forward to the journey with much hope and trust.

        Like

  7. Ek waardeer en verstaan jou doel baie goed, dankie. Dis nie baie gemaklik om in Afrikaans to komminikeer nie, want al hoewel Afrikaans een van my tale is, skryf en praat ek net in Engels. So, ek kyk uit om verder te leer saam met jou. Dankie weereens.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I appreciate your attitude towards studying languages. You are very serious about your projects. You make a careful plan for yourself to achieve your goals. Every step is needed and reasonable. You did think about it very clearly. Therefore I can see that you put lots of efforts in it. Hope you can learn more and more.
    Keep it up, best wishes!
    Panda~

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ek is trots Afrikaans en dit was lekker om te lees van jou voorbereidings vir hierdie studie. Ek wens jou alles van die beste toe!
    En ek is baie beindruk dat jy jouself so ‘n kort tydjie gun (2-3 maande) om Afrikaans te bemeester … dit sal my Baie lank neem om Frisian of selfs Nederlands aan te leer.
    Ek gaan jou studies met groot belangstelling volg 👍🏻.

    Liked by 1 person

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