Why learn Afrikaans? Just sommer!

If you’re looking for a new language to proudly put in the ‘skills’ section of your cv, try Afrikaans. I know it’s nowadays more popular to learn some exotic –and almost incomprehensible- language as Chinese, but after this article you’ll be convinced that Afrikaans is the most interesting and funny language you know. And if you’re not persuaded yet: it’s very easy to learn. But what is Afrikaans exactly and what do words like ‘gogga’ and ‘sommer’ mean?

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Afrikaans is spoken by about 10 million native speakers and is one of the official languages in South Africa and Namibia. Historically, it is a daughter language of Dutch and was often referred to as “Cape Dutch“. Indeed, when the Dutch colonists embarqued in the region of Capetown on their way to India in the 17th century, they brought a lot more than just their knowledge of wine: they brought their language too. Over the years, the Afrikaner people developed a language which is an outcome of several Dutch dialects spoken by the mainly Dutch settlers: het Afrikaans. However, it only became an official language in 1925. During the apartheid, Afrikaans was a major topic. The Afrikaners’ language is the main symbol of their sense of cultural distinctness. There is even an monument to Afrikaans – perhaps the only monument dedicated to a language anywhere in the world.


Afrikaans is such a beautiful, powerful and most of all easy language. Besides the easy sentence structure, grammar (only one determinate article) and tenses (they literally only have 3 tenses), the spelling is also almost purely phonetic. Now what makes Afrikaans so –I promise you- funny? Most of the words are very descriptive. And this can lead to some very entertaining examples:

  1. A vuurhoutjie is a match and means literally a small firewood
  2. A moltrein or litteraly ‘a train for the moles’ is a metro
  3. A kameelperd is the compound word of camel and horse. So what does the combination of a camel and a horse make? A giraffe!
  4. A duikweg translated litteraly would be a diving way and thus means tunnel
  5. A robot is not what you think it is. If an Afrikaner says ‘go left at the robots’, don’t go looking for an R2-D2. Robot just means traffic lights.
  6. A verkleurmannetjie is literally a little man who changes colours. So who can do that better than a chameleon?
  7. Sommer means ‘for no reason’ and is often used by the Afrikaner. Although there’s no perfect English equivalent, people adopt it quite easily and enthusiastically… “Why are you laughing? Just sommer!”
  8. A gogga is defintely not as cute as it sounds because it’s the translation for insect
  9. A wipmat or a bouncing mat would be a trampoline.
  10. Party: if you’d ask ‘where’s the party at?’ in Capetown, you’re probably not going to find a very good part, cause party in Afrikaans is a numeral and means some. So what if you really want to party? Makietie!

So, let’s all go to skool to learn some more Afrikaans! Totsiens!


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