How do you conduct a conversation with someone in Afrikaans? Knowledge of Afrikaans is vital if you live in South Africa and interact with Afrikaans-speakers on a daily basis. Your intention may be to communicate with your neighbours, the local shopkeeper or bank assistant. Whatever your reason, you will want to learn how to speak in Afrikaans. What will then help you advance in Afrikaans?
The first thing about hearing any foreign language is the way that it sounds. You may think that you sound weird when speaking Afrikaans, but what is of over-riding importance is that you are able to make others understand what you are saying. Below we offer some tips to make you better at Afrikaans conversation.
A Conversation in Afrikaans: A Definition
Conversation takes place on a daily basis between at least two people. This may include you chatting to passers-by, where the interaction may be light, or talking to a family member or a friend in a more in-depth or serious way. In essence, conversations are the same no matter which language is being spoken. What does change, however, are the words utilised and how they are expressed.
A conversation in Afrikaans is about carrying across news or ideas to someone else, essentially, communication. We communicate with people from the moment we rise, if we don’t live alone, to the moment we close our eyes at night. You greet those you’re sharing living space with, negotiate the use of the bathroom, offer to make breakfast or simply coffee for them, etc. You can, of course, use some of these opportunities to practise your speaking in Afrikaans. As you head out of the door, you will find many other moments where having a conversation with others in Afrikaans may start to become pleasant and easier the more you use it.
These interactions are also a great way for you to practise your use of Afrikaans, its pronunciation and idiom.
The Gestures of Conversation
It doesn’t matter who you’re having a conversation with, it is important to be courteous and polite.
Many Afrikaans-speakers, other than the ‘rough diamonds’, are generally very courteous and polite people who speak in a very respectful way. Conversations are conducted for the same reasons the world over. However, the way ideas are carried over can be very different, depending on where in the world you find yourself.
Although most conversation is regarded as being verbal, body language is also of vital importance. If you, for instance, greet someone saying, “Hi. It is nice to meet you.” while looking the person up and down, you’re definitely sending out a signal that is at odds with what you are saying.
The way you use your body in conversations, holds or gives shape to your words as a frame does a picture. It contributes to its overall meaning and the other person’s understanding of your message or intentions.
Conversing with others in Afrikaans will improve your use of the language and accelerate the speed at which you learn it. First, it is important to be aware of words commonly used when people speak Afrikaans.
Meeting New People
The tips below are a guide for when you’re meeting someone for the first time.
- Customarily, Afrikaans-speakers greet one another in the following ways: “Goeie môre”, “Goeie middag” or Goeie naand”. Some also use the shortened versions: “Môre”, “Middag” or “Naand”. When leaving they may say “Tot siens.”
- The person may respond with “Aangename kennis” or “Bly te kenne”, the later meaning “Pleased to meet you”.
- To introduce yourself, you may say, “My naam is …” or “Ek is …”.
- If the person does not introduce him- or herself, ask him or her “Wat is jou naam?” or “ Hoe heet jy?”
- To enquire as to their health, you can ask, “Hoe gaan dit?”
- The person may respond in one of the following ways: “Dit gaan baie goed, dankie.” or “Goed, dankie.”
- A listener, on hearing your accent, may ask you “Van waar is jy?” or may say “Jy’s nie van hier rond nie, né? You can respond by saying “Ek is van … (mention your city or country)”.
- When talking about your job, you could say “Ek werk as ‘n ….” or “Ek is ‘n …. vir …”
- To enquire as to what they do, you could ask “Wat doen jy?”
- Referring to your family, you could offer “Ek het ‘n broer/ suster en ek is die jongste/ oudste." To enquire about them, you could ask, “Wat van jou?”
- To enquire about their past-times. You could enquire “Het jy enige stokperdjies?” or you could ask “Wat doen jy in jou vrye tyd?”
- Your response to these could be “Ek gaan graag met vriende uit” or “Ek hou van sokker kyk/ speel en rolprente kyk.
These are great phrases to have access to when you’re communicating with strangers or even those who are close to you. Knowing some of these will help to ease your way into a conversation and contribute to your becoming increasingly confident when contemplating new encounters with strangers.
Words and Phrases Frequently Used in Informal Conversations
A wonderful idea to help you advance your proficiency in Afrikaans, is to engage in what you can call Afrikaans nights. On a night like this, you engage with others only through the medium of Afrikaans. This activity has numerous benefits for you, including using the language as it is spoken in real-life situations, expanding your vocabulary, hearing yourself speak the language, perceiving others reception of your attempts at the language and their support for you and your progress.
The way a language is spoken by native speakers, is not always ‘textbook quality’. What follows are phrases that can facilitate conversations, to the point where you may be regarded as someone who is fluent in Afrikaans.
- Hoes’it? : Street talk denoting “How are you?” ... originally from the South African English colloquialism “howzit?” and from the Afrikaans saying "Hoe gaan dit?"
- Daar’s jy! (There you are): This is an exclamation made when you encounter someone or something that you’ve been looking for.
- Sien jy daar/Kyk daar! (You see?):
- Maak dit sin? (Does that make sense?): This is to check if the listener agrees with you.
- Dit maak nie saak nie! (It doesn’t matter):
- In elk geval (In any case): Used to end a conversation or to change the topic.
- Aitsa! (great stuff/ well done): Wow/Great!
- Dis jou besluit. (That is for you to decide): The decision is left to you. The other person has no objections either way.
- Terloops: This interjection (by the way) introduces an unrelated bit of information into a conversation.
- O griet! (Oh my goodness) This expression is used to express shock or surprise at an event/ occurrence.
- Lekker dag verder (Enjoy your day further): Wishing someone a good day further.
- Veilig ry/ veilige reis (Safe trip) Wishing someone well as they are about depart.
- Jy weet: (You know) This is very often added to a sentence to confirm that the person has understood what you have said.
- Mooi! (Nice!): A positive to something you’ve said or done.
- Mooi bly! (Stay well): Said when people are greeting one another goodbye.
These are a handful of expressions you will hear when listening to people speaking Afrikaans. It is not a complete list, however. Your framework of reference will be expanded upon as you converse, especially with native speakers, as often as possible. Your understanding will grow with each encounter as will your vocabulary and confidence! Soon you’ll be meeting new people and saying, “talk to me in Afrikaans”. This is really a great point to be at!
How to Practise Afrikaans Conversations
A long-distance runner, in the course of training to run a marathon, will engage in various activities to prepare him- or herself for race day. These activities will include cross-training, short runs (sprints), fartleks, threshold runs and long slow distance runs.
Similarly, your preparation should be varied as well. You must spend time expanding and brushing up your Afrikaans vocabulary. Here, a notebook would help. Alternatively, you could print new words onto large sheets of newsprint which you pin up in prominent positions, so that you can revisit them daily, practise your pronunciation and fix them in your memory. You will also learne various idioms and phrases and commit them to memory. You must also create opportunities for yourself to listen to Afrikaans-speakers, to read and also write Afrikaans notes, memos an even emails. Singing in Afrikaans will also benefit you innumerous ways.
Engaging with a native speaker will impact on your proficiency in innumerable ways. He or she will make you comfortable in the use of the language and, possibly, introduce you to nice, friendly Afrikaans speakers, with whom you can interact in Afrikaans, on a fun, social level. This little support group will a many little ways help you fix little mistakes that may have slipped into your use of the language and colour your use of it in many beautiful and exciting ways... with much laughter, to be sure!
Listening to Afrikaans music and watching Afrikaans movies, with sub-titles, are a further “lekker” way to enjoy the language and grow with it.
If you still feel the need for assistance, contact a qualified professional who can assist you via Google Meet or Skype. In South Africa, right now, there are a growing number of Afrikaans tutors on platforms like Superprof just waiting to assist Afrikaans learners like you. Go ahead then: make that click!