How much time is needed to speak a new language, like Afrikaans, really well? What would be the recommended way to go from speaking a word, phrase or two to conducting full, intelligible conversations?

What Is Your Intention?

The answer to the above questions would lie in your reasons for wanting to learn Afrikaans in the first place. Your motivation for doing it must be crystal clear to you and that will keep you disciplined and on track with your studies.

Do you want to impress your boss by being able to converse well in meetings in an Afrikaans-oriented business?  Are you a front-line staff member of a company which has a large Afrikaans-speaking clientele? Do you want to understand the Afrikaans movies or soapies your friends are always talking about? Do you want to ace that next Afrikaans exam?

If you’ve answered Yes to any one of the above questions, you now know that an Afrikaans course, at some level, would be a necessity. How much time you spend on your studies would, of course be dependent on what your aim (or objective) is. The level you’re at and the one you want to attain are also factors which will influence the route you follow to advance your learning of the language.

Knowing that ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ is a good place to start. It is important that you are realistic about the goals you set yourself. They must be achievable, given your current level of proficiency in Afrikaans. You don’t want to ‘over-stretch’ yourself too soon, face difficulties and become disheartened. Once you have grown towards an intermediate level, you can then work towards refining your use and understanding of the language.

Be kind to yourself and judge your progress against the objectives you’ve set for yourself!

multi-coloured chairs in front of white screen
Learning Afrikaans takes focus, determination and discipline. | Source: Unsplash

Bear in mind to:

  • Extend your vocabulary (daily, if possible)
  • Practise speaking Afrikaans every day
  • Read as much Afrikaans content as possible. Books, newspapers, magazines ...
  • Watch Afrikaans soapies, series and movies
  • Evaluate how you’re progressing; and
  • Adjust your plan if necessary

Develop a Plan and Exercise Patience

Remember the Aesop fable about the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady progress is always better than frantic haste. Afrikaans itself has an idiom which says, “Agteros kom ook in die kraal.” Learning a new language is all about understanding and making yourself understood.

"A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else." - George Savile

If your mother tongue is far removed from the foreign language you wish to learn, it will require more time and greater effort on your part to learn it. Less time and effort will be required if the languages are closely linked, as are Afrikaans and Dutch.

Afrikaans is a language which many people regard as easy to learn, because it is uncomplicated and only has three tenses, viz. past, present and future.

There is also not  the issue of concord to be considered as is the case in English. In English, especially in the present tense, the number of the noun must agree with the number of the verb, e.g. He eats; They/We eat. Also, Afrikaans does not distinguish between additional tenses such as the past perfect or future perfect tense or the continuous tenses. The tenses are simple and straightforward as shown in the table below.

Tenses in Afrikaans:

sien   (see)het gesiensal sien
loop   (walk)het geloopsal loop

Your Starting Point Is Different

While Afrikaans may be an easy language for some people to learn, that may not apply to every person. We all have a different starting point and a different level of achievement or proficiency, even in our mother tongue. Some people are said to speak ‘the Queen’s English.’  This group would use the language at an elevated, advanced level, while others use English in a simple and functional way.

So, again, let me remind you that the level of proficiency you want to achieve is dependent on your end goal. Don’t lose sight of the prize: your objective. Your main challenge with Afrikaans will be pronunciation, especially if your mother tongue rounds words off in a soft manner as opposed to Afrikaans, which is a rougher, more guttural tongue.

‘Water’ is said with a very pronounced or "rolled" r at the end which a non-native may feel is accentuated out way too much.

Many learners of the language, who have not encountered Afrikaans at school or at home, will start off a low base where their knowledge base could be calibrated at 0 or 1 at best. Their need, in terms of support, would be totally different to someone  who completed high school Afrikaans and now wants to embark on tertiary studies in the language. Each one’s base, needs and final outcome is different, so the method they choose to follow will, of necessity, vary.

Superprof offers some great Afrikaans tutors who can support and guide learners at all levels.

Ability to Learn and Memory

In today’s modern world, many demands are placed on the time and resources of individuals. So, not everyone finds the time to set aside to improve themselves through study. This takes discipline, commitment, resources and planning. If you’re still at school and your parents are paying for your after-school Afrikaans tuition, you're in a great position. Some language learners are already working, and have to fit lessons in around their work commitments.

It comes down to clear focus, discipline and dogged determination to succeed! The learning must become your daily grind, like the road runners you see out at the crack of dawn. For them, “It’s just what I do!” Don’t think about doing it too much; just do it!

Here’s How to Learn Afrikaans Fast and Easy

boy and girls having conversation outside
One of the best ways to learn Afrikaans is by spending time with Afrikaans speaking people every day. | Source: Unsplash

One of the best ways to learn a language would be through immersion which encourages daily use. You would spend time with an Afrikaans-speaking person or family and be exposed to the language on a daily basis and have your use thereof corrected on an ongoing basis. A native speaker would be of immense help in the learning of, for instance, the Afrikaans alphabet.

Your interesting use, or misuse, of the language may initially be hilarious to your new ‘family’ and add an element of fun to your learning, relieving the tension you would experience in a more formal setting. One of their pieces of advice to you may be “Gaan slaan dit na.”

Here, an indispensable tool would be an Afrikaans dictionary. This may be bilingual or monolingual. The former being great if you’re searching for the Afrikaans equivalent of an English word, the latter useful when seeking the definition of an Afrikaans word. Of course, nowadays, you also will have access to an electronic version of a dictionary online.

Discover the Right Method to Learn Afrikaans

Ever heard the saying ‘less is more’? It applies directly to the learning of a new language. You may rush and try to learn a lot too soon and so neglect the quality of your learning, which is in fact key! The ability of a well-qualified to tutor to guide you through, especially, the initial phases - the foundation - of your studies, is priceless. He or she will assess the level you’re at and help you chart your course through unknown territory.

multicoloured scrabble tiles
Your main challenge with Afrikaans is likely to be pronunciation rather than grammar. | Source: Unsplash

There are many slants or angles from which to approach the subject of study. There is no one right way. The best one is the one that works for you and the type of learner you are. One thing is sure: you must be disciplined, work at your studies daily and find a good tutor who will soon have you tasting sweet success!

Get an Afrikaans Tutor

Afrikaans lessons can take many forms. You can engage with a tutor in a classroom session, via the Internet or in one-on-one sessions in your own home or a tutor’s. The options are really a matter of personal choice and what is convenient, comfortable or affordable to you.

In-home lessons are a good way to keep you motivated and on track. They would also give the parents of younger learners a great sense of security. Parents would also be able to monitor how their off-spring are doing if the lessons are online.

You have now reached the point where you wonder, “How do I select the right Afrikaans tutor?

Superprof is a click away. They have Afrikaans tutors available to you throughout South Africa. Some tutors will travel to your home, others work online only and then there are those who could do either. Here you have flexibility and can compare your tutor against others from the secure environment of your own home. You can base your decision on availability, price, experience and location. Give the Superprof website a visit. You will not be sorry! Guaranteed!

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Career teacher turned writer. Passionate about family, running, and the great outdoors.