Afrikaans and Dutch

Available on the Potchefstroom and Vanderbijlpark Campuses

The variety of Afrikaans that is spoken today originates from the Dutch, Malay and African languages spoken by early settlers in South Africa in the 1600s. Afrikaans is viewed by linguists as a young language. Its development began in the 17th century when Dutch colonists began to build a supply station for the Dutch East India Company at the Cape of Good Hope.

Afrikaans is considered a sister language of the Dutch language and was previously called Cape Dutch, as the settlers were concentrated in Cape Town. However, modern Afrikaans is in fact an accumulation of many other influences, which include other languages, both foreign and indigenous. The vocabulary for Afrikaans came from the Khoisan languages, German, Malay, Portuguese and several Bantu languages, with about a 90% to 95% similarity to the lexicon of Dutch.

Afrikaans is the third most widely spoken and understood language in South Africa and is also spoken in neighbouring countries like Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, eSwatini and Lesotho.

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Why study Afrikaans?

Afrikaans is a national asset, and is an important source of knowledge and empowerment. At the NWU we want everyone to share in the creation and enjoyment of the Afrikaans culture, specifically literature, and the development of the language as an intellectual instrument. There is a vast warehouse of indigenous knowledge on all subjects available in Afrikaans. By studying Afrikaans and Dutch, you acquire:

  • The necessary analytical and writing skills needed for many careers and situations in life.
  • The basis for success in any other university course.
  • The gateway to a multitude of career possibilities, such as journalism, language practice, teaching, creative writing and publishing, and the advertising and hospitality industry.
  • You can travel to many places and use your Afrikaans more often than you may expect. South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana all have Afrikaans communities and it will even be understood in places where people speak Dutch, like the Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname, and parts of the Caribbean. Afrikaans is also offered at universities in Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic, America, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
  • A deeper understanding of world history and culture.

Knowing Afrikaans will help you learn European languages like Dutch, German, French, and English!

Course information

Afrikaans and Dutch is an undergraduate course offered in the BA programme and runs from first-year to third-year level. Completion of third-year modules enables students meeting the minimum requirements to continue with honours-degree studies, lending admission to master’s-degree and doctoral studies in their chosen field of interest. Studying Afrikaans and Dutch enables students to thoroughly approach Afrikaans linguistic and literary topics from a scientific and scholarly point of view.

The most important literary works in Afrikaans are studied, as is a fair amount of Dutch literature. People who understand Afrikaans understand Dutch relatively easily, giving you access to a whole other culture and its literature. The history of literature and literary theories are applied for purposes of finding new and relevant interpretations of poems, novels and plays, and to establish how literature reflects society and our place in it.

The scientific study of speech representation and speech sounds (phonology and phonetics), word formation (morphology), meaning (semantics), sentence structure (syntax) and the historical development of Afrikaans and its relationship to other languages and the social context are covered in Historical Linguistics and Sociolinguistics.

Possible Career Opportunities

  • Teaching (when combined with a postgraduate teaching certificate/diploma)
  • Academia & research
  • Freelance writing
  • Translation & interpreting work
  • Language technology (when combined with language technology degree)
  • Communication & journalism
  • Broadcasting industry
  • Copywriting
  • Technical writing
  • Publishing
  • Lexicography
  • Specialised secretarial services
  • Proofreading
  • Language specialisation in government & industry sectors

Interesting links