Afrikaans, Dutch, or neither?

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What should I learn?

Dutch
8
28%
Afrikaans
9
31%
Neither
10
34%
Unsure
2
7%
 
Total votes: 29

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Deinonysus
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Afrikaans, Dutch, or neither?

Postby Deinonysus » Thu Jun 03, 2021 3:00 pm

For the past couple of weeks I've been studying Xhosa, a language mainly spoken in South Africa. This language is fairly difficult, especially the pronunciation, and it is quite different from English. Afrikaans is another language that is quite important in South Africa and some surrounding countries, and since it is closely related to English I would make much quicker progress (especially considering that I already speak German at a decent level). I have a few options and I was wondering if you could weigh in and help me decide.

Pros of learning Afrikaans:
  • I am much more interested in South Africa than in the Netherlands or Belgium.
  • The grammar is much easier (no gender, no conjugation for person).
  • It would help me to access more materials about South Africa and its languages (this would probably also happen if I learned Dutch, although obviously it would be a bit harder to understand Afrikaans if I don't study it directly).
  • Because of the scant resources, I would be less tempted to spend hours a day on Afrikaans than Dutch, so it may take less time away from Xhosa.

Pros of learning Dutch:
  • There are much better resources available.
  • I like the sound better (purer vowels, sounds a bit closer to German).
  • If I end up learning both languages, it would probably easier for me to think in Dutch and adapt the grammar to Afrikaans without thinking. If I'm used to Afrikaans and I want to try to fake my way through Dutch, I would have to guess about things like conjugation or gender.
  • My wife and I speak French and are likely to make many visits to France, so it is reasonable to expect that we might wander into Belgium or the Netherlands on a trip. I would also love to visit South Africa but visits will be much less likely and less frequent.
  • I am interested in Indonesia, and there may be some very interesting Dutch texts about Indonesia.

Pros/cons of learning neither:
  • Xhosa is a difficult language. Studying a second language on top of it would take time and focus away from it and make success less likely.
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Re: Afrikaans, Dutch, or neither?

Postby Le Baron » Thu Jun 03, 2021 5:15 pm

You seem to have summed up your pros/cons well. I can say one thing, it seems to me that Afrikaans speakers and Dutch speakers do still have trouble understanding one another. Reading is easier than speaking. When I was back in the UK for a holiday my grandmother (now passed) had some new neighbours and from the ladder where I was cleaning the windows I heard them speaking in the garden. It sounded like Dutch to me, so I addressed them in Dutch and it was going okay... for 20 seconds until it hit a bump.

I think we understood one another, but she had more trouble understanding me and my missus (who is Dutch) than the other way about. With familiarity the obstacles would probably fade away. This was only two people as a sample, so it may depend on the people and their ability to bridge any gap. I've watched YT videos in Afrikaans and it gets easier.

I think it's probably easier to learn Afrikaans from knowing Dutch, but others may disagree. I've never been to South Africa so I don't know how easy it is getting around using Dutch, but I assume it won't be a simple breeze. There are more (different) places you can use Dutch, but all in all it's a small language really.
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Re: Afrikaans, Dutch, or neither?

Postby iguanamon » Thu Jun 03, 2021 5:38 pm

Variants and offspring of a language have always intrigued me- I've learned two French creoles, but not French. In this case, I'd opt for Dutch. It will be easier with a multiple language-learning background to approach Afrikaans coming from the more complex Dutch than going from the more simplified Afrikaans to the more complex Dutch.

For me to go to the more complex French wouldn't be as hard because I've already learned two Romance languages to a high level. If all I had were English and Haitian Creole, I think it would be much harder for me to make the move, if this makes any sense. Anyway, good luck with whatever you choose.
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Re: Afrikaans, Dutch, or neither?

Postby alaart » Thu Jun 03, 2021 5:46 pm

I don't really know Afrikaans, but when I encountered it I was always amazed and it didn't seem too different, so I guess one could learn it quickly from Dutch. My Dutch friend claims he has no trouble understanding it.

One thing I can say is, that with your background in German Dutch is very very close and you should make progress very quickly, maybe quicker than in Afrikaans (I suspect that there would be some African influences that are not obvious at first).

On the other hand, I always decide with the heart, since motivation will be higher.

You can always learn both I guess? Problem solved. :lol:
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Re: Afrikaans, Dutch, or neither?

Postby Deinonysus » Thu Jun 03, 2021 6:05 pm

Le Baron wrote:You seem to have summed up your pros/cons well. I can say one thing, it seems to me that Afrikaans speakers and Dutch speakers do still have trouble understanding one another. Reading is easier than speaking. When I was back in the UK for a holiday my grandmother (now passed) had some new neighbours and from the ladder where I was cleaning the windows I heard them speaking in the garden. It sounded like Dutch to me, so I addressed them in Dutch and it was going okay... for 20 seconds until it hit a bump.

I think we understood one another, but she had more trouble understanding me and my missus (who is Dutch) than the other way about. With familiarity the obstacles would probably fade away. This was only two people as a sample, so it may depend on the people and their ability to bridge any gap. I've watched YT videos in Afrikaans and it gets easier.

I think it's probably easier to learn Afrikaans from knowing Dutch, but others may disagree. I've never been to South Africa so I don't know how easy it is getting around using Dutch, but I assume it won't be a simple breeze. There are more (different) places you can use Dutch, but all in all it's a small language really.

Interesting, thanks for the anecdote! That is in line with what I've heard so far; it seems to me that the languages aren't that different and the written languages are mutually intelligible but the accents are typically very different although it can vary by region. This strikes me as a similar situation to English vs. Scots.

iguanamon wrote:Variants and offspring of a language have always intrigued me- I've learned two French creoles, but not French. In this case, I'd opt for Dutch. It will be easier with a multiple language-learning background to approach Afrikaans coming from the more complex Dutch than going from the more simplified Afrikaans to the more complex Dutch.

For me to go to the more complex French wouldn't be as hard because I've already learned two Romance languages to a high level. If all I had were English and Haitian Creole, I think it would be much harder for me to make the move, if this makes any sense. Anyway, good luck with whatever you choose.

Fair enough! A bit off topic but I feel like at least half of French's grammar only exists in the written language. If they switched to a phonetic writing system French would instantly become the easiest Romance language.
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Re: Afrikaans, Dutch, or neither?

Postby Iversen » Thu Jun 03, 2021 7:34 pm

I have done my best to learn both Dutch (/Flemish) and Afrikaans, and I can't see any reason that native speakers of those languages should have any problems understanding each other. However you can speak any language in a way that only is comprehensible to your own family, and to have people with different, but related languages communicate both parts have to pronounce distinctly and not use too many purely local words. But still: If I can, then they should damned well also be able to do it.

The real problem might be that people speaking those languages rarely have the opportunity to listen to, let alone meet each another. There are some Youtube videos in both languages, but most of the Afrikaans I have heard came from one series called "Die tale wat ons praat". And during my three visits to South Africa I have not once found the opportunity to have a real conversation in Afrikaans. As for Dutch there are more varied sources available on the internet, but still nowhere what you have got for for instance German - but at least you can speak in Dutch to anyone in the Netherlands and half of Belgium, and if they don't understand it it's their own fault. My comprehension might be challenged if people chose to speak informally about their daily life, but hey, I'm a foreigner, so for native speakers there should be far less problems.

And then I think with some bitterness of the situation within the Nordic countries, where our languages are just as easily understandable across borders - it just takes a few hours of listening and a minimum of good will, but especially young people seem to have problems mustering even that infinitesimally tiny bit of good will - and instead they babble in English. And since practically all native speakers of Dutch and Afrikaans also speak English I fear that they also will succomb to the bad habit of speaking English to each other.
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Re: Afrikaans, Dutch, or neither?

Postby vonPeterhof » Thu Jun 03, 2021 7:40 pm

I think learning Dutch makes more sense from the long term view of polyglot goals, both due to the slightly easier transition from Dutch to Afrikaans than the other way round and due to the languages outside southern Africa that it may potentially give better access to. On the other hand, learning Afrikaans makes slightly more sense as a supplement to learning Xhosa in terms of learning more about South Africa in general and the Xhosa home areas in particular. While knowing Xhosa and Afrikaans equally well is probably not a prerequisite to effective communication with Xhosa speakers, regular contact with Afrikaans is a reality of life for many in Eastern and Western Cape, apparently to a much greater extent than, say, for Zulu speakers in KwaZulu-Natal. This was one of the reasons why I started learning Afrikaans shortly after getting into Setswana, but I probably wouldn't have done it if I didn't have at least some interest in Afrikaans itself (and for the record, I did initially plan on learning Dutch first, and am now lowkey dabbling in both, Afrikaans via Closemaster and Dutch via Duolingo :D ).
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Re: Afrikaans, Dutch, or neither?

Postby Le Baron » Thu Jun 03, 2021 8:25 pm

Deinonysus wrote:Interesting, thanks for the anecdote! That is in line with what I've heard so far; it seems to me that the languages aren't that different and the written languages are mutually intelligible but the accents are typically very different although it can vary by region. This strikes me as a similar situation to English vs. Scots.


I'd say there's quite some difference and that it is writing which is somewhat harder than listening and making guesses. I wouldn't want to exaggerate it, but it's there.
This is probably because Afrikaans can resemble older forms of spoken Dutch which people will recognise from the backs of their mind somehow. After all, the rendering of words in Afrikaans like 'prakties', 'funksie' and 'intonasie' actually sound like how some people say 'praktisch', 'functie' and 'intonatie' in NL, with that softer, gliding 's' rather than the 'ts' sound. Though in modern Afrikaans the 'u' is much less rounded.
I don't know the thorough history of Afrikaans, but you can tell it is a result of the codification of a particular dialect/dialects, with the dropping of letters and gliding you find in some regions. And also from a particular time. Which likely tells Dutch researchers something about older Dutch. I've never pursued this, so it would be interesting.

As a sample of the differences here are sentences from two sources: the old Linguaphone Afrikaans course and the 'modern' Colloquial Afrikaans course. I've pulled bits out for comparison reasons;

Afrikaans: waardeur hy dan in staat sal wees om...

Dutch: waardoor hij dan (vervolgens) in staat zal zijn om...

In the Dutch, if it was older it might have 'wezen' instead of 'zijn' and then you can see why and how the Afrikaans operates. Wezen as 'to be' still exists in Dutch and commonly. In wezen = in essence/essentially. Wees blij dat... = be happy that... Wees niet bang... = don't be afraid... In Afrikaans: Moenie bang wees nie. Which looks weird until you see that 'moenie' is moet niet = you musn't, with the nie working with the second nie as Afrikaans's double negative.

From 'Colloquial Afrikaans': Sê vir my waar bly jy = Vertel mij waar je woont = Tell me where you live.

It can be deduced that this could be rendered as: Zeg voor mij waar je blijft = Say for me where you're staying.

It's just a surface look, but you can see that even though there is a clear relation, even if historical in many cases, it isn't a case of just a few words and minor adjustment.
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Re: Afrikaans, Dutch, or neither?

Postby Xenops » Thu Jun 03, 2021 8:54 pm

Knowing what I know about you, you seem more interested in languages with exotic features (for curiosity's sake, and for constructed languages), and you also use languages for communicating with family or having access to culture/resources. Unless the pull towards learning more about South Africa is really strong, I don't see that Afrikaans nor Dutch satisfies any of the criteria. You are already have a strong level in German, so neither language will be "exotic". Neither language has the breadth of media like German and French do. So I voted "neither".

This is just my perception, I don't know you very well. ;)
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Re: Afrikaans, Dutch, or neither?

Postby Deinonysus » Fri Jun 04, 2021 1:48 am

Xenops wrote:Knowing what I know about you, you seem more interested in languages with exotic features (for curiosity's sake, and for constructed languages), and you also use languages for communicating with family or having access to culture/resources. Unless the pull towards learning more about South Africa is really strong, I don't see that Afrikaans nor Dutch satisfies any of the criteria. You are already have a strong level in German, so neither language will be "exotic". Neither language has the breadth of media like German and French do. So I voted "neither".

This is just my perception, I don't know you very well. ;)

That is very accurate! On the one hand I have the "cool" languages such as Xhosa, Navajo, or Inuktitut and on the other hand I have "useful" languages with a lot of materials and/or speakers like German, French, Spanish, or Arabic.

What is not yet apparent, because I haven't really gotten to this phase yet, is that my master plan for the set of "useful" languages is to establish an "anchor" language for each of the large language families and subfamilies, so for instance German is my Germanic anchor and French is my Romance anchor. Once I have gotten my anchor languages to a high level, I plan on using that ability to learn a bunch of related languages up to the point of diminishing returns. So Dutch will eventually fit well into my master plan, I just haven't reached phase 2 yet.

Xhosa actually fits nicely into both the "cool" and "useful" categories. Although Xhosa itself isn't a particularly large language and doesn't have a ton of literature or cinema or what have you, it is an excellent "anchor" language to the Bantu languages and if I can get it to a decent level, not only would I basically get Zulu and Ndebele for free (with other Nguni languages such as Swati to a lesser extent), but it would give me a decent bonus on nearby Bantu languages like Tswana and Shona, and at least some benefit to more distant Bantu languages like Swahili. Per Wikipedia, "The total number of Bantu speakers is in the hundreds of millions, estimated around 350 million in the mid-2010s (roughly 30% of the total population of Africa or roughly 5% of world population)." For someone who isn't me, Swahili would make a more logical anchor language, but Xhosa has the world's best tongue twisters.
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