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Tag Archives: Afrikaans

I was perusing comments on some of my favourite music videos. One comment gave me a knee-jerk reaction. It called Afrikaans an ugly language. He’s entitled to his opinion, as wrong as it is. Obviously beauty is in the ear of the beholder. Afrikaans, to my ears, sounds like a mellifluous mix of German and Italian, with its soft gutteral G’s and rolled R’s. When it’s sung, it’s even more pretty.

It takes a genuine xenophobe to condemn an entire language as “ugly.”
Miriam Makeba: “It isn’t a noise, it’s my language.” En, dis my nuwe gunsteling taal.

It’s funny, when I first heard newscasters speak in Afrikaans, my first impression was to agree with one person who described it as sounding like English pronounced backwards!

The person who wrote the “ugly Afrikaans” comment, wrote in English. A good portion of English words derive from Dutch. By extension, he denigrates parts of the very language in which he is writing. Now isn’t that ironic?


I’m trying to learn Afrikaans.

Armed with the following weapons:

With this arsenal, if I do not succeed in my quest, I am not trying hard enough.

I just realised why this is such a novelty for me. When I studied Latin in High School (and college), this was the one element missing from my education. There was never a section devoted to conversational Latin.  I read and translated Latin text.  My only rote memorization was of Cicero’s speech, and the beginning paragraph of the Aeneid. That was it! New vocabulary words were ridiculously easy because their roots are already in the English language.

Now I get to actually leer n’ nuwe taal (learn a new language — did I say that right?) It’s about time!

My goal is simple, bordering on shallow, and possibly ludicrous: I want to learn just enough of Afrikaans to make out what they are singing on my CDs. Go ahead, double over with laughter. May I continue? I can pick out a few words from a whole sea of sounds. In some ways it’s good that I can’t understand right now. Judging from the depth of lyrics in popular American music (e.g. “I’m in love, I’m all shook up, hey, hey”), maybe I don’t really want to know the lyrics!

I visited a multilanguage site that connects learners of different languages. I thought swell, I can communicate with another real person. Some of the profiles are legitimate language learners, where others are obviously: “I am a good looking [male/female]. I want to talk to you so I can marry you and move to your country.” I didn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling from a site that didn’t screen their profiles. Upon further inspection, it seems I have to have an above beginner understanding of the target language. Nix on that site.

I went in search of basic kindergarten level lessons. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Linguata is the second site I visited. Excellent methods. I practiced on their timed demo. It starts with simple useful words. Strong reinforcement of spelling, and pronunciation by audio and visual aids. The pronunciation is something I was looking for. Linguata allows me to choose to read either English or Afrikaans and supply the correct words. I also like the sound of the voice. Can’t go above lesson three without buying the program.

Then I went to BYKI at Completely free lessons, no time limit, with option to buy an upgrade. After hearing the textbook clarity of the Linguata voice, the BYKI female voice bothered me. But I got over it, and I’m going to start studying from that program. I think once I get used to the sound of the language, I can work backwards. I’ll listen to the music, and try to write down what words I think I hear.

Or, I could just cheat, and find me an Afrikaans speaker to transcribe the music! That would be all too simple, and I would learn nothing from it.

This internet site was recommended to learners, by one reviewer at Amazon.

I just downloaded one of the mp3s. So that’s what our news announcers sound like to a non-native speaker of English: 1) Fast, 2) unintelligble!

Here’s one of the five phrases I’ve been rehashing for the last ten minutes: Goeie middag!
And, now, totsiens.

Here’s a digression into why and how I came to build

The short version: Some people make things with their hands. I like the challenge of shaping a website. This is the first site in which I’ve had design assistance, and from the subject, no less!

Site building began in Scotland. More specifically, in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel. Does that sound vaguely familiar? It’s intoned by Duncan MacLeod, in the opener of “Highlander”, the TV series.

When I started to make a Youtube about “Highlander”, I searched for a cover of one of Highlander’s theme songs “Dust In the Wind.” As sung by Kansas, it’s a really sad depressing theme and I wanted something uptempo. lists 102 MP3 versions for sale. I narrowed it down , by only auditioning male vocals. David Fourie’s cover was number 78 on the list.

As I was about to purchase his song, I saw other songs in the same album, some in English, others, in a language I had no clue what it was, but the tunes were catchy. I liked enough songs that I bought the entire album. Little did I know that was the start of something really huge.

I discovered that the language was a South African language called “Afrikaans.” Unlike the other languages native to the continent, Afrikaans had European roots, which is why some of the sounds sounded familiar, given that American English retains many Dutch based words.

I liked the sound of Afrikaans so much, I searched for other music. Between Youtube and the music site, I must have checked out dozens of groups and singers. My favorites were a boy band, Hi-5 and a soloist, Dihan Slabbert. I bought “Versoeking”, the album in which Dihan was not a participant. It wasn’t until a little later that I discovered that Dihan was actually a former member of that very group. I think it an eerie coincidence (which I like to think of as a Divine steering), that with no prior knowledge, I chose just those two, out of all the other vocalists.

My ultimate goal, in building websites is that it forces me out of my comfort zone, and opens me to a larger scope of knowledge. I learned a tremendous amount of technical stuff, as evidenced by my mumblings on this blog. I learned a lot of current and not so current events: I was aware of the dissolution of apartheid, but not really aware, nor of its implications. Some of the current backlash, reminds me of the U.S. in its infancy of anti-discrimination laws. And Geography. I can locate Pretoria and Cape Town, which is significant, considering my poor geographical sense. I watched youtubes of beautiful jacaranda trees in bloom, and magnificent historical state buildings in the capital. And the heated debate over a burgeoning political system trying to steer a course.

On a more trivial note, I learned some really useless things (for an American in America) like… given the musical cue, I can sing the South African National Anthem. I learned it mostly phonetically at first, but once I knew some Afrikaans words, it got easier. I can also recite the Lord’s Prayer in Afrikaans. And I can recognize and translate certain words sung in Afrikaans pop songs. Like some people pick up useless statistics, I pick up words in a foreign language, spoken thousands of miles away. It adds a quirky new dimension to my life.

A secondary, but not less important reason for building the dihansite: I wanted to share my enthusiasm for Dihan’s music with as many people as I can. And I wanted to repay him for the good vibes I get from his music. This is my way of sending Dihan Slabbert a really large and public “thank you” card!

This is a digression into the same language divided by more than an ocean.

When I find an article written in Afrikaans, I throw it at the translator and interpret what it spits out. Computerized translators are notorious for translating by the word, rather than the meaning. The double “nie” even confuses it. Some translations are straightforward, and the rest are pretty strange.

My translator dislikes compound Afrikaans words, so I guess at it, by dissecting the word. Sometimes I google it, and translate those phrases to glean some context. It choked on “maanligsonate”. I stared really hard, and had an epiphany: it’s three little words “maan” “lig” and “sonate” –> “Moonlight Sonata.” What is simple for an Afrikaner, is a linguistic exercise for a Latin student. See colored samples below for what I mean.

If you see whole untranslated chunks of Afrikaans on site, I left it in the original language so you can figure it out yourself, rather than me translating incorrectly for you.

I write in American English (as opposed to Canadian English or British English). You may sometimes see English words spelt/spelled “wrong.” That’s my attempt at bridging the divide between American English and South African English. I really know the difference between color/colour, and defense/defence. 😉

Date and number format – Dates are shown the European way: ddmmyy or 5 September 2008, as opposed to the American of mmddyy or September 5, 2008. Fractions are expressed with comma, not periods. 1,5 = 1.5.

Original Afrikaans text: Die wenners van die ATKV se kompetisie vir nuwe talent in ligte Afrikaanse musiek, ATKV-Crescendo, is Saterdagaand luisterryk aangekondig. Hulle is die briljante HI-5 van Tshwane (Pretoria).

HI-5, ‘n groep met zoemph! wat bestaan uit vyf talentvolle jongmanne wat sedert Februarie vanjaar in die tipiese boyband-styl heerlike musiek maak. Hulle het tydens die finale konsert die gehoor gaande gehad met ‘n liedjie genaamd “Soebat”, uit die penne van Fanie Fouché (ook ‘n Crescendo-finalis) en Niël Schoombee (een van die lede van HI-5).

Met hierdie liedjie pleit dié troebadoers vergifnis en aanvaarding by die skoner geslag. HI-5 voel dat daar tans ‘n behoefte is na ‘n Afrikaanse groep wat met internasionaal-bekende groepe soos Westlife en Backstreet Boys kan skouers skuur.

Translation by My comments are in blue. And this is one of the least contorted translations! Ack. I gotta catch some zzs now.

the winners of the atkv’s competition for new talent in light afrikaans music , atkv-crescendo , is saterdagaand luisterryk announced . they are the brilliant hi-5 of tshwane ( pretoria ).

hi-5, a group with zoemph! [is that a real word?]

that/what consist of five talentvolle jongmanne [full of talent young men]

that/what since february vanjaar [of this year] in the typical boyband- style delicious music make . they have during the final concert the audience gaande had with a liedjie named “soebat”[plead] , out the pens of [written by] fanie fouché ( also a crescendo-finalis) and niël schoombee ( one of the members of hi-5).
(oddly the translator knows liedjies=songs but not the singular form liedjie).
with this liedjie [song] plea this troebadoers forgiveness and acceptance at the skoner gender [skoner geslag=female?] . hi-5 feel that there at present a need is after a afrikaans group that/what with internasional – known groups like westlife and backstreet boys can shoulders skuur.