South Africa is one of the most culturally diverse countries in Africa. Its cultural diversity has ensured that the country has so many languages spoken. While some of these languages are quite small, some are widely and nationally spoken.
Among the languages in South Africa, the constitution of the country has recognized 11 languages as the official languages. These languages are Afrikaans, English, IsiNdebele, IsiXhosa, IsiZulu, Sesotho sa Leboa, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga.
Although English is the language most understood across all parts of the country and it is mostly used in the cooperate world, from other South African and African languages, Afrikaans is one of the most popular.
As shown by the 2011 census, Afrikaans is the third most spoken language in South Africa. The language is behind IsiZulu which has 22.7 % of the country’s population speaking it, and IsiXhosa which is spoken by 16% of the population. With 13.5 % however, the Afrikaans language is more spoken than English (9.6%) and Setswana (8%).
The census shows that while there is a slight increase of speakers compared to the 2001 census, it is still less than the speakers as at 1996. The language was spoken by 13.3 % of the population in 2001 and 14.4 % in 1996.
In 1996, the language was more popular in the Western Cape Province of the country, where 58.5% of the province spoke it. By 2001 and 2011, it had become more popular in the Northern Cape Province where 56.6 % and 53.8% speak it respectively. Today, the language is most spoken in the Northern Cape, followed by Western Cape (49.7 %) and Free State (12.7 %). Of all the provinces in the country, it is least spoken in Limpopo (2.6 %) and KwaZulu-Natal (1.6 %).
Afrikaans is however not only spoken in South Africa as it is as well spoken in some Southern African countries such as Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. It is less popular in Botswana and Zimbabwe. The language is as well spoken in Australia, where there are about 35 thousand speakers and New Zealand where there are over 21 thousand speakers.
As a result of the popularity of the language, the Afrikaans dictionary, Afrikaans bible and other things have been designed.
The language is traced to the 17th century Dutch. It has its beginning in the Dutch cape colony, where it was influenced by other African languages. The language has as well been influenced by English, Malay, German and French.
Regarded as a kitchen language to the standard Dutch language, the language has the majority of its vocabulary of Dutch origin. It is in the family of Germanic languages known as the West Germanic language.
The language started gaining significance around 1815 when it started replacing Malay as the language used in South African Muslim Schools. At that point, the language was written with Arabic alphabets. By 1850, it was already appearing in Latin alphabets on Newspapers and political as well as religious works.
The Emergence of the Union of South Africa in 1910 had a strong impact on the language when the government accorded it the status of an official language of the country in 1925. The language joined the English language to become the official languages, although the language had been important since the union began.
Attempts to make the language the official and compulsory language of township schools in the country was met by a strong resistance, leading to the 1976 schoolchildren uprising. This was because the language was important to the apartheid government of South Africa.
Today, the language is spoken by almost 8 million of the over 53 million people in South Africa. It is spoken in all the provinces of the country.
In its earliest time, Afrikaans was spoken predominantly by the whites. It has however changed as it is noted that majority of the speakers are today, not whites. it is also highly accepted by blacks and the colored population of the country.
Because of how significant the language has become, with an estimated 15 to 23 million speakers worldwide, the language has dictionaries that translate English to Afrikaans and other that translate Afrikaans to English.
The official dictionary of the language is the Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (WAT), which is still yet complete. The Verklarande Handwoordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (HAT) is a volume dictionary that is put to household use.
Afrikaans translator can be found online.